Review: Training Complex by Leta Blake

Other Reviewers: Goodreads


For full disclosure this book was given to me for an honest review by the author.

Basic Plot:

Book two of the series sees Matty Marcus (former ice skater, now coach), struggling to find work and his identity as he works on building his relationship with his partner, Rob.  But as his stress mounts, so does his personal issues as it affects his personal and professional life.  Can Matty find a safe space to accept himself or will he burn out?

Review:

This is a book two in a series called Training Season, as it follows Matty’s career and life.  My original review of book one is here, in which I gave it a 5 star review.  I found the BDSM realistic, intense, and Matty’s character was honestly flawed which is unusual to see is what we call “romance” today.

I have loved every book that Leta Blake has written, but I admit that this is the first time that I could not finish her book.  I think that I was just not the target audience for this continuation.  Matty’s character was just too dark and too troubled for me to enjoy his story.  Each chapter that I read (about 30%) just was one more illness, one more problem, and unlike the first book, there was no “new relationship” to break up the depression.

Conclusion:

From reading Goodreads reviews, I am in the minority here, most folks loved this book!  So, I think that if you loved the first one, then give this one a try.  Just keep in mind that this book is more complex and darker than the first and most other male/male romances out there.

 

Bea

Review: The Nothingness of Ben — by Brad Boney

Nothing_benOther Reviewers: Goodreads

Lately life has been hectic, and my list of to-read in Goodreads has leapt to 114 since the fall.  Deciding that I had reviewed enough fan-fiction lately, I pulled through my lists until I drilled back to the fall with The Nothingness of Ben.  I thoroughly loved this book and I am kicking myself in not reading it sooner.  This is just a warning to all of us to remember to look backward in our lists from time to time.

This is not the first of Brad Boney’s books I have reviewed; I read and reviewed The Return in August 2013.  The Return was a most unusual storyline, intertwining two different time periods with a bit of mysticism.  The books are not connected as a series, yet they are related.  The Nothingness of Ben was published in 2012 and The Return the following year, so I do believe I would recommend reading them in that order.  Note that the Mead family play secondary roles in both novels and are the tie between them.

Basic Plot:

Ben Walsh is a successful trial lawyer in New York, hobnobbing with the famous Mead family and dating a sexy pilot named David.  He is openly gay and is on the fast track.  Enter disaster when his parents suddenly died, leaving all three of his younger brothers in his care.  Can Ben leave everything in New York to raise his brothers in Austin, Texas?  Can he merge the two worlds?  Travis Atwood has been living the nomad life for years, never finding true love or a job he loved.  However, the Walsh’s had taken him in and now he finds becoming friends with Ben easily.  Is it possible they can become romantically involved or is the time just never right?

Ben Walsh:

We see the book through Ben’s perspective, so we hope that he is fairly unbiased.  Which, as a whole, he is a well-rounded individual so we trust his perceptions.  Within Ben we see someone who has felt a bit of an outcast all of his life as a gay man in the south and with a religious family.  Once he comes out, while he is not shunned, it is certainly not comfortable for him to remain, thus his estrangement with his family.  Ben is a brilliant lawyer, and that drive toward success has his focused on work rather than family.

Thus, the shock of finding out that his parents died and he must reassess his goals and priorities.  He is an overall likable character, although we could say he is a bit of an asshole, but he’s my type of asshole, not mean-spirited.  Early on Ben is frightened to become the caretaker of his younger brothers:

“I don’t know.  This is serious shit.  If I fuck it up, then I’m fucking up three lives.  And I don’t know if I can do it.  I have a life back in New York.  I’m supposed to walk away from all that?”

This is the crux of Ben’s inner conflict:  is he good enough to be a parent to his brothers and can he give up his dreams for his family?  Could you walk away from your dream job and adopted family?

Travis Atwood:

Travis is the same “fish out of water” as Ben is, but in the other direction.  Travis is a straight, country boy who lives a simple life but has a big heart.  Ben’s comments early on demonstrate Travis’ heart:

If you’re a second big brother in their lives, then that’s fucking fantastic.  You were there for them before this happened, so please be there now when they really need you.

The problem becomes that Travis doesn’t fit in Ben’s world and Travis is straight.  Yet, getting to know Ben starts to expand his horizon in more than one way.

Theme Summary:

I have several highlights on theme, all of which are good signs in the quality of writing.  There are several quotes:

“All you can do is be there.  They don’t need you to be the perfect brother.  Ninety percent of life is showing up.”

and then:

“I couldn’t know that from my point of view.”

and finally:

“Something my dad used to say.  When everything is confusing and murky, he told us to treat it like muddy water.  Stop.  Sit still.  Let the dirt settle and eventually the water will clear up.”

So we have two men stuck in the muddy waters of their lives, too focused on their own perspectives and history.  What they need to do is to look around and find some compromise and perspective.  I think this is a lesson we could all use in our lives.

Strong Points:

Boney is an extremely strong writer with a plan for theme and plot that goes farther than a “simple love story”.  He makes us think, which is something I love when I find it in a “romance” book.  The writing is top-notch and I found myself tearing up and fanning myself in all the right points of the plot.  What I loved best about the writing is the allusions and storytelling.  Boney didn’t hit us on the head with plot or theme, he gently and subtly moves us from point A to point B, giving us hints along the way.  I love an author who lets me get as much as I can out of the book.

What could be better?

The only thing I disliked about this book, was something that distracted me, but did not obstruct my enjoyment.  Throughout the novel we got what I call “jargon” talk like “LTR” and other “hip” talk.  A little would be fine, but this crossed over to me truly noticing it.

Conclusions:

I believe that Brad Boney will have a massively successful writing career in the M/M world.  He manages to combine strong characters that are not black and white, complex themes, and hot sex scenes all to keep us motivated to the last page.  This is certainly worth the read and your time.

Bea

Quickie: Clockwork Tangerine by Rhys Ford

ClockworkTangerineLGOther Reviewers: Goodreads

This novella is written by Rhys Ford, someone whom I have adored as a writer for some time.  Almost everything  she writes I love, and it is always difficult for  me to find fault with her writing.  As full disclosure, I was given this book for and honest review.  However, my opinions are honest.

First things first, this is a novella, pretty short at 90 pages.  So the criteria that I might have on a full-length book review would not be fair against this size.  Thus, this will be a “Quickie Review”, with some different criteria.

Page count: 90

Basic Plot:

One night, Marcus Stenhill, Viscount Westwood discovers a man in the act of being beaten by some drunk youths.  After saving the man, Marcus uncovers that this Robin Harris was responsible for death and mayhem years before by the Society.  While there is chemistry between Marcus and Robin, is it safe or possible for them to forgive the past and move forward together?

Relationship:

What I liked about this story is that it is not “sex focused”, but rather gives a large percentage of the novella to the plot, world building, and backstories.  That being said, this is HEA story with a hot sex scene at the end.  We get perspectives from Robin and Marcus, which I appreciated.  Because of the shortness of the novella, any interaction between the two main characters must be packed full of relationship building.

Strong Points:

  • The World Building: This is the best aspect of the story.  We get into the world quickly, as the author builds the story through Marcus’s memory and observations.  Bits of the conflict in the past give us hints of what led to the world’s current environment:

Thousands had suffered at the hands of the Society.  They’d brought about the rise of the Golems, creatures – humans according to the courts – created in workshops and grown to adolescence in bowls of plasma and blood, only to be used as shock troops and assassins for the Society’s cause.  They’d been terrorists of the basest form, attacking the very foundation of the British Empire, but Marcus had a difficult time reconciling the idea of the man laid out before him had anything to do with their destructive agenda.

  • Even Has a Theme:  I normally do not worry about a theme in this size of a novella.  However, I found something powerful in the story:

A man with power protects and serves those lesser than he.  It is only the weak who use their power to do harm.

This is the truth that both men have discovered and spend their energy in life now giving back to others.  We see it with Marcus early on as he saves Robin; Robin has spent his recent time trying to make other’s lives better with his skills.

What Could be Better:

  •  Too ShortThat goes without saying because it is 90 pages.  The reason that this is 4 stars instead of 5 stars was that while I did take the fact that it was a novella into account, I was still left wanting.  We had a definitive ending, and it was happy.  Yet, I still felt like some other action was needed.  More exterior conflict?  More relationship building?

Conclusions:

I really enjoyed this book.  There are some aspects to the world building that I do not want to get into here as it would spoil the plot.  However, because it deals with homosexuality, laws, and society, I can see how this book would not work for a full length gay romance novel.  I think the author did the right thing: give us an intriguing and entertaining look at a steam punk world to want more.  I think now Rhys Ford can build a similar world with huge plot lines and characters that we will drool over for years and years of series…. hint…. hint…

Bea

Quickie: My Hero by Max Vos

Other Reviewers: Goodreads

My_HeroPage count: 189

You’ve heard of the theme:  “Gay-For-You”.  The negative side being that it’s unrealistic and tropey and not a realistic view of gay relationships.  The other perspective is that it can often be a sweet, angst-filled story of friends to lovers.  So which is true?

I can’t answer those questions because I am a straight woman.  I could propose some psychoanalysis that talks about sexual attraction, but just because I understand psychology does not mean I know how it feels to struggle with one’s sexuality.

This is a quickie review, because, while I did enjoy this book, it was a trope filled short book coming in at 189 pages.  This is the first time I have read anything by Max Vos and I am intrigued enough to try some other stories by him.  I will say that some of the covers of the other books by this author have made me shy away.  Quite honestly, they were more disturbing than sexy.  This one actually was relevant to the plot and characters.

Basic Plot:

Years after a youthful life-changing experience, Rich Miller and Johnny Milloway meet again in college.  The now college senior, Rich had saved Johnny’s life at a swimming pool, but they lost contact until a chance meeting in college as Johnny is now a freshman and star football player.  Rich, is preparing the last step to competing for the Olympics in swimming and his focus should be there.  But somehow, Johnny becomes his friend and something more.  Is it for real or it is just a temporary hold?

Relationship:

As a “Gay-for-you” romance, we usually expect the two characters to be either enemies to friends or friends to lovers.  In My Hero, our guys turn into friends with benefits.  We see how they value this friendship and how Rich helps Johnny come to understand his sexuality.

Johnny reached for Rich.  They held each other and they cried.  For each other.  For themselves.  They cried together as only friends and lovers could cry.  They cried for a love that was both found and then lost.

While I do not have the perspective of a gay man, obviously the author does.  Mr. Vos has an excellent blog post talking about the realistic view of gay men in his books and can help us understand this “gay for you” type theme.  I really liked how he talked about his sex scenes and how he comes up with the chemistry and lovin’.

Strong Points:

  • The Sex Scenes:  This book is smoking hot and the sex scenes were pretty captivating.
  • The Diving Scenes:  I really enjoyed the sport descriptions, I would have loved to follow Rich as he tried out for the Olympics.

What Could be Better:

  •  Too ShortAt only 189 pages, I wish we could have gotten more character and relationship development.  The scenes dealing with the Olympics were intense and I really wanted to know more about how the Olympics went.  That could have been a great place for development, both of the relationship and the characters.
  • Non-Safe Sex: There was a scene, late in the book where, if I had been one of the main characters I would have gone, “Time-out, I think it’s time to get tested.”  Now, it’s a book, I know and I am sure that these things happen, but I did not believe that the character would not have thought of the consequences.

Conclusions:

The author’s own words spells out how important a person’s honesty with their own sexuality is.

Our individuality, our self-confidence can sometimes unhinge the best of us, and I can only imagine what it must be like to question something as big as your own sexuality.

What I liked about this book was how it must feel to struggle with sexuality.  For some, understanding might come young, but accepting it yourself might take years.  This novel is about love and acceptance and we see how both make Rich and Johnny better people.

Bea

Review: Just for You — by Jet Mykles

Other Reviews: Goodreads

Intro:

This week was to begin with a rant/ramble for the whole NC Amendment One thing.  But then I realized that no one would really care about my opinion.  So, instead I reviewed Jet Mykles’ Just for You.  This week’s blog post is going as an alternative to be about humor, love, and the human spirit.

Basic Plot:

Justin meets Kevin on the street and proposes a date immediately.  The problem?  Kevin is straight.  The good news for Justin is that Kevin needs a favor: to pretend to be his boyfriend to impress his gay boss, Victor Chen.  But what happens when fiction becomes reality?

Background:

This is a single book, but Jet Mykes also has a series called Heaven Sent, which is rock-star based.  The cover art is absolutely gorgeous, by P.L. Nunn. [Note that the artwork is homoerotic and some is extremely explicit].  The drawings are based on Yaoi, which means “Boys’ Love” in Japanese, and can be seen in anime, magna (comics), and novels.  This seems to be the realm of the Heaven Sent series, as well as Just for You of Jet Mykes, a more light-hearted world of androgynous men loving men.

I adore this book and author.  Certainly in the “real world” acceptance to gay relationships is not this positive and widespread; but there is an effervescence surrounding this world that I just cannot pass up.  It is the result of the author’s unique voice.  Yes, there is some angst, but we do not see anything about gay bashing or any other negative theme.

This is a sub-genre of LGBT Contemporary romances called, “Gay for You”.  Basically, you end up with a straight man that realizes that he is gay, usually when he meets our hot stud.  In this case, that would be one Justin Tolliver.

Kevin Fuller:

“Gay for you”, is an unlikely sub-genre.  After all, should you not know if you are attracted to other men after puberty?  Except it is a very popular theme, and one in which I enjoy reading, no matter how unrealistic I think it can be.  In  Just for You, Kevin is straight, or at least has not had any gay experiences.  At first, he fights the attraction to Justin, after all if he was gay, wouldn’t he already know it?  A quote from the book:

He’d heard plenty of stories about guys who were gay who spent years or even their whole lives denying it, being miserable.  He wasn’t miserable.  He hadn’t previously thought he was missing out on anything.  Okay, he didn’t get out much and didn’t have much of a social or sex life to speak of, but he wasn’t profoundly unhappy.  If he was denying being gay, shouldn’t that be more of what he felt like?

This makes Kevin such an interesting character.  What he finds in Justin, is a friend, someone intriguing, and who he is sexually attracted.  He is not tortured, but a happy human being.  He has the courage to explore this attraction, rather than spending chapters of denial and angst.

Justin Tolliver:

Justin is probably what you would consider the “stereotypical gay man”.  He is gregarious, fit, well manicured, and in the fashion industry.    He is such a vibrant, upbeat person and we see this early on in the book:

Justin beamed.  Kevin had a gorgeous, full laugh, bright as a child’s.  He was loosening up beautifully, losing his nervousness.  Justin knew the phenomenon that he was, and he used it well.

Justin has such charm and he uses it to his advantage as he pursues our Kevin.  It is Justin’s pure aura that we just cannot help but fall in love.

Theme Summary:

The book is rather short, so I do not think that a complex theme would have time to develop.  So for me, I think the theme follows the universal one of acceptance of one’s self.  Sometimes you just have to take the risk to follow your heart.

Strong Points:

The sense of humor! A quote after Justin gets a call from Kevin and he suspects that he might be getting a booty-call:

“I know!”  Justin pulled his hair as he stormed into the bathroom.  “I don’t know!  My gay hell, what do I do?”

“Do you think you turned him?”

“Oh gads, do you think so?”

There were many times when a “stereotypical” gay thing would happen (think a Will and Grace moment) and I would laugh, not at them, but with them.  This novel was just a joy to read.

I wrote earlier about Mykles unique voice, and I believe it is her purity of spirit.  The story might have some angst and conflict (otherwise it would be a boring book), but there is no meanness.  I guess to best explain, think of some quirky and innocent movies, like The Princess Bride, or Little Voice.  Just finish the book and smile, feeling happy and your spirit lifted.

What could be better?

The plot is rather uncomplicated, so if you are looking for hard-hitting topics like gay bashing, or some sort of murder mystery, this book is not for you.  It also was rather short (at 152 pages), most of Mykles books that I have read are brief.  This makes me nervous, that perhaps she cannot write a more complex novel.

Conclusions:

I love this book for the uniqueness.  It does not try to be complicated with huge subplots, but rather the point of the book is the love story.  The story is sweet and pure, with hot sex!  This book has become one of my favorites if I just want to sit back and feel happy and safe.  No vampires or stalkers will be chasing me in my dreams when I go to sleep.  The downside is that is that it is rather brief and un-complex, so you feel as if there should have been more character and relationship development.  But despite these limitations, I just cannot help loving this book.

Bea