Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thousand Word Thursday Ficlet from PD Singer

When Bricio came into the bedroom, he found Ed stretched out on the bed fully clothed but with bare feet. His toes curled periodically, attracting attention to the movement. From there, Bricio let his gaze travel up the length of denim-clad legs, across the bulge in the jeans, the flat plane of belly, and the broad chest, to his lover's face. Total concentration there -- Ed didn't even look up until Bricio ran a finger across the bottom of Ed's foot, getting him to jump.

"Good book?" He didn't really have to ask -- Ed wasn't much of a reader, but the erection and the intensity he'd fixed on the oversized volume said a lot. Bricio could see the back blurb from the foot of the bed.

"Very good book. C'mere and read it with me." Ed looked up with that hungry look he didn't usually give to words on paper. He stroked the pillow next to him, making Bricio toe off his boots and slide across the comforter. Slipping his arm over Ed's shoulders, he settled in to see what had his man so fascinated.

Yeah, this was Ed's kind of literature, a few lines of text to ignore, a lot of glossy, hot pictures. Pictures of the kind of guys Bricio had never seen just walking down the street or shopping at the corner market. The kind of guy Bricio knew he wasn't. Tall, popping out with muscles, manicured and styled. Probably smarter than he was. Maybe been to college. And they looked so fine, with less clothes on in every picture. He watched Ed's finger travel over a rippling haunch, trace a six pack ab, and turn the page.

"Like that?" The husky words blew against Bricio's cheek.

A nod -- yeah, he'd like the picture fine, if it wasn't Ed showing it to him. Was making him hard, though.

"Wanna do that?"

"What, plant my bare ass on a sharp rock?"

"You could plant your bare ass on a soft blanket, muchacho." Ed turned another page. "Then I could do that." He stroked a picture of two impossibly gorgeous models, one with his cock in the other's mouth, stretched out on a rock that probably wasn't that sharp, and pressed his lips to Bricio's shoulder, not quite licking, not quite kissing. "And after a while, we'd switch to this. Whadaya say?" The opposite page had the models curved around each other, chest to back.

The sideways look Bricio stole showed him Ed's eyes, heavy lidded. "You think? Maybe we should try this?" The "this" he pointed out had the models reversed, in a way that he and Ed didn't usually do, but the idea had him growing harder.

"If you want." Ed took another look, as if he needed to be really sure what to do. "Might not be able to get my leg that far." He lifted his leg 'til the seam of his jeans creaked. "That's the problem with these books -- all show." He yanked his foot higher with a hand on his thigh, before dropping it with a thud.

"We can fake that part," Bricio decided, setting the book to one side and dragging Ed's shirt over his head. Didn't matter about the leg, the pose was for show -- he and Ed could…

"Nothing fake here, Bric." Ed unsnapped his jeans before reaching to Bricio, who lifted his hips to let his partner strip him. "Nothing fake about you and me at all." The jeans hit the floor a scant second before Ed buried his face in Bricio's groin, nuzzling and nipping his way from balls to tip.

No, that was real, very real, and Bricio's last doubt wiped away under Ed's slick tongue. They could read again tomorrow -- page thirty-four might be fun, too.
Thanks to PD Singer for putting words to that story! PD has three novels and a ton of short stories out, and is looking forward to GayRomLit in New Orleans come October. *plans to hide in Pam's suitcase* She's working away on a couple of WIPs, and should have news for us soon! See what she's up to on her site.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rachmaninoff by SL Armstrong and K. Piet

RachmaninoffNineteen-year-old Aric Reynolds has spent most of his life in boarding schools, summer camps, or on tour as a prodigy with the piano. His wealthy parents have never had time for him, and after a failed year at college, they have decided on a final course of action. Aric is brought to Nikola Jovanovic's beautiful, sprawling manor in Serbia.

Nikola is known the world around as a master in music, unsurpassed by any, but terribly reclusive. For one year, Aric is to be his student, but in the modern day, it is easy for Aric to learn Nikola's secrets. With a dark shadow lurking from Nikola's past and Aric's stubborn, promiscuous nature, the sexual tension between the pair simply explodes, and Aric's very mortal life is held in the balance.

Nineteen year old Aric Reynolds becomes the less than willing student of the vampire Nikola Jovanovi, and he's pissed about his parents dropping him off in a castle in Serbia. Nikola's lessons in music and history do start to grow on him, but don't satisfy his cravings to be anywhere else, doing anything else, trying to achieve the oblivion that would be preferable to his emotionally empty life. Casual sex and drinking might shut down Aric's mind, but it only infuriates Nikola, who has watched Aric from afar since he was a thirteen-year old child prodigy and senses the vast potential Aric carries. (That is creepy, but this is a vampire -- they take the long view.)

The lessons turn from the strictly academic and musical, to lessons of the heart, taught in both directions -- Nikola both holds Aric at a distance and teaches him about intimacy, and Aric tutors Nikola, sometimes with very harsh lessons, about letting go and listening. Nikola, unfortunately, is not a very good student.

The story divides roughly into two sections, and the first, in set mostly in Nikola's stronghold, contains most of the emotional story arc. The pair goes from antagonistic to lovers, and had the story ended there, I would have closed the book with a most contented sigh. Aric both figures out Nikola's secret and accepts it, and shows some great emotional growth in learning to care about others and even to love, while Nikola engages in a real relationship for the first time in centuries. And there really are very few things as sweet as a kiss in Paris in the spring.

But those centuries of keeping his own counsel have left a mark -- Nikola slips into his old ways of making decisions without consulting Aric, creating multiple incidents of extreme havoc. The first was both unnecessary and far too easily forgiven, and the others -- a minor character who wielded a cluebat did finally show up.

The first section worked much better than the second, which divided its focus between emotions and the practical aspects of being a vampire, though it most certainly solidified the HEA. Nikola kept repeating his earlier error, with variations, and while this might mirror the structure of Rachmaninoff's piano music, it unfortunately doesn't strengthen the story.

This writing team has done several things very well -- the emotional arcs for both Aric and Nikola are beautifully drawn, aside from the incident of easy forgiveness, and the incorporation of the music into the initial arc was well done, though possibly its more accessible for someone with a little musical training. The sense of place was vivid, especially during a section where the pair traveled extensively. Aric's mind came through in lines like this: "He was in hell. Without any extra batteries."

Some things didn't quite work: the POV changed frequently and without warning, and the practical aspects of Aric's musical training and career didn't especially mesh with my understanding of the care and feeding of a serious musician.

This is the first offering I've read from Armstrong and Piet, and while the story had some issues, it had enough that really shines that I will gladly read more. 3.5 marbles (rounded up at Goodreads)

Buy here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thousand Word Thursday

It’s that time of week again – here’s a pic that’s worth a thousand words. Will an author write a ficlet or a drabble for it?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Against the Window by Jamie Lowe

Ghaith is so excited when Noah surprises him with a weekend away at Noah’s country house. He doesn't expect the heavy rain, but Ghaith isn’t going to let a little storm ruin the first night of his first weekend away with his lover. And that wall of windows just looks too tempting to pass up…


Thirty one hundred words is not a lot of space to get characterization, plot, and sex all squeezed in, but it can be done. Better yet, take another couple thousand words and don't skimp.

This story is just long enough to offer an 'opposites attract and then screw each other silly' story; Ghaith is the poor foundation worker slob to Noah's wealthy businessman with housekeepers, and the only reason they get together is through the meddling of friends, something we are told but not shown.

I was a bit concerned that Ghaith had wandered in from an SF story; turns out that's an Arabic name (I googled) but we don't have any clues from the text for his ethnicity or motivations, nor any particular information about Noah, aside from his wealth, interest in Ghaith, and a small streak of romanticisism. The two spend most of their page time having lukewarm sex against a window, and Cryssy Crankypants is wishing for some plot. 1.5 marbles

Buy here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A to Z by Marie Sexton

A to Z (Coda Books, #2)Zach Mitchell is stuck in a rut. His college boyfriend left him ten years ago, but Zach still lives in the same apartment, drives the same car, and feeds his ex-boyfriend’s ungrateful cat. His Denver business, A to Z Video Rental, is struggling. He has annoying customers, eccentric neighbors, and an unfulfilling romance with his landlord, Tom.

A combat boot-wearing punk with an attitude, Angelo Green was raised in foster homes and has been on his own since he was sixteen; he has never learned to trust or to love. He doesn’t do relationships, so when Angelo takes a job at A to Z Video, he decides Zach is strictly off-limits.

Despite their differences, Zach and Angelo quickly become friends, and when Zach’s break-up with Tom puts his business on the line, it’s Angelo who comes up with a solution. Together with Jared and Matt, their friends from Coda, Colorado, Zach and Angelo will find a way to save A to Z, but will they be able to save each other too?


Seeing both sides of the story as Angelo and Zach find their ways past old trauma, current ennui, and the general difficulties of staying in business and forming a couple worked well here -- the absolutely Rashomon quality made for some really intense reactions from me. The voices were absolutely distinct, their perceptions totally opposite.

Angelo was my favorite, he's a lot more self-aware, a lot smarter, and when he's working against his own best interests, he can acknowledge that and try to do something different. Most of his life he's been on the outside looking in on love, and when he might be welcomed in -- he knows where his panic is coming from. The descriptions of his fears as the little bird that flutters in his chest gives the fear a name and a way to let go of it.

A good hard smack upside the head was long overdue for Zach -- he's been sleepwalking through his life. He messed up his early love with his selfishness, he's drifted into a business he doesn't understand or care about, and how he's stayed open all these years is a miracle, and he's oblivious to what's going on around him. I was looking around for a two by four to give him that smack!

Teaming up with Angelo probably kept Zach from wandering into the side of a bus out of sheer inattention! The beauty of it that while Zach gradually becomes a thinking, considerate person, Angelo never pushes him, but lets Zach find out for himself, except where Angelo has to say something to defend his own heart.

Very nice cast of supporting characters; Zach's ex-lover needs a kick for abandoning the cat. The story arc regarding Angelo's mother was believable and the author gets cookies for not going for anything too huge. The setting was another plus for me -- Arvada is two suburbs over from me and I kept thinking of where the store is actually located, so a kind of local fun there, same with the festival in Lyons. Using the festival to let the characters intersect with Jared and Matt was a nice touch -- they could go back for Mabon.

This story engaged me deeply, you can tell if I'm starting to think up things for the characters' future -- my one big problem was wondering how Zach managed to survive before Angelo came along and dialed his brain back on. 4 marbles

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Thousand Word Thursday Story from DH Starr

Josh walked up the steps leading to Kinley’s front door. Back for the holiday break of his freshman year, he couldn’t wait to spend time with his best friend since Kindergarten. The door opened before he even had a chance to ring the bell and Josh was stunned by a wide, beaming grin and dazzling white teeth gleaming in the morning light.

It had only been a few months since he had seen Kinley, but one look and Josh’s cock shifted in his pants. Damn! I never realized how hot he was before. “Shit, K, you been pounding the weights?” Kinley seemed to have increased his body mass by at least twenty-five percent. His shoulders and arms billowed with an extra round of muscle. The front of his T-shirt stretched, his pectoral muscles torturing the thin fabric. Josh caught a glimpse of two round nubs pressing at the center of each plain before his eyes were drawn down the sleek body.

The width of his shoulders contrasted beautifully with the slender cant of his torso, which angled into a trim waist and then bulged back out, two firm bubbles forming his perfect ass and pressing out at the flannel pajama bottoms he wore.

It took all of Josh’s effort to draw his gaze back to Kinley’s face, and when he did, he was struck once again by the crystalline blue eyes gazing back at him. “I’ve worked out a bit. But you look fuckin’ great too. Come on in. It’s freezing out here. This cold wind is gonna cause my dick to shrink.”

Images of how he could help to solve that particular problem flooded Josh’s mind and did nothing to alleviate his own growing problem inside his pants. Once inside, Kinley took his jacket. “I was right. You are much bigger. Your shoulders round into an awesome v-cant down your lats to your waist. Turn around.” Josh obeyed, hoping his bulge wasn’t too obvious. He kept his eyes glued to Kinley’s face. “Yup, just as I thought. You trimmed off that extra few pounds you were carrying by the end of the summer. I bet you’re cut with fuckin’ rubbed abs.”

Unsure how this conversation had taken such an extreme turn towards discussing their physique, Josh tried to shift the conversation in a different direction. “So how’s school. LA must be a hell of a lot different than Boston. Are you having fun?”

Kinley’s smile remained on his face, but his shoulders stiffened slightly and he began shifting from one foot to the other. “Yeah, man, LA’s cool. Always sunny there. But hell, we’re back home and I haven’t seen you in ages. Come up to my room. We can catch up.”

Josh followed him up the stairs and down the hall, a path he had travelled hundreds of times before. Josh had always felt comfortable in K’s home, like it was his own as well, but ever since he had been fourteen and realized his attraction toward his best friend, being alone with K in his bedroom made him nervous, as if Kinley would somehow know what he was thinking, what he wanted.

Once inside Kinley’s room, Josh was faced with those dazzling blue eyes once again. “Man, it’s so good to see you." K gushed. "The whole flight home, all I could think of was that I would see you today.” Josh smiled. He has no idea what those words mean to me. “Dude, you seriously look great. Let’s see those abs. I need to know if I was right.”

Taken aback, Josh simply stared at his friend for a moment. How did we shift back to talking about bodies again? Not knowing what to say or do, he did the only thing that seemed easy and lifted his shirt to reveal his abdomen. “You got me. I’ve been pounding out sit ups and stopped eating pizza every night.” He began to lower his shirt, but something in Kinley’s expression froze him.

K was peering at him, not as a friend, but with something else, something that seemed familiar, yet Josh had never seen that expression in his friend’s face before.

When the realization hit, it hit hard. The look was familiar because it conveyed the same things he had thought for years. It conveyed hunger, a desire to see more, to do more. “Oh, no you don’t. Take your shirt off. Be proud, Josh. Let’s see how you’ve firmed up.”

If only you knew just how firm I am right now. Once again stunned into inaction, Josh did the only thing his body could manage, which was to continue obeying his friend. Lifting his shirt up and over his head, he stood before K, feeling more exposed than he ever had before. He had worn far less than this in front of Kinley, but that look, the way Kinley's mouth curved up in a lopsided grin as his eyes took in Josh’s now exposed upper body, made Josh feel like he was completely on display.

Walking around Josh slowly, Kinley made sounds of approval. An uh huh or mmmm were the only sounds that broke through the heavy silence in the room. When he finally stepped back in front of Josh, his face had become slightly flushed. “You look good.” His voice was low and deep, a hint of ruggedness seemed to escape from deep inside, matching the predatorial expression in his face. “You look damn good.”

Josh opened his mouth to question what the hell was going on, but Kinley closed the distance between them and caught him in a fierce kiss. Shocked with disbelief, his first instinct was to pull back, but K had obviously anticipated this reaction and held him tight. It only took a moment for the initial shock to wear off, and Josh relaxed, allowing his fantasy to come true.

When Kinley pulled out of the kiss, Josh took a few labored breaths. “H-How did you know?”

The smile he had always loved settled into place on Kinley’s face. “Man, how didn’t you know?” He stepped forward and pulled Josh into a headlock, giving him a full-out noogie.

Wrestling to free himself from the strong grip of his friend, Josh couldn’t help but laugh. I guess this is gonna be one hell of a vacation!!!
Thanks, DH, for putting some words to that picture! Find more of this author’s work in

perf5.000x8.000.indd Starr_WrestlingWithDesire smaller RewardofCourage200300
Reward of Courage is the latest, and the sequel to Wrestling with Desire.

Derek Thompson and Scott Thayer met in high school. Facing challenges and overcoming obstacles that would make lesser young men fold, they now have the chance to forge a life together. As they enter college, they finally have the time and space to discover each other sexually and give their virginity to each other. However, in spite of the erotic thrill of exploration, there are still challenges ahead, challenges that will test their love and devotion…

While Derek wants to live as an openly gay man, Scott wishes to maintain a degree of privacy. Not only that, but another freshman, Tyrell Jackson, becomes infatuated with Derek and wants Derek for his own. In the face of these threats to their burgeoning relationship, Derek and Scott are forced to look within themselves and make difficult decisions which will change both of their lives forever.

Is their relationship strong enough to bear the strain of balancing their needs as individuals and as a couple? The only way Derek and Scott will attain their ultimate reward is by finding the courage to face their fears. Will they rise to the challenge?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thousand Word Thursday

A picture is worth a thousand words again this week! Our last pic netted a lovely little story from Eden Winters to explain the situation, and who might have a tiny story to tell about what's going on here? A drabble? A ficlet? I'll post it with your latest news, links, and book covers.

And if you just want to look and drool, heh, I'm there too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wishing on a Blue Star ed. Kris Jacen

How much impact can someone have on your life if you’ve never met them face to face?

In this electronic age of E-mails, electronic publishing, and social networks, quite a lot.

Through his emails, stories and blog, author Patric Michael has touched numerous hearts, minds and lives from the start of his career and further as he now takes us along on his journey to battle cancer.

Along the way, Patric shows us a side of life that not many truly see-- how we are all a part of something larger than just ourselves, and how we are each touched by others for the betterment of all.

Now, those that have been touched by Patric and his words have joined together to give something back, to him and to us all through something he values highly – words.

In this compilation, gay short stories, poems, and anecdotes combined with excerpts from Patric's blog and a few entertaining, educational group posts reveal, and celebrate, the man who has touched so many hearts and minds.

This collection, sometimes erotic, sometimes irreverent, and always poignant, is a gift from all our hearts to celebrate Patric and give strength (and a little levity) to others. The price reflects this; no one is receiving royalties or payment from the sales. Use it to celebrate life, celebrate words, and possibly inspire someone who needs it.
I won't presume to rate or judge this book, deeply affecting though it is. It left me cycling for days between hope and despair. Don't read in one session --it's too intense, and if it is that for readers who do not know Patric Michael, how much more for those who have the privilege to know him? He does not flinch for showing us his struggles, and I can only salute him. For sharing, for triumphing, for still standing when each day is done. For those who added stories here, I salute you, too, and thank you all for letting the light shine into the dark spaces.

Share the stories here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A “Thousand Word Thursday” Story from Eden Winters

I posted this picture on Thursday, wondering what kind of thoughts it would spark and it turns out that Eden Winters had all kinds of ideas! She wrote a little ficlet for us!


The little cafe had long been their secret place, a haven where no one judged, no one cared. The burly owner smiled, holding out a hand in greeting. His wife stepped up, an elderly matron with kind eyes. "My boys," she cried, kissing both on the cheek.

"Don't my boys look dashing tonight?" she asked her husband when Dirk and Walter stepped further into the establishment, an hour before closing. Few people loitered this close to curfew, and none raised an eyebrow at Dirk, still in dirty, factory worker clothes, walking in with the sleek and polished Walter. They took their normal place in the corner, and Dirk watched the wax from the candle in the center melt and pool onto the scarred wooden table, casting nervous glances occasionally at Walter, who ordered two mugs of beer. A strained smile crossed his handsome face.

Do I look now, memorize his face, or do I save myself the pain, knowing how badly seeing him like this, knowing he'll soon leave,  will hurt me?

Walter's long, graceful fingers reached across the table, beckoning. Dirk folded his fingers to hide dirty nails, placing his rough, callused hand palm down on Walter's. Their fingers laced together. "Everything will be all right," Walter said. "Before you even know I'm gone, I'll be back."

Dirk latched onto the words, holding on for all he was worth. Walt had never lied before, so if he said he'd be back, he would, right?

"Think of me?" Walter asked, pouring on the charm that had stolen Dirk's heart long ago. His normally seductive smile failed to reach his eyes.

"Of course I will," Dirk replied. How can I ever think of anything else?

A lights-out siren sounded, causing Dirk to jump. Walter remained stock still, the candle casting shadows across his face as the cafe owner dimmed the lights. They drank their warm beer without speaking, staring at each other from two feet -- and an immeasurable distance -- away. Overhead, the droning of enemy planes caused Dirk to shiver. Again, the reminder of a world gone mad had no effect on the tall, composed Walter. "C'mon," he said, pulling Dirk to his feet.

The small cafe where they'd first fallen in love looked far different now than in those hazy, happier days, when they'd nothing better to do than study in the university by day, prowling the bars and cafes late at night until they returned to their shared rooms to make love until dawn. Now, rough-hewn boards shielded the windows, and the once well-stocked bar now sported mostly empty shelves. Even the fine linen tablecloths were gone, taken to a hospital somewhere to be used for bandages.

Not just the building appeared different; the lovers, too, had changed. The outset of war pulled them in opposite directions. Dirk toiled from sunup to sundown, building exploding "we will not be defeated" messages for the enemy.  Walter delivered them.

But there in the semi-darkness, they held each other for what might be their last waltz, remembering those carefree times. Walter hummed a merry tune, once heard on a victrola in this very room.  Pulling Dirk close, he swayed from side to side, to the sound of air-raid sirens in the distance. Dirk's tears soaked the insignia of Walter's uniform. "Promise me. Promise me you'll come back to me," he pleaded, hands falling to his sides as his lover withdrew.

"I promise," Airman Reynolds declared, brushing his lips softly against Dirk's. "With every ounce of my being, I promise."

One more kiss and he was gone, slipping into the shadows and out of Dirk's life.
Sigh. Sniffle. That’s what Eden’s stories do to me every time, and she has lots of chances to do it because she has lots of short stories and three novels out
and a fourth novel, Settling the Score, is coming in March!

Find out more from Eden herself at her blog, and get any of her stories here.

So everyone knows, Thousand Word Thursday pictures will be a regular feature here, and if anyone is moved to write a ficlet about the story and send it to me, I will post it with links and pics for you.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A Giant's Friend by MD Grimm

A Giant's FriendCan love flourish in a time of war? Friends since childhood, Jeth and Kodie now lead an army and guard a mountain pass against the invading Carpathians. Jeth's father was half-giant, and he has always been persecuted because of his lineage. His mother died due to the bigotry of villagers, unleashing the giant’s rage inside him. Jeth has found his purpose in war. When Kodie admits his feelings of love, will Jeth find a new purpose in life?

Before they can find out where their feelings might lead them, Kodie is caught in an avalanche and Jeth must find him before the enemy does. With war all around them, can these two friends find peace that only a lover’s arms can give?
Problems from the start with this one, and I did read the excerpt, I just thought that the choppy style, full of fragments, was meant to be a slice of thought process. It's actually an accurate reflection of the other 127 pages. What isn't fragmentary is passive or muddled, and I considered abandoning this book several times over.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I've decided that Thousand Word Thursday is going to be a regular feature here -- it lets me post and still have time to read a longer story. Some really good stuff has come my way lately. Also... well, that's a post for another day.

If I find a picture that tells a story, I'll use it here. If you have one you think is particularly inviting, send it, please! It has to be something that Picassa or Photobucket won't kick. :D

And if anyone is moved to write a little ficlet, or a drabble even, using Thursday's picture as a prompt, I would so love that! To the point of featuring it, if you don't want to post it as a comment. I'm at CryselleC AT gmail DOT com. It doesn't have to be anywhere near a thousand words, drabbles are usually 100.

What do you think of the dancers? What's their story?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Suffer the Little Children by Tracy Rowan

Suffer the Little Children
When Victorian private investigator Nick Romney’s step-father, an Anglican bishop, is murdered, Nick refuses to get involved. At the urging of his family, though, Nick and his lover Davy step in to investigate. Together they uncover the truth of the bishop’s involvement in the dark and horrifying world of child prostitution, the reason why he was killed, and the shocking identity of the murderer.
The setting and the protagonists, 1890 and two men, one of who writes the accounts of the other's detecting, will call to mind Sherlock Holmes and his Watson, something not lost on the author. To quote:

I had only recently read a story entitled "A Study in Scarlet" about a fictional detective, and much as I had enjoyed it, I harbored the suspicion that Romney was twice the detective this other chap was and not nearly as annoying.

I love a well done pastiche, and this novel is not only an echo of that but a well done story in it's own right. Nicholas Romney is no Sherlock Holmes -- he's brilliant and moody, but a more pleasant companion even at his worst. He's far more human, perhaps because of his difficult past, which rises up to poison his present: his horrid stepfather has been murdered and his brother has confessed.

Nothing is ever that simple though, nor should it be -- it would make for a short book! Instead, Rom and his lover, amanuensis, and partner David Fitzhugh Malvern have to assist the police in teasing out the mystery, which brings to light both family secrets and secrets that powerful men and the church would like to keep hidden.

The title is a clue -- much of the misery centers on things done to children and kept hidden, though mercifully the author keeps the deeds off-stage, much as the Victorians did with anything deemed coarse. Light is a cleanser -- Rom's willingness to discuss what others would hide is almost as powerful a tool as his forensic knowledge and deductive powers in solving the murder and more foul crimes.

Rom and Davy have a charming ability to play together, as well as to work together -- if Davy's knowledge of bloodstains is not encyclopedic, his familiarity with the movers and shakers of society and the ways of a churchman are also crucial to resolving the crime.

These two love each other deeply, it shines off the page, even if they do have to spend a certain amount of time looking over their shoulders and worrying that law and mores will land them in jail. That was a good touch -- while Davy's family is accepting, though prone to euphemize, the author doesn't try to rewrite the tenor of the times.

Not everything works out perfectly in the end, a good solution; what isn't neatly wrapped is recognizable as reality.

There is a trifle of deus ex machina with a handy legacy appearing when it's most useful, and Rom doesn't really contribute a great deal of specialized knowledge of matters outside his family to the solution, but I never really believed in calling snakes back with a whistle anyway.

A fine read. 4.5 marbles

Buy here.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

First Impressions by Josephine Myles

First Impressions
 When ugly socks attract.

Surly artist Jez just can’t help staring at the brightly colored socks of the businessman who sits opposite him on the train every day. He weaves a whole history for the mysterious stranger in a vain attempt to stave off his attraction, but it only ends up feeding his bizarre obsession. Then one hot morning, Jez finally snaps and starts sketching…
My first impression of this story involved cleaning coffee off the keyboard, because that blurb is so damned catchy.

"When ugly socks attract."

Jez sits across the aisle of the train from a suit who's only apparent non-conformity is owning an enormous collection of garish socks -- he's always got his head in a stack of papers. Making up stories about this man becomes nearly a full time occupation -- half the story goes by before Jez gets up the courage to approach, done in a very cute and artist's way.

Then once they meet, all those stories, beautifully crafted though they are, come apart to reveal truth after small beautiful truth. Being wrong has never been so right.

The original sidesplitter reaction doesn't carry into the story, it's more of a constant low level amusement, which is harder to sustain, I think. Jez knows he's obsessing, fights the obsessing, and then enjoys his obsessing, and then -- OMG has to find out the reality of Steve. The reality is wonderful. This is the first story I've read by Ms Myles, whose language is beautiful, descriptive without being dry, and economical -- this author gets a lot of nuance into every phrase. Just look at this:

He probably had one of those old-fashioned
wardrobes with labeled shelves for shirts, vests and
sundries, and a little container on the back of the door
for cuff links, just like Granddad used to have. He'd
come from the kind of family where you learned how to
dress properly and knew your way around a formal
dinner service before you were out of your nappies. My
school had been full of them, and they always knew how
to put you in your place when you were there on a

That is a huge amount of information in a little space -- we now have a very good idea of Jez's place in society, Steve's, or what Jez thinks it is, something about Jez' family, and a lot about what Jez thinks about other people, his childhood, and his resentments. All from wondering where Steve keeps his socks. *is blown away*

Just in case you wondered, everything that happens once Jez stops drawing is as good or better -- you can feel the breeze in your hair from the whoosh of him falling in love. Go read. 5 marbles!

Buy it here.

There's a free read with these two on the author's website, and it's fun, too!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

72 Hours by Clare London

72 HoursTanner Mackay and Niall Sutherland were once far more than just fellow intelligence agents. But then a mission went horribly wrong and everything fell apart, sending Tanner into hiding and splitting the team and their affair wide apart.

Now an unknown traitor is threatening the team, and their ex-boss is determined to reunite them before it’s too late. She finds Tanner in a run-down trailer park, bringing with her a most unwelcome refugee in need of temporary sanctuary: Niall, the man he thought he'd never have to face again. The man he's sure feels exactly the same in return.

Trapped in a situation that’s both claustrophobic and highly dangerous, Tanner and Niall will have to revisit their past and reconsider their perceptions, their loyalties—and their desires—in order to survive, let alone forge a future together.


The shadowy agency that Tanner Mackay and Niall Sutherland work for is under attack, leaving all the agents separated and out of touch, and Niall in need of a safe house. They're both in disgrace after their affair slopped over onto a mission, and Tanner's disappeared to a disreputable trailer park to wait out his suspension. Now, he's the best safe house available, even though closeting Niall in a small space with Tanner is a recipe for sparks flying -- there's a ton of unresolved issues between them, and the attacks are escalating.

The main action takes place over the 72 hours of the title, though the important backstory comes in flashbacks, a chunk here, a chunk there, and exposing their incendiary relationship and break-up. The two are violently ill at ease with one another, and they spend a lot of their time working out the problems between them, both personal and professional (considerable overlap :s), since they have large chunks of time where they are waiting for someone to bring the fight to them.

As a relationship under duress, this story works very well -- the men have a LOT of issues, and do manage to work through enough that you can see a future for them, and it's hot. A sequence where they manage to have sex while waiting for the bad guy, in spite of violating most good sense and even giving that violation a nod, still works well. Not good craft, sure, but the same impulse that made people have sex in bomb shelters during air raids. Tanner and Niall know that, laugh at it, and go at each other anyway, and I cheered them on.

As a thriller, this story doesn't work quite so well -- as a spy/security/troubleshooter agency, the outfit seems singularly unable to find its backside with both hands, starting with personnel and going on to operations. A more competent agency would have been facing some very different threats -- this one, and it's various complications, would have never arisen.

This story has three parts, back story, current romance, and the external threat, and two of the three work well enough to overshadow the third if you are willing to let it, which unusually for me, I am. I can see putting on my suspenders of disbelief (they're red elastic) and reading this one again.

Disclaimer: I won this book through a Desert Island Keepers giveaway.

Buy here.