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I have to admit that, considering this is not the first time I read a novel with superheroes and villains all living together in a somewhere in the future city not so distant from our own universe, I'm starting to feel like I'm missing a big piece of cultural background... is this scenario part of some literary universe? is it a sci-fi subgenre or maybe a classical fiction I'm not aware of?

In any case, in this novel, Alex Gabriel approaches the usually light tone with even an heavier push on the hilarious button, and, while dealing with villains trying to conquer the world, instead of being scared, it seems like the mere civilians were amused. I think that no alive being was affected, and only some building took the brush of the villains' actions.

And indeed Pat, one of our heroes, is the son of a villain (female), and his three sisters are as well. Pat is not cut for the villain life, and he prefers to be an architectural student, while working part-time as house manager of a superhero, Nicholas. But Pat is a night house manager and interacts with Nicholas through an AI which is managing the whole house, so they never met, until the night Nicholas asks for a rent boy, and Pat, who didn't understand the request, reply by person... and well, you can imagine what happens next.

The story is a mix of naughty and funny; but even when dealing with sex, while explicit, the author always maintains the humor sublayer, so that, the whole experience of reading this story is a light one, nice, funny, comfortable, happy.

Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Alex Gabriel Books; 1 edition (December 22, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1505695988
ISBN-13: 978-1505695984
Amazon: Love for the Cold-Blooded: Or: The Part-Time Evil Minion's Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero
Amazon Kindle: Love for the Cold-Blooded: Or: The Part-Time Evil Minion's Guide to Accidentally Dating a Superhero

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There was something in this book that was "unappealing" and yet somehow "addictive", it was like my mind was saying "hey, do you really like it?" and an inner voice was replying, "yes, I like it, and so what?" and it pushed me to continue reading it.

The theme, prim and proper business man meets rent boy, fall in love and rescue him from the hell is basic and common, something I like indeed, but not something that would cause my addiction to this book; it was more the character of Michael, the business man who isn't actually a business man but a content editor, averagely wealthy, from a trust fund more than from his chosen profession, with a wife and kids at home, maybe the wife isn't really warm to him, but she isn't neither a monster, just probably they aren't in love anymore, if they were ever. Michael searches for that comfort he isn't finding at home in the arms of James, a rent boy who isn't really the good-hearted whore of so many movies and books, but just an average boy from the ghetto, with some trouble and no chance to go out his private hell if someone doesn't help him. At one point, Michael rightly tells James they will never be equal from a social status point of view, not cause James is stupid or not worthy, but simply cause Michael had a born advantage that James didn't have.

Anyway the story is sometime passionate, sometime gritty, sometime even too explic, dark and brooding, and, truth be told, never once light. This wan't a fluffy romance at all, but, as I said, it was somehow addictive.

Paperback: 142 pages
Publisher: Lyonnesse Books (October 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1481151711
ISBN-13: 978-1481151719
Amazon: Something Different
Amazon Kindle: Something Different

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Maybe I'm full of of plots and stories that almost nothing seems to spark my level of interest, but that is not the case with Above All. Even if I was very busy, and sincerely I didn't have many time, these two men and their story was always there, in the back of my mind, asking me to continue reading and knowing what was their happy ending. Cause Above All is a romance, almost sweet sometime, not really about the sex, more about the romance.

Truth be told, while Brian, with his troubled past but clearly good heart is for sure a romantic hero, Jasper for sure isn't; Jasper is actually mean with most people, friends included, and without realizing it, he is mean also with Brian, whom sincerely doesn't need it, on the contrary, he needs to be taken care, to be nurtered, and yes, even pampered a bit.

Sure, Jasper's bad behaviour isn't specifically towards Brian, Jasper is Jasper, he is bad with everyone; it seems Jasper likes to plot vendetta plans, and to realize them. Even if, most of the time, Jasper is the one on the wrong side. And instead Brian, who will have all the rights to plan vendetta, is the first to be willing to forgive, to give without asking, even when he has nothing basically to give.

Anyway, I loved this story, from the main characters, to the supporting, to Barney the cat... everyone was perfect.

Publisher: Manifold Press (May 3, 2013)
Amazon Kindle: Above All

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And now for something completely different... but only on the surface: truth, steampunk novels maybe be a novelty for the readers of Amy Lane, but even if the setting is fantasy, and the time is a tale, the troubled heroes are always there, the struggling to achieve an inner happiness when everything outside is crushing is there, the subtle humor that makes you smile even amidst the drama is again always there.

The author recreates a world that is a mix of pre-industrial era, when machines didn't rule the world, and yet, machines are already part of her fantasy world, but they aren't "moving" the world; if anything else, they are making it worse, used in the wrong way but powerful men... the irony of today critique moved in a fantasy world. Technology should help people, not destroy them.

The pain of the post-war heroes like Dorjan and Areau is that of a today soldier having to deal with the reality he killed civilians instead of enemies. How many today boys, just out teenagedhood, join the army with big ideas of doing the right thing and come back with nightmares that will never leave them, it they come back at all. A common theme in Amy Lane's works, so much that I did wonder how much near home she is hitting. Anyway, nothing was fantasy in Dorjan and Areau's pain, and Taern is the only medicine Dorjan's broken soul needs. It's not only about sex, even if that will be part of it, like one of the prescriptions, it was more about closeness, and filling the emptiness.

It wasn't a "comfort" read, and so it's not the ending, if you will arrive to care for all the characters, even the apparently "bad" ones, you will hurt a little in the end; in a romance all the good ones are happily living after, but well, that will not be in this story. Nevertheless, you will know they did the right thing, and that is what make them heroes.

Paperback: 340 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (December 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 162380244X
ISBN-13: 978-1623802448
Amazon: Under the Rushes
Amazon Kindle: Under the Rushes

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There was an odd naivite in this story that was all of its main character, Simon, and thanks to the hand of its author, Eric Bishop-Potter. People say to 17 years old Simon that he looks older, but actually I think he was all in all a teenager, with the reactions to life, and its bad turns, that only a teenager can have.

Simon is most likely bisexual, but he is also in love with his stepbrother Jimmy (same mother, different fathers); not that Simon ever says that, but evertthing he is doing is to give Jimmy, who is slowly becoming blind, the chance to see how much of the world he still have the time to see. Jimmy, good-hearted and plain beautiful, has only one dream, to see the Grand Canyon. But Simon and Jimmy are from the wrong side of London, living on government allowance, and there is no chance they can afford the trip. So Simon, after a chance or two at different odd jobs, decides to turn tricks, the faster way to get the money he needs.

Simon approaches to sex is detached, I really didn't feel like he considers it something worthy or important; he has it with women and men, but more like scratching an itch than as an expression of his feelings. Simon is very physical, but I felt his involvement more real in "innocent" acts like when he is dancing with Jimmy, or just lying in bed with him, without touching, than when he is having sex or turning trick. Actually, when these latter are happening, it felt dirty, and instead, when he is intimate with his stepbrother, it felt honest and pure.

This novel was a surprise, I drank it in one gulp, but it still lingers around me.

Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1848767374
ISBN-13: 978-1848767379
Amazon: Jimmy, Mrs Fisher and Me
Amazon Kindle: Jimmy, Mrs Fisher and Me

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Andy Zeffer is the author of Going Down in La-la Land, a novel that, aside for being turned into the movie by the same name, is deeply connected with the gay-themed movie The Fluffer. In all these past experiences, the author was deeply involved with the social environment of Los Angeles, with all the implications: Los Angeles is big and disconnected, but is also sun and beaches. With the Barbizon, Andy Zeffer moves from Los Angeles to New York City, a move that also happened in Zeffer's real life, a move that is reflected in the story: while New York City is a metropoli like Los Angeles, the feeling is less disconnected and more of close environment; even when the characters aren't inside a bedroom, the feeling was of a "closed" setting. Also the mood of the story is less "sun and beaches" and more "dark and cloudy weather", it was like Annika, the main character, was living in the dark and just before the end, she has the chance to get a glimpse of the sun. Very nice and quick short story from an author you don't have to miss.

Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Kindle: "The Barbizon" A Short Story

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Considering I love cats and that I'm pretty much of the idea that cats don't have owners, but that they chose the human who is best suited to take care of them, like a king paying a favor to a peasant, I was in line with the plot of Aloysius, the witch's familiar who is turned into the angelic beauty Alain, or maybe he is turned back? In Alain's form he falls in love with Luke, a young vet who doesn't know Alain's true form, and who doesn't question Alain's feline "quirks", on the contrary, he finds them endearing.

This was a "cute" fantasy romance, meaning that, it wasn't really pushing on the dangerous factor, but more in highlighting how pretty and flamboyant Alain was, how beautiful all supernatural creatures are, from male witches to elves to familiars who change shape. It had a some sort of yaoi flavor, maybe also due to the cover, but it was also something else, more subdued, I clearly remember that the cat-boy is indeed a recurrent theme in the yaoi novels.

Cataclysmic Shift was a light romance, a very pleasant read, especially if you are a cat lover; I don't think the reader had to dig and forcefully find a deeper meaning, if not the pleasure to spend some hours in a fantasy world. It was also naughty here and there, and truth be told, there were times when I didn't need it to be, I was happy enough with the innuendos, but that is entirely me, and instead, if you like some naughty sexy scene, you will find it here.

Publisher: Loose Id LLC (July 23, 2013)
Amazon Kindle: Cataclysmic Shift (The Aloysius Tales)

Series: The Aloysius Tales
1) Spell Cat
2) Brush with Catastrophe
3) Cataclysmic Shift

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This is the second time I read a gay romance from an author who is clearly experienced in writing heterosexual romances (this is part of a series, Wicked Play, which is mostly heterosexual aside from one story about a menages a trois), and to my surprise, I found the author managed to express the issue of a gay relationship in a very convincing way. This is probably due to the fact the focus of the story is the romance, and if you are open enough as a writer, and you don't bring yourself in the story, but write the point of view of your characters, it doesn't matter if they are straight, bisexual or gay, that is the strength of a writer.

Rockford "Rock" Fielding is a closed former military man, who is now working in the security field, and in particular at the Den, the BDSM club whose partners are more or less the main characters of the previous stories in the series. While the other stories are centered around the BDSM world, Bonds of Denial is far from it, the only link the way Rock meets Carter Montgomery. Carter is a high-paid escort, who frequents the Den as guest of one of the members. He underwent a background check performed by Rock who is now fascinated by the man, so much he decides to hire him from one night. Rock isn't considering that fascination can lead to love, and that he will be probably forced to finally come out of the closet.

Carter on the other side is almost at the end of his 10 years contract as an escort, and he is maybe considering his options; not that Rock is an easy getaway from is previous life, Carter is sincerely attracted by Rock, but maybe, more than before, Carter is free to consider a relationship as a possibility. It wasn't easy to have a boyfriend while you are an escort, but truth be told, Rock never lets Carter's job to interfere with their romance, if not for worrying about Carter when he is "on the job".

Very nice "hustler" romance, happily ever after and all. Both Carter than Rock's characters were complex enough to have the reader care for them, and I appreciate a lot the author didn't judge them, nor Carter for his work as an escort, or Rock for being still in the closet at 34.

Publisher: Carina Press (February 3, 2014)
Amazon Kindle: Bonds of Denial (Wicked Play)

Series: Wicked Play
1) Bonds of Trust
2) Bonds of Need
3) Bonds of Desire
4) Bonds of Hope
5) Bonds of Denial

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I haven’t read all the books in the series, but one thing I noticed, this series is more mainstream than genre fiction, actually I think the whole series is one of the best example of urban fantasy out there right now. The writing style is unique, the main and supporting characters are original, in their being heroic without being heroes, and the storyline is tragic and engaging, always leaving the reader with the feeling of wanting more, and more will be delivered.

As the same Dylan says, they will be always in three, Roan, him and the ghost of Paris, who basically has never left Roan, living in his skin, lingering on his needs. Roan loves Dylan, I can feel it, but I also feel like Roan doesn’t believe there is a future for Dylan and me, and in a way, would prefer for Dylan to be as much as possible detached from him. I’m not sure if Roan hates the shifter in him, or if, deep down, he feels like he is that shifter, and that denying him he is denying his own self. Dylan represent normalcy, and if he wants to be with Dylan he has to refuse his lion; in a way, Roan is rejecting the lion while, in the end, I had this lingering sensation that Dylan wouldn’t be against the idea to accept it, cause, better than Roan, Dylan understand the lion is not the bad side of Roan, it’s just another side of him.

Yes, that is, after 6 books, my conclusion is that Roan hasn’t to fight the lion, but instead he has to find a way to have it coming out and being a part of him, and both of them need to “know” Dylan to love him completely (well, this is the romance reader speaking).

Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1623800129
ISBN-13: 978-1623800123
Amazon: Infected: Lesser Evils
Amazon Kindle: Infected: Lesser Evils

Series: Infected
1) Prey
2) Bloodlines
3) Life After Death
4) Freefall:
5) Shift
6) Lesser Evils

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Like life these stories reflected all possible endings, good and bad, happily ever after and not, forever love and tragic losses. It wasn’t an easy read for me, cause the author managed to sketch these mostly young men in a way that you arrived to care for them, and wanted for all of them to be happy, but unfortunately, that is not realistic. Truth, even in the tragedy, some of them at least found the comfort of knowing they are, or were, loved. It can be a small consolation, but for some of them it was the most important thing.

On the contrary of other literary anthologies, cause Damaged Angels is for me one of the best example of Gay literature, the style wasn’t heavy and the stories flows smoothly, if deeply involving. There is no judgment in the author, like there is no solution, he is not teaching a lessons to young men, but maybe he is giving them voice when most often their voices are too low to be heard. Recurring themes are AIDS, drugs, mental illness, hustling, sometime alone, sometime mixed in the same story; they are tragic topics, with an almost impossible way out of it, and indeed, not many will find that light at the end of the tunnel.

But even if it sounds strange, I feel like the author believes in forever love, and that, if someone is lucky enough to find it, there is a small chance of happiness, and maybe that light at the end of the tunnel can be switched on for them.

Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing (April 8, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1909192198
ISBN-13: 978-1909192195
Amazon: Damaged Angels
Amazon Kindle: Damaged Angels

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If you want to break some taboos, The Bacchi is probably your choice. First of all, this is not a gay or bisexual or even transgender novel, both Lefi, a Somian, than Afton, a Valoran, are in some way hermaphrodites, so basically they have no gender, or better they have both gender. They are not humans, but an alien breed, and the Somians have lost their hermaphroditism to basically mutate on a female or on a male, but in a way, they still preserve the double characteristic cause they are always twins at birth, and if they are a male and a female, they are a mated pair. Only that Lefi’s twin sister has died, and now for Lefi is like he has lost his heart and doesn’t believe he is capable of loving again.

The Valorans instead are fully hermaphrodites, but since young age, they lean toward a gender, and so, even if they have both genitalia, they identify as a male or female; moreover, they are very private regarding sexuality and homosexuality is basically nonexistent; to Afton, who was raised as a male, the attraction he feels toward Lefi, a male, is unsettling, and to add trouble to his worries, Somians are very sexual people, exactly the opposite of Valorans, and Lefi is a sex worker, a Bacchi (basically a high paid and recognized prostitute).

There is a second, parallel plot about a slave black market where Valorans are sold to brothels, and Afton, as a police inspector, is required to investigate, and Lefi is his “liason”. But truth be told, this wasn’t the plot I was interested in, more interesting was the slow seduction of Lefi towards Afton, and Afton questioning not only his sexuality, but the entire emotional structure of his own people. This is a sensitive matter and I don’t want to approach it in a way that is indelicate, but my feeling was that, even if Afton start to consider his female genitalia (while instead, previously, he completely ignored them), in no way he changes his male attitude to life; for example, Afton can bear children, but he has never considered the option, as a male, and still doesn’t consider it even when he falls in love for another men.

Paperback: 404 pages
Publisher: (September 30, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1304499812
ISBN-13: 978-1304499813
Amazon: The Bacchi
Amazon Kindle: The Bacchi

Series: An Uncommon Whore
1) An Uncommon Whore:
2) The Bacchi

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More than a whole novel, this was more a nice, sweet novella; it’s odd to use the word “sweet” in relation to a story regarding saloon prostitutes, but this one was indeed sweet and very romantic. Probably a quite ordinary western romance plot, the one about the young cowboy falling in love for the soiled dove and sweeping her from her feet to ride together towards the horizon… with the exception that Lila is transgender and the reason why young Tommy fell so hard for her is that he couldn’t care less for women and he has actually a crush on his boss, Hal.

When Lila realizes that the virgin cowboy she picked isn’t actually scared of women due to inexperience, but that he actually prefers men, she feels safe to reveal him her secret. If I hadn’t known that what Lila did was not only possible, but even ended up in some newspaper of the time, I would have probably questioned the possibility for Lila to pass not only as a woman, but to even exercise the older profession in the world, implying intimate contact with men. Actually what I questioned was not that, but more the fact that Lila, after meeting Tommy, basically will not continue with her trade: true, she is falling for Tommy, and Tommy is paying her, but nevertheless, I think at the time the life of a prostitute wasn’t so easy. The author managed it making the time span of the novella quite short, less than a week.

I’m sure life will not be easy for them, Tommy is really young and naïve, he has no real money, and even if they manage to find a place where to start anew, they are bound to have problem, how they will manage to buy the land, the cattle? But I suppose that is not the purpose of the novella, the target was to write a romantic, happily ever after story, and that target was totally achieved. Lila is a good character, she felt real, a soiled dove with a tender heart, someone who is able to comprehend Tommy’s fear and not making fun of them; that is probably the reason why Tommy falls in love, other than, simply as that, Lila is also the first, and only, experience he has with sex and desire, but why we cannot believe that your first real love can be also your forever one?

Amazon: A Cowboy's Heart
Amazon Kindle: A Cowboy's Heart
Paperback: 170 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (April 12, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1475057318
ISBN-13: 978-1475057317

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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I shouldn’t have been surprised, but well, I was: Afflicted is one of the most romantic novels of this year, meanwhile maintaining the slightly ironic and dry style that I had the chance to experience with this author in the past. A classic hustler themed novel, with the addition of the disability, both of them theme that could have made this a sugary story, and instead are dealt in a way that clicked them perfectly in balance.

Hunter is a blind; not particularly wealthy, he has his own business that allows him to comfortably live, but nevertheless he sometime feels alone; a chance encounter with an escort leads to a night of paid sex, but well, it was good and Hunter enjoyed it, pity he has not enough money for a repeat.

Dillon has long stopped to work the street, and he is actually well-off enough to stop even the escort services, but when he meets Hunter, it’s like an epiphany; Dillon’s best friend, and probably first love interest, was his blind cousin, and Dillon has never forget him. In a time in his life when he feels the need for a change, looking at the past makes some things more beautiful and nostalgic than expected. Hunter brings back good memories and Dillon wants to relive them.

Another unexpected side of the novel was the good sex, so much that this is probably more an erotic romance than a contemporary romance; Hunter and Dillon enjoy sex, Hunter almost considers it a way to feel Dillon even more, and having sex with Hunter is for Dillon a way to feel something at all, sex for him wasn’t pleasure for a long time. As expected, removing the sight from the equation, Hunter gives a lot of importance to the other senses, and I liked that Hunter is frank and open, the fact that Dillon has an hot body is important, cause Hunter feels him with his hands, enjoys Dillon’s body with all his body.

Afflicted is first in a series regarding Dillon and Hunter, so I’m still not sure of what the final ending the whole plot will have, but for now, Dillon and Hunter are leading towards a quite traditional happily ever after, and that was good, I enjoyed a lot the combination of erotic plot with romantic (happily for now) ending.

Amazon: Afflicted (Volume 1)
Amazon Kindle: Afflicted (Volume 1)
Paperback: 214 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (November 28, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1480289817
ISBN-13: 978-1480289819

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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Whistle Pass is set in the 50s, 10 years after the end of WWII, in a US small town, not exactly the time to be out and proud. But hotel manager Gabe has found a way to live, he is the eccentric of the town from Monday to Friday, and since he is one of them, born and raised there, his fellow smalltowners accept him, but then he is an high-maintenance male prostitute on the weekends, in Chicago, where no one really knows him. Up until then it was a good life, but then Charlie Harris enters his life. Rough and troubled, Charlie is the perfect mourning hero, a veteran of the WWII with still a fiery post traumatic stress disorder and some unsolved issues right there in Whistle Pass. Considering that Gabe had plenty of chances to meet other gay men in Chicago, it’s not a case of limited choices, Gabe’s interest in Charlie is sincere, and maybe Charlie is awakening Gabe’s desires of settling down and having a family, or at least what they can consider such taking in account the time. On the other hand Charlie needs to have a closure with his past, but he is not one to deny his feelings; he can appear cold and aloof, but indeed Charlie is someone who will risk everything, even his life, in the name of love.

I liked practically everything of this novel, the small town setting, the supporting characters, especially the women (plurals, there is more than one good female supporting characters), Charlie and Gabe, especially Gabe, in his almost naiveté, an oddity considering his side career as male prostitute. But apparently Gabe is doing that more for the need of company, and the feeling of being accepted than for money, when he is Anthony, he is handsome, desired, coveted, and welcomed. Gabe needs only to understand the same can be in his hometown, if he is able to open his heart to who is around him.

The romance was good as it was the little mystery, starting from a simple question of not letting the skeleton out of the closet, ending in the uprising of a whole city against the villains. I hope Charlie and Gabe will understand that, while the small town can have its faults, no chance to maintain a secret, it’s also the only place where they can live together as a couple.

Amazon: Whistle Pass
Amazon Kindle: Whistle Pass
Paperback: 210 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (February 27, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1613723768
ISBN-13: 978-1613723760

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Anne Cain
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Let It Go was not at all the fluffy cowboys gay romance you could imagine from the cover; at a time gritty and dirty, at a time sweet and romantic, it was an odd mix that worked almost in a perfect way, and the almost is there only since, sometime the gritty parts made me uneasy, but actually that is a bonus for the story and kudos to the author.

Eli and Creed were always competitors, since the time Creed, 17 years old, won the horse competition against Eli, 18, there was a feud between them that is difficult to solve. Eli even moved to the bull competition to avoid to be face to face on the rodeo with Creed, but nevertheless, every time Eli meets Creed on the road, he is the first to start a fight. But this time he made a mistake, since the fight took place in Eli’s hometown, and the judge who is called to fine them, his Eli’s godfather and he wants to teach Eli a lessons: he forces the two men under house arrest together, and or they kill each other, or they learn how to cohabitate.

But Eli and Creed do more than cohabitate, they discover the tension between them had a long-lasting sexual origin, that both Eli and Creed are gays and they are attracted to each other. So far, you classic cowboys romance, isn’t it? But at this point the gritty I was talking about raise its ugly head, and child abuse, violence and rape are few of the hidden secrets you will learn about. For Eli and Creed is not simply a question of falling in love and live happily ever after, they need to trust each other, enough to be able to come clear of their past, and deal with it. It’s not even a question of acceptance, at least of the other past, is more a question of acceptance of their own, understanding that surviving was not a fault but a merit.

Despite everything, when Eli and Creed are together, they manage to be almost tender, happy, and probably for the first time, young: while they are together, you realize they are still boys more than men, or better men that have never had the chance to enjoy their young age, and a little piece of that lost youth is reliving in their lovemaking.

Amazon Kindle: Let It Go
Publisher: Liquid Silver Books (September 24, 2012)

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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Part biography, part novel, Hommeboys is the story of Sam, a simple guy from Ohio who is plunged in the glittering modeling world of New York City, only to discover the glitter is fake, and that he will be basically very, very alone.

I really enjoyed this story since I could recognize most of the characters in it; now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these are real people and I linked them to their names, but that they are stereotype of real person, and for many of them you can connect someone. There is Sam, who is doing the model since he doesn’t know nothing else, but you can say he is not fated to be a “name”; Sam is cute, but he is like hundreds of other boys, and they eat them in one year top. There is Darren, Sam’s first friend in this new world, someone Sam could love, but Darren is damned. There are the owners of the model agencies, the stylists, the photographers, the supermodels and the background. All of them feel so real and consequently so fake: nothing in this world is solid enough for Sam to cling to, and he is like a guy who is drowning.

It’s scaring to think that Blair Mastbaum used his own experience to write this story, because then it means he was there, and probably what Sam is experiencing, is what Blair did. Scaring and elating indeed, because now we know that Mastbaum’s did the right thing, lived that world for a bit and then walked away, towards what was his real, true life. Modeling was like a temporary madness, something you need to learn how to survive to and walk away alive. But I remember some of Mastbaum’s posts, listing the ones who didn’t manage to survive.

Hommeboys is pretty on the surface and gritty behind the cover, but I think many will identify reading it; it’s also really “light” in the writing style, so much that it goes down smoothly, without any stop in the reading, easy like taking and jump and emerging again… a jump into hell and back.

Amazon Kindle: Hommeboys
Publisher: MERC Books (December 9, 2012)

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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This is the second book centering on the same characters, Roan McKichan and Dylan, in a series that is at its fourth chapter, so yes, I paused before deciding to directly read this one skipping the others. Sincerely I don’t have the feeling I missed anything in the story, maybe I would have liked to read how Roan and Dylan met, I suppose that is in the previous book, but nevertheless the story plot in this one is complete.

In the blurb the author alerts that Roan is still mourning, and supposedly in love, with his late husband Paris. That is for sure true, but I think that Roan is also angry with Paris (who committed suicide). Not sure if the reason is that Roan wanted to follow Paris, or maybe exactly the opposite, that he doesn’t approve Paris’s choice; or maybe there is even another reason, Roan is worried he will not have the same courage Paris had, when it will be his time. Against, pro, for sure Roan feelings are a boiling pot, and in the middle of that there is Dylan.

Dylan is like a balsam to Roan’s soul; you can think Roan sees Dylan more like someone he has to protect more than a lover, but this feeling will change with the story, more or less at the same time when Dylan will prove he is not those head on the clouds artist type he seems at first. Dylan is way stronger than what you think, and probably this strength is allowed also by his stability, all his living healthy and spiritual seems to do good to him.

This is not the first book I read by this author, but truth be told I didn’t have a strong opinion about her. Now I think she managed a worn theme, the paranormal shifter romance, in something new; true, this is not your classical romance, and the intimate scene between the main characters is not what you will remember of it (in a positive way, meaning that the story is not focused on sex), this is more a psychological urban fantasy than a paranormal romance and I suggest to the more selective reader to give it a shot. Maybe you will be more diligent than me and start with the first book in the series…

Amazon: Infected: Freefall
Amazon Kindle: Infected: Freefall
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (November 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1613722494
ISBN-13: 978-1613722497

Series: Infected
1) Prey
2) Bloodlines
3) Life After Death
4) Freefall

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Anne Cain

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Maybe this time I’m not very “concerned” about this Bittersweet Dreams title (they are usually romance without an happily ever after), because, well, I don’t really believe it. Meaning that, I don’t believe there is not a some sort of happily ever after for 35 years old Kyle and his 18 years old hustler Jesse, even if the author wants to surprise the reader.

I will not disclose the “surprise” enough to say that there are various reasons why I think Kyle will not proceed with his intended purposes, also since I believe it’s not really legal, and to Jesse would be enough to have a medium experience lawyer to not only going out from this situation but maybe having Kyle in trouble too. True I’m not really a specialist of immigration law, and Jesse is an illegal immigrant, so maybe for him his different, but again, I really hope Kyle will change his mind.

This is a short story, less than 30 pages, but they are enough to give a background story to both Kyle than Jesse, that is maybe the reason why I hope for both of them to have an happily ever after. Despite the age difference, I think they would be good to each other, and there is really nothing against them, on the contrary, I think Jesse has a good heart, and he has already fallen a little for Kyle.

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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Tailor Made is a funny romp about a naïve, and slutty young man suddenly thrown into the shark pool of business.

Wyatt is unemployed and available, meaning that with the recent economic downfall, he found his job cut like many others. His current job, after his business degree that truth be told didn’t teach him nothing of useful. Instead his previous career, the one he did to pay his study, taught him a lot: Wyatt was a porn star. Now it was actually easy for Wyatt since he would have sex anyway, he plenty enjoys to have sex whenever and with whoever he fancies at the moment. So when Wyatt lands this new job as special personal assistant of William Bowen, he doesn’t question much why his only apparent job is to be nice to William’s business associates; and if most often than not he ends having sex with them, for which he receives nice money gifts, again, Wyatt’s naiveté makes him things it’s only a fringe benefits of his role.

We follow Wyatt’s adventures with a smile on the face since he is so innocent and yet so scandalous that you can only smile to his antics. One time Wyatt’s conscience makes him try to leave the job, he still hasn’t understood what is actually happening, but he does wonder something strange is going on, but when William doubles the offer of tailor made suits, plus a company card and a no limit credit card, what a boy has to do, if not say thank you and fly to Lady GaGa’s concert in a private jet?

Even if I lost count on how many men Wyatt did sleep during the novel, sex is not actually the main reason for this novel; it’s more a funny tale than an erotic romance, and even if sex happens, it’s not detailed to the reader. And even if Wyatt has a love interest in the story, this novel is pretty much focused on only Wyatt, he is the one and only, and even if he is dumb, you will see that, in the end, he is the smartest of everyone since he will manage to land exactly what he was searching from the beginning, a wealthy husband that will allow him to be the queen of the house, and like Queen Elizabeth (I and II) teaches, with all the power in his hands.

Amazon: Tailor Made
Amazon Kindle: Tailor Made
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Beau to Beau Books (April 17, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161845076X
ISBN-13: 978-1618450760

Reading List:
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A sci-fi version of the Pygmalion story, Alarin is a late teen pickpocketing guy and sometime street hustler; one night he accepts the wrong deal and he would be probably dead on a dark alley if not for Maleus, a wealthy businessman passing by.

The society where Alarin and Maleus are living is a futuristic city divided in social levels that are reflected in the floor you are allowed in: poor people stay in the bottomside part of the city, where the sun cannot reach them, where vitamins and proteins are the new drugs; wealthy people live above, without never going below.

Maleus’s intervention in helping Alarin is not casual, he was looking after the guy, and that same night he was perusing the bottomside to find the guy; his proposal is simple: he will give Alarin, food, clothes, shelter and everything in exchange of the absolute possession of Alarin’s body and soul. Despite the premises, indeed Maleus is more like a teacher than a lover, and most of their sexual encounters are like a lesson, Maleus is teaching to Alarin to behave in a bedroom like he is teaching him to behave in a room full of people. Little by little the reader will understand Maleus has an hidden agenda and Alarin is the missing piece to his puzzle.

This is not a classical romance, and as it’s, there is not you classical happily ever after; probably the main reason is due to the fact that this is born like book 1 in a series, and so the story is not complete with this novel, but it has a follow up in book 2, Rysykk's Remedy.

Even if both Maleus and Alarin have venial reason to enter in this relationship, their bond will move from interest to love, and there will be an exchange of love words between them, but despite this, Maleus will not renounce to his agenda, and Alarin will remain more a pawn than a partner, at least for this first instalment of their story.

Reading List:
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I have to admit, this was not an easy book for me to read, mostly since the writing style is very rich and I often had the feeling I was losing myself in that, but you have to weight this feeling with me being Italian. If you add to this the fact the story is told in first point of view by Black, and first POV is always more difficult to understand, you have a good idea on how challenging it was for me this novel.

The plot revolves around Black, a whore, and Leonard, the john who buys him for one night; Black and his sister Jhez are not selling sex but chi, something you can try to match with vital energy. The Lyche community are the one in power, and they survive feeding from human on their chi; what they don’t know is that Black and Jhez are not ordinary whores and while they are selling chi, they are also stealing it from the lyche. Only this time Black falls for his same trap and Leonard, the Master of York, is pretending to be paid back, something that Black couldn’t do if not borrowing his services, and those of his sister, to Leonard.

To better describe this novel I really need to go into details that many will consider SPOILERS, so please, if you don’t want to read further stop here. Said that I’m not unveiling anything that is not also on the publisher website, albeit under the same spoiler warning.

This is a transgender story, or better, as the publisher lists it, genderqueer. I wondered about Black, he was my main suspect, but indeed I was totally unprepared on Leonard. Truth be told, transgender is the wrong word, they are actually hermaphrodites, that this the word used by Leonard and the one I prefer. In any case, being hermaphrodites or not doesn’t really matter from a sexual point of view, since sex is not the main element of this story, and for example, during their first sex scene, I hadn’t actually realized about that if not for an “easiness” in their movement that, after I went back and re-read it, it would have been not possible in any other way. I had the feeling the author chose to not tag the characters with a specific female or male label to level them, to be able to start from scratch in building their relationship without any preconception, or expectation. The author gave an empty blackboard to the main characters and they were free to fill it with their story, not with what the reader was expecting them to do.

Black and Leonard will be unusual also on their reaction to dramatic events, like the death of a parent; the reaction will not what you would expect, in that highlighting that Black and Leonard dictate their own story. Black and Leonard are difficult characters to like, they are not linear, they are not pretty; Black is mistrusting of everything and of Leonard almost until the end, Leonard is a manipulative man who has very few qualms to use other people, even people he cares for, to reach his own target.

I think that one of the main concept of urban fantasy is that you need to recreate an original world building in a familiar contest, and Rhi Etzweiler did that, this story is not the copy of anything I have ever read, and until the end the characters surprised me, really giving me the feeling they were real, and having their own free will.

Amazon: Blacker than Black
Amazon Kindle: Blacker than Black
Paperback: 406 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (February 25, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937551253
ISBN-13: 978-1937551254

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Del Melchionda
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The second in the Fool’s Odyssey trilogy if for me the better for now; I liked the previous book, but if I remember well the romance was not as much developed as it’s in this one. Andreas and Xavi are now a couple, Xavi went under the transition that made him a vampire, but he has not yet learned the boundaries of this new situation, and of course, as soon as Andreas has to leave him for a few days, he got himself into trouble.

I liked that the author, even if she could have played the drama card, preferred instead to remain more on a love story level. Xavi is like a kid with a dangerous new toy, he wants to try it, despite the warnings; but he is not a bad kid, and when he breaks it, he fears the consequences of his actions.

Xavi and Andreas’s relationship is a mix of Dominant and submissive and top from the bottom; of course Andreas is stronger and more experienced than Xavi, and Xavi likes to play the submissive lover, but Xavi is also a primadonna, he doesn’t like to be left in a corner. He really needs a chaperon, and more than once he has proved to Andreas that he is not ready to be independent, not before he was turned into a vampire and not now. But Xavi has also a generous heart, and I like that he knows that Andreas is good for him.

Andreas is an odd man, apparently not moved by human emotions, but actually he is very good in judging them, and above all he is a good “tutor”; Andreas knows that he has to let Xavi make his own mistakes, only in that way Xavi will grow stronger and come back to him by his own choice and not since Andreas is his only option.

Xavi and Andreas’s relationship is not yet fully matured, the author chose to let it grow during the three books and at this point, we know the completion will be in the last and third book, that at this point, I’m pretty curious to read, above all to see if Xavi will mature, or if he will remain the bratty pretty boy I ended to like.

Series: Fool's Odyssey Trilogy
1) Fool's Errand:
2) Fool's Oath

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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First of all, I was surprise to find out this was an historical romance, I don’t know but I was of the wrong impression it was more sci-fi/fantasy. In a way, there is a steampunk flavour on it, it’s not that the author pushed much on fantasy details, but I think she took some “liberties” to make the story more a romance than a historical novel. For example, John Fauth is a University professor and a scientist, and his machine to find noble metals seems a little too much futuristic to be true, but I’m not so familiar with the various scientific discoveries and their time to be able to tell how much far from reality the author went. Another of such liberties is maybe the forced profession of Robert Belton, a male prostitute in a brothel in Seattle; while it’s true molly houses and similar places were already existing at the time, a saloon/slash brother in a frontier town like Seattle in 1898 I think was not a common place to find a male prostitute. Again the author made it believable, specifying Robert is a “necessary” evil thing, according to the owner of the brothel; but I wonder who would have been the courage at the time to enter such a place and openly ask for a man instead of a woman (since women were available); from Robert’s words, even if they were not the majority, and the women gained more money than him, he still had customers.

In any case, from my point of view, these were more positive than negative aspects, they made the story more “light” and easy to enjoy. That is probably the main thread of this story, it was quite romantic, sometime even sweet, despite the event that those men had sex without even knowing each other names, and it was more focused on them than on the adventure part of the plot. In the end, John’s target completely changed, and by the way, since the beginning, he was not the aloof professor someone could imagine, but more a man in love, basking in the warm given by the proximity with the object of that love.

Robert is a man who had to do what it had to be done, not for some teary story about little brothers or ailing parents, but simply since he lost all his money gambling and now he has to find a way to pay his ticket to Klondike and an hypothetical treasure (the gold). He doesn’t like what he is doing, but not for the sex per se, but more since he would like to be able to have it with someone he likes more than with strangers. When he meets John, it is a dream comes true, also since John seems to not be reticent to admit his preferences in bed companions, and he is quite good when he is into that be with someone else.

Amazon Kindle: Noble Metals
Publisher: Carnal Passions (January 2, 2012)

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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I really, really liked this historical adventure/mystery novel, despite all the ugliness it dealt with it managed to be also sweet and romantic, but I cannot avoid to think the author was a little too severe with one of her characters and I hope she will come back to these men and time.

Former whore Ira Adler is now well nestled with crime lord Cain Goddard. Ira knows Cain’s affair are probably against the law, it was the reason why he ended up with him: Cain was one of Ira’s usual customers, and when the young man came to one of their appointment beaten up by a constable, Cain took care of him and of the constable, only that the output was very different. Cain offered to Ira the role of confidential secretary, teaching him the job, sure, but matching it with other special tasks, tasks that Ira is more than willing to complete.

Aside for being a crime lord, Cain is a perfect romance hero, he is always careful of Ira’s well-being, he never questions him, even when Ira’s word is against that of one of Cain’s oldest employee; Cain is the first to speak the word love, and even if he is aware that Ira is not meeting his feelings, he is also willing to wait for the young man to be ready (of course we are speaking of emotion, on a physical level they are already sharing a life like a married couple and probably more, considering the custom of the time); when time is passing, and Ira is not yet ready, instead of being impatient, Cain is willing to again open his heart and gifting Ira with a tangible sign of his love. I think that, if Ira doesn’t want him, I’m ready to fall in love for him myself.

I understand Ira’s integrity, he hasn’t never had one and now that he has found that being honest is giving him an independency he didn’t know, he is not willing to let it go. And to think that all is due to the only mistake that Cain commits, i.e. to ask to his lover, former pickpocketing thief, to retrieve an object from a man that is blackmailing him. A simple task, something that a former whore like Ira could do blinded, but an event that will also cause Ira to go out from Cain’s umbrella, to go back to his old life for the first time in two years. As I said, that is Cain’s only mistake, he had Ira in a golden cage, a wonderful paradise bird who was singing only for him, but he let it go, and now it will be difficult to convince him to come back.

Ira in his way, feels for Cain, but he is not in love with the man. Ira is probably stronger than Cain, and a little harder to fall in love. Actually, the reader will learn that all of Cain’s trouble, past and present, are always due to his tendency of falling in love, and that is a situation when you are weaker. Again you will understand that, even if I really like Ira, my favourite is Cain, and I hope that, in the end, Ira will see that with love, you can change even the most devil of the crime lords, and Cain is far from being the worst.

Amazon: The Affair of the Porcelain Dog
Amazon Kindle: The Affair of the Porcelain Dog
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602822301
ISBN-13: 978-1602822306

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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First of all, I have probably to warn who usually reads my blog that this is not a romance and neither a gay novel. If someone wants to probably label it in the LGBT field, than maybe it could be a bisexual mystery/thriller. That is probably not a surprise for who is used to John F. Rooney’s novels, they know he is not actually a writer of gay novels, aside for a novel, The Rice Queen Spy, about a retired gay spy for Her Majesty’s secret service, who was cruelly outed and tortured
for his homosexuality. Moreover this is the third mystery in the Denny Delaney’s series, and in the previous two books, and in this one as well, Denny is happily married with Monny, and many chapters in the books start with “Denny and Monny” doing something, going to dinner, attending a Broadway show, planning a night together, both in some trendy NYC location than staying at home.

But in this novel Denny is investigating about a serial killer who is targeting young gay hustlers, and Denny becomes involved with Tim, a friend of two of the victims and an hustler himself. Not only Denny is worried about Tim since he is the only lead he has on the case, he is also worried about him as a person, and Denny’s feelings are new to him, but not unwelcome. Strange, but not something that horrified Denny, more a source of perplexity. What I probably didn’t like about Denny is that, yes, he wonders about what these feelings will imply in his relationship with Monny, but sincerely I didn’t feel like Denny was really wondering if his relationship with Monny was at risk. For this reason I think that more than gay this novel is on the bisexual field: Denny doesn’t exclude he can have feelings for Tim, but I have never questioned that he would, in the end, find a way to stay with Monny.

As many noticed, Denny and Monny have a really intense social life, and a lot of scenes in the novel take place in some real location: theatres, Broadway shows, restaurants, club, and I didn’t check all of them, but I bet they are all real and exactly in the place where Rooney located them in the novel. I think that was done with a purpose, and for two different reasons: first, to highlight the difference between the “superficial” lights of the NYC socialite, and the sordid fate fell upon those poor souls, just outside the circle of those same lights. Second to prove that Denny and Monny are a steady couple, that they have place in common, a circle of friends, shared interests… all reasons why, even if Denny could go astray for a day or two, in the end, he will always come back.

As usual, I will not comment on the mystery, that is really not my cup of tea; I can say that, of course I had my idea on who was the serial killer, mainly since I didn’t like their attitude, and in the end, I was right, but that was more something from the gut than a real “detective” job.

Amazon: Unprotected Love
Amazon Kindle: Unprotected Love
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: Senneff House Publishers (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0975275615
ISBN-13: 978-0975275610

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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I was worried, probably for all the wrong reason, that Tricks was a lot darker than how really is. But as soon as I started reading it, I realized that this was mainly a romance, sure, with a light dark tone, something that it’s easy to identify with the setting, a windy and apparently always grey and shadowed Chicago, and also with the world in which Arliss, our hero, is living.

A former teenage hustler and now exotic dancer, Arliss has a naiveté in him that makes him easy prey; but that same naiveté is also what allows him to see Sean’s sadness when the guy enters the club where he is dancing. Sean is there to forget a recent break-up, and Arliss would be more than willing to help him, but Sean instead treats him like he would with a possible date, someone you don’t want to use and throw out, but instead court and love.

Sean is not as naïve as Arliss, but he is for sure almost as innocent; 38 years old against the 21 of the other guy, he is well beyond in experience. Plus he was out of the dating game since a bit, and from what I gathered he was never good at it. Sean gave me the idea that, in a love game, he would be more the prey than the hunter. How these two can work together is a mystery, but sometime it’s not opposite that attracts, but two halves of the same apple. Even if Arliss likes sex, he had enough of the emotionless version of it, and he really needs the kindness that Sean can show him. Maybe Sean is not as sexy as other men, or young, or wealthy, but he has a good heart, and he is an unassuming kind of guy that could be as sexy as hell even without knowing it.

It’s strange how, even if the novel is mostly about tricks, exotic dancers, porn movies… sex is probably the less important side of the story. Sure our hero do their share of it, but the author almost skips through the main scenes, concentrating instead on the foreplay and the aftermath. There is really any hard-core scene, just some “play” (hands, mouth), like to underlight that this is really a romance and not an erotic novel. True, we have not to forget this is a story about two men, and the author is a man himself, so you will not really find bed of roses and champagne, but maybe vodka and beer, and maybe our two heroes will not stop to simply cuddling on a couch, but nevertheless, as I said, sex is not what this novel is all about.

I also really liked how the novel maintained its light tone, even when the drama took place: having Sean calling his mom when he didn’t know what to do was almost funny, but brought things into a less tragic perspective and gave Sean the courage to do what it was right.

Amazon: Tricks
Amazon Kindle: Tricks
Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: MLR Press (October 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1608202143
ISBN-13: 978-1608202140

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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Don’t get fooled by the cover, this is not at all your typical decapitated naked torso M/M gay romance; this is not a romance at all but more the self-discovery journey of two men, the narrator and Kevin. Already from this little detail, the fact that the narrator has no name since basically you read most of the novel living in his mind, you can understand that this story has not an ordinary development, and even when it’s not told in first point of view from the narrator, the punctuation is not “ordinary”, there are no quotation marks, and basically what is on people mind is mixed with what those same people is saying. Sincerely after one sentence or two you fall into the swing, and the reading flow becomes normal again.

As I said both men are on a self-discovery journey and their journey moves around the same man, Shayne/Shayno. Kevin was raped; yes, he was raped and that is even the reason why the reader immediately understand this is not a romance, since the rape happens on chapter 1. Despite the traumatic experience, or probably due to that, Kevin runs away from Australia to America, following the quest to find the same man who raped him. Is he searching vengeance? Not at all, he is searching love. Kevin was young and innocent and he was disowned by his own family; in his traumatized mind the only one who “cared” for him was Shayno, even if Shayno raped him. Kevin is searching for Shayno since he is his only mainstay in this world, and even if during the search he will find other men who can better love him, he will always have unfinished “business” until he will not be able to find that man.

The narrator instead has lived and loved and now he wants something more from life; when he meets Shayne, his mind tells him he is not the right man, but his heart doesn’t agree. The narrator consciously falls into an abusive relationship since he doesn’t realize that he can have more from life. People around him are leaving or dying, he sees his life crushing around and Shayne represents a “normal” life; being gay did not good to him, maybe falling in love for a straight man, trying to play the “straight” relationship will be good for once. Of course the narrator is totally wrong, of course he is leading head down towards disaster, but he has to realize that on his own.

Kevin and the narrator don’t meet for almost all the story, but their lives are strictly intertwined. The reader is waiting for the moment when the knot will tight them together, what will happen then? Will they be able to re-conquer their independence? Will they be able to kill their deadly bond to Shayne/Shayno? In a way Shayno represents the evil force dragging you down and they must realize that in order to survive.

Amazon: Shayno
Amazon Kindle: Shayno
Paperback: 296 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (December 24, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1456497170
ISBN-13: 978-1456497170

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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I love the old fashioned romances, the type where a prince charming is coming to save the virgin damsel, I have even a tag for them, only that, being this a gay romance, it’s a “cinderfella” and not a “cinderella” story; and well, here the damsel is not even virgin, far from it, but the prince charming is perfect, with his slightly resemblance with a notorious English actor of romantic comedies (is this the moment where I confess my secret passion for Hugh Grant? Between him and Colin Firth I don’t know why I didn’t move in England to find one prince charming myself…)

Shining in the Sun respects all the rules of the cinderfellas stories, but it manages to be original thanks to its characters, that don’t play along the rules. Prince Charming is Ptolemy Alexander St. John-Goodchilde, Alec for short, who is a very wealthy, very shy, mommy boy City of London businessman; a perfect fiancee on the side, an ordinary life for 11 out of 12 months per year, his only rebellion is to take the month of August all for himself, and sailing without purpose on his yacth, the Lady Jane. This year though there was an impediment, and he is waiting for his car to be repaired in some Cornwall tourist trap seaside village when he meets cindefella Darren.

Darren is the neglected son, the one his father left with his grandmother when their mother fled, the one who is now taking care of the ailing woman in the only way he knows, selling his body to rich men. But at least he fouls everyone, and himself, telling that he is in love with those men, that if they hurt him it’s only because it’s their way to express that love, that he is capable of taking care of himself and his grandmother, at least since the day he awakes in an hospital. Like Alec, also Darren has the month of August out, out of his obligations, out of his fears, and if in that month he really sells himself for money, well, then he can always say that it’s only for a month, that he is not really a whore.

Alec doesn’t cruise Darren for sex, and when he sees him, the educated man that is in him makes all sort of classical comparison to prove to himself that is interest for Darren is something ethereal and pure, but he is also quick to use his money to chain Darren to him for at least one afternoon, that then become a night. And even when he is shown the reality, he is quick to find a reason, Darren after all came back, if he has stolen his money, it wasn’t for himself, Darren is proud and sincere, he is the same perfection he saw surfing like some mythical creature.

And Darren is all wounded pride, he is jumping like a spring, or like someone pocked in a place that hurts, because you know that what they said it’s true. Darren is not like those old fashioned heroines who would prefer to die rather than losing their innocence to the hand of a villain, Darren is more like those soiled doves, working in some brothel, but only to maintain an aging mother, or an helpless baby, or some other innocent creature.

Of course Alec is naïve, of course he knows that if not for his money he would have not met Darren; and of course Darren is far from being innocent, and he is interested, and weak, right until the last chapter. Does this make them less perfect characters? I think that indead this makes them the most interesting thing of the novel. Personally I have always found those virgin heroines quite boring, and the perfect hero a bit presumptuous. Who cares that Alec and Darren’s happily ever after depends on Alec’s money? If this means that Darren will have to care not more for money and that Alec has bought his perfect future, well, it will mean also that for once money bought happiness.

Amazon: Shining in the Sun

Amazon Kindle: Shining in the Sun

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I'm too old and it's too much time I'm around. Or maybe it's only that I read too much. Z.A. Maxfiled wrote a parody about a man who wrote a parody... I think I'm able to recognize to whom Z.A. Maxfield identifies herself in the novel, enough to say it's not the writer (too simple), and I recognized who was the writer she is paying homage to.

The story is actually a comedy of errors: Jae is a literary critic working for an LGBT Magazine, The Adversary (quite clear reference to The Advocate...); Jae is an half Caucasian half Asian man, and his full name is Jae-sun, but he goes for Jae, and this sometime leads people to think that he is a female. Often writers who are pissed off from one of his reviews accuse him to be a woman, and so to being unable to understand a real good piece of Gay Literature. You would think that Jae would be the first to defend himself claiming that he is a man, and instead he has always let it go, finding useful to have the change to play the double role, male or female when it is necessary. Like in this case: Jae is real angry since a woman, Kelly Kendall, dared to write a parody of one of Jae's favourite coming of age novel, Doorways. Doorways was like The Catcher in the Rye or some other breaking coming of age novel for Jae, and seeing a trashy novel like Windows taking and ridiculing it, it's too much. Above all since the author who did it is a woman! (payback is hard to digest…) How does she dare? She can't understand how important that book was for young Jae.

Problem is that Kelly can truly understand, since he is not a "she", he is Kelly Mackay, alias Kelly Kendall, alias Kieran Anders, the author of both Doorways than Windows. He wrote Windows to fulfil a bet with Will, his houseboy / dogs boy, a 20 years old former hustler who he welcomed in his home as secretary and buddy friend with benefits. Where Kelly was probably the angst teenager in Doorways, Will is probably the slut teenager in Windows... they are two different perspective on the same story, and Kelly is also probably overgrown on the teenager he was. At this point I also recognized another gentle homage Z.A. Maxfield probably did, to the movie Finding Forrester; not only Kelly Kendall has the same Irish/Scottish origin of the character in the movie, William Forrester, but he has also the same problem to being trapped by his first novel: people adore Doorways so much, that Kelly is scared to writing something else. To do so, he changed completely the genre and went under another pseudo. Plus Kelly suffers of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and he avoids like a plague everything that is not ordinary or stranger.

Jae is bent on "outing" Kelly Kendall as not only a woman (his publisher maintains the mystery around him) but also a plagiarist. He starts to pestering Kelly with emails from a supposedly female fan, StrawberryFields, mails to which Kelly replies with gentleness but avoiding giving details. Only that, email after email, both Jae than Kelly start to realize that they have much in common, and that they like to talk with the other online... is it possible that a so good online relationship turns in something real? Yes, it’s, since Jae is used to have things to easily, and dating Kelly it’s not easy at all. Someone could say that Kelly is a nut case, but I think that he is only a very special man, and he needs someone to take care of him. Don’t get me wrong, Kelly is not retarded or similar, he is only a man with a lot of odd customs, but it’s what makes him a special man, and he has not to change; he only has to find a man who can deal with him. And learning to deal with Kelly maybe will teach to Jae to see things less in Black and White, to see the shades, to be more flexible, and learning that, to be a better man. Not always being a crusader is a good thing, sometime crusade did a very poor job to humanity.

When I said that being a crusader is not necessarily a good thing, I’m not only referring to Jae’s fight to “out” everyone who hides his homosexuality (which negative side we read in the fate of an actor at the beginning of the book); take Kelly’s OCD… someone like Jae, so strong and used to see only the right and the wrong, probably would try to cure himself, to force nature to submit to human’s will… and doing so you would destroy the real Kelly. The real Kelly it’s not the “healthy” man, the real Kelly is the obsessed one, the troubling one, he is special since he is not normal, level him to the rest of the world, means to kill him.

I like also as the author dealt with Kelly and Will's relationship; true, they are having a sexual relationship, but not from Kelly's side or Will's one there is a real emotional commitment. Both of them know that what is between them it's not real love, problem is that Kelly doesn't know if real love exist, at least not until Jae. I like that, even if at the beginning the author let us in the more intimate details between Kelly and Will, when Jae is becoming something more than an email address for Kelly, that relationship slowly but steadily turns in a real friendship, without benefits. It's made in a way that I don't feel bad for Will, on the contrary, I believe that he needs more Kelly as a friend rather than as a lover. Not only Kelly finds his love, but it happens at the same time when Will's past is revealed (a past of child molestation), and in a strange play of destiny, it's actually a better thing for him that Kelly, who can be a fatherly figure for Will due to the age difference, becomes totally sexually detached.

Amazon: ePistols at Dawn

Amazon Kindle: ePistols at Dawn

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Cover Art by Anne Cain
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Wanted Dead or Alive (Slippery When Wet 1) by Jenna Byrnes

Wanted Dead or Alive is the first in the Slippery When Wet series. I actually read first the second book, didn't realize it was a series and when I read the third I made the connection. The series follows the lives of four former con mate, Dan, Logan, Damien and Snake; when they were in prison, they helped another man, Joe, and this put them on the wrong side of another prisoner, Felix, who has the right connection to make their life very difficult when they will finally go out. Another thing that links them is that they are all petty criminal (at least I believe, I haven't yet read Snake's story) and that they are all gay... and they were gay even before going into jail.

Of all the three life stories, that of Dan is probably the more easy and also sad. He was in the wrong place at the wrong moment with the wrong friend. His friend almost killed a man, and Dan was young and stupid enough to try to run away instead of facing the law. And he did 8 years of jail for that. During the time he even befriended the man who almost was killed, and when he went out, he still had a sister who was willing to help him. And after only two days he even finds a boyfriend, Trey... life seems good, isn't it? But his old enemy doesn't forget, and Dan is framed for a crime he hasn't committed. And again he runs away, but this time realizes soon enough that running away is not the solution to his problem.

I have the feeling that Dan is real young, I don't know exactly how many years he has, he did 8 years in prison, so he has to be at least 26 years old if not more, but probably he still thinks like a scared teenager. And even if Trey is really a wonderful man, caring and gentle, I think he is not an imposing figure. In a way it's better like that, Dan has always proved to not be keen of the male role figure, and in fact, with Trey, it's Dan who takes the lead, even if the first move was made by Trey. All in all I think that this time Dan was lucky, he met a man who is average enough, and faulty enough, to be at his same level, and so Dan is willing to listen and take in account his advice. It's interesting, Trey is the perfect man for Dan since he is not a perfect man.

Oh, I almost forgot: I found another point in common with all the stories... all the men have a quite steamy shower alone but fantasizing of the man they have just met... a coincidence or that Slippery When Wet in the title of the series means something more than the title of the LP collecting all the songs from with the books borrow the titles?

Amazon Kindle: Wanted Dead Or Alive

Livin' on a Prayer (Slippery When Wet 2) by Jude Mason

When Logan entered prison he was an 18 years old boy, maybe even a bit too naive for his age. He was the classical example of a boy born in the wrong side of the town, his father long gone, his mother with not enough money to sustain the family, a younger brother ill and again, not enough money to pay the bills... Logan did probably what it seemed the only obvious solution, a robbery, and it went wrong.

8 years later he is out on parole and he wants to start a new life, but for an ex-con is not simple: he is living in a cheap and dirty motel that soon he will have no money to pay, he can't find a job since people don't want to hire an ex-con, he has no hope in tomorrow... and then he sees an angel. All right, it's maybe a cracked angel, but for Logan is beautiful. Shane is a methodist reverend sent in an hell of a place since he is gay. He runs a homeless shelter, and probably it wouldn't be a bad life if not that, for a gay reverend is not easy to find a lover. I don't know if Logan is more eager to find a place to stay than Shane to find a lover... anyway they seem to fill the mutual void in their life, and Shane helps Logan to find a job, nothing fancy but enough to pay the bill. But Logan's past is not reaty to let him go.

I find quite strange that is not Shane and Logan's relationship to arise the trouble in the story, but I'm true, I don't know enough of the Methodist church; all right, Shane was "punished" and assigned to a job that is not exactly a dream, but all in all Shane seems to be not repentant, and people around them seem to have not problem with them having a relationship. Shane never once seems to be worried to give shelter to a gay man whom is obviously having a relationship with.

This is a novella, and it's most sex, from Logan in assolo when he is just out of prison, to when he is having monkey sex with Shane practically from moment one, and Shane is also quite naughty under the sheet (actually the worries of his bosses that he could pervert someone is not so without basis...). But even if the lion share is taken by sex, there is also a plot, a bit fast in the development, but, well, there is not so much space left once Shane and Logan has spent most of the time in bed! And if Shane and Logan weren't so nice as a characters, that could have been a problem, but instead, sincerely, I didn't mind to spend more time with them between the sheets than outside. So, yes, if you are searching for an hot romp with a naughty core (Shane being a reverend gives that spicy more I believe), this one is a nice choice.

Amazon Kindle: Livin' on a Prayer

Never Say Goodbye (Slippery When Wet 3) by Jenna Byrnes

Reading this book I realize that this is a co-authored series by Jenna Byrnes and Jude Mason about 4 young men just out of Corcoran State Prison and probably the man they helped inside there. This is the time of Damien, an ex-hustler and thief who went inside for small theft. He is out on parole and the only job he found was as pool-boy for a former customer. It's quite obvious that his job is not to clean the pool, and if we had some doubts, they are soon cleared from the first scene, where Damien is having sex with Charles. That scene made me wonder if I hadn't misunderstand the story, since actually Charles doesn't come out like a bad character and Damien seems to not have an hard life with his new job.

But then Charles goes out of the scene, on a business trip, and Damien is left alone with the new stable man, Travis. Travis is handsome and sincere, and after the first not so good encounter with Damien, he actually comes out like a nice and very next door good boy type of man. At first Damien is reticent to have an affair with Travis, even if more or less a business agreement, he has a relationship with Charles and he doesn't want to betray their contract. But then something happens and Damien changes his mind. Here probably is the most interesting aspect of the novella, the proof that Damien is really young and with a very unsteady upbringing; it's true that Charles didn't tell everything to Damien, but Damien needs very little to surrender to temptation with Travis. On the other hand, it's quite clear that Charles is not a good man and instead Travis is exactly the good boy that Damien needs to redeem himself. So, is Damien a positive character? I believe not. Is he a character with possibility? Probably yes.

For sure the author manages to write a novella that is basically a nice erotic piece but that has also a basic plot, not so expected. The fact that Damien is not the usual mistreated and misunderstood teenager that, even if he went through hell, managed to remain a "fallen" angel; basically Damien is more a demon with possibility to arise to an upper level.

Amazon Kindle: Never Say Goodbye

I'd Die For You (Slippery When Wet 4) by Jude Mason

I don't know if I'd Die For You is the last in the Slippery When Wet series, there is still to tell Joe Magee's story, but this one is the last about the man who helped him. This is the story of Snake, apparently the only one among them who was really innocent and framed for a crime he didn't commit. And for coherence Snake's story is also the one quite different from all the others.

All of them, just out of Corcoran, have no problem to find a new lover, and all in all, their life outside the prison is not so bad. But all the previous men had no real reason to do something better from their life, I don't, they were like "empty", almost if spending time in prison deprived them not only of time but also of will. Snake instead is angry and he wants to have his vengeance against the man who framed him. Snake, on the contrary of all his previous prison mate, is fed by his angry, and when the story starts he is heading toward a place and a mission, he has a purpose. But he is distracted by it from a nice smile and wide shoulders; he stops at a grill among the nothing that is the highway and stumbles upon Abel, a gay man alone in the middle of a bigot town who is more than eager to join Snake in his mission... obviously not before having spent some leisurely time together, and starred in the required shower sex scene.

Maybe Snake sudden willingness to be involved with someone so soon, and Abel eagerness to drop everything and hop on the bike with Snake, maybe it's all a bit rushed, but, well, this is a novella, and then the author makes it quite believable: Snake all in all is not a bad boy and he deserves a bit of lucky, and Abel... well, maybe he is in dear need of something.

Probably this is the best of all the series, it's less angst and more sexy. I wouldn't mind to read also Joe Magee's story, even if I have the idea that it wouldn't be so light.

Amazon Kindle: I'd Die for You

Amazon: Slippery When Wet (print book)

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Wishbone is at the same time classic and innovative. It’s classic where it retells the story of Pygmalion, or My Fair Lady, or Pretty Woman (see how many time it was told?): a wealthy and cultured man picks a filthy whore from the streets and teaches him how to behave. It’s innovative since, what the wealthy man teaches to the whore it’s a totally different thing from the usual lessons on good manners or polished language, but is instead the power you have in surrendering.

From the very first night, to Wishbone, the whore, Sir, a shih-aan, an alien creature that it’s not exactly human, not exactly beast, teaches the fine art of the pain/pleasure games. Without not much than few words, Wishbone experiences a fisting session and we can say that he is happy to be a whore. But it’s not much the physical pain (or pleasure) that makes Wishbone come back to Sir, and maybe not even the prospect of living in comfort, it’s more the curiosity: Sir gave him enough to momentarily sate him, but not enough to placate his thirst of life. Wishbone doesn’t know at the moment, but Sir is preparing him not to submit but to dominate. In many points we understand that Wishbone is stronger than Sir, first of all the fact that Sir gives out his real name almost immediately, and instead Wishbone lets it go much later in the story.

What at the beginning the reader, through Wishbone’s eyes and mind, can’t understand, is the philosophy of Sir and his people. For them being the one to receive pain during a sexual game it’s not a sign of weakness, but almost a privilege. When Sir “plays” with Wishbone it’s not to punish him, but instead it’s a sign that he is very pleased with Wishbone. Same with Terefar, Sir’s bed slave; he is from a lesser breed, a population that was defeated in battle. To Wishbone, Terefar is someone to commiserate, true, they more or less do the same work, but at least Wishbone is the only owner of himself. What Wishbone doesn’t understand is that Terefar is happy with his life, he has no desire at all for something different. Terefar is not to commiserate since he is “forced” to be a slave, he is to commiserate since he doesn’t know how to desire more; Terefar is comfortable with his life since he has no wish for something different. To prove to Wishbone how Terefar’s people is really defeated, Sir tells him that they are no more able to write poetry… poetry is the language of the heart more than the mind, and where there is no heart, there are no desires.

Terefar is not contender to Wishbone for Sir’s affection: first of all he has no desire to be, and second, and more important of all, Terefar has no feelings for Sir other than the ones he would have for everyone who was his master. And probably for this same reason, Sir is searching, needing for someone different. He is not displeased by Terefar, Terefar is doing perfectly his job, but he can’t be nothing more than a pet. Wishbone draws Sir since he can play the role of a pet, but for sure he is not.

To appreciate this tale you have to put back some of the boundaries that usually people who read romance have; there is no concept like fidelity or exclusivity, everything related to sex is more a question of amount of power than a simple stress relief. When Wishbone enters the story, he craves sex like and addicted craves a drug; at the end, he will be able to sip it like a expensive vintage wine. That is probably the main lesson that this fantasy “Galatea” learns during his particular tutorage.

Amazon Kindle: Wishbone

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Reading this book it was like going back on the same place and time when Bogard and Bergman, as Rick and Ilsa, kissed in front of an airplane in Casablanca.

Only that this time, Jake, the American adventurer who is managing a brothel in an far away from the common routes Moroccon town, Maarif, is not in love with the wife of a French revolutionary, Christopher, but with the man himself. But Christopher is not the only man with a place in Jake’s heart, there is also Nicolas, his former Foreign Legion fellow soldier, and now Chief of Police in Maarif. It’s not clear if Nicolas and Jake arrived together in Maarif, or if they are there together since there is more than friendship between them, what is clear is that, even if obviously in love with each other, no one of them is ready to live it.

Nicolas has the reputation of ladies’ man, always with a willing and beautiful woman in the bed, even if always with that air of mourning widower. I had the impression that Nicolas, even if ore romantic at heart than Jake, is not yet ready to openly live their love, like he had some bad experiences in the past, even if those experiences are not explained. On the other hand Jake, former male prostitute (for men) and who lived in an openly gay relationship with Christopher, is not managing a female brothel, and has like hardened his heart, not allowing people, and especially men, near it.

The murder of a German officer in Jake’s brothel is a trigger for all a series of events, first of all the realization for both Nicolas than Jake, that there is not time to waste, that they have to catch each moments and live it at fully. While in life Nicolas and Jake are fully grown men plenty capable to take good and well thought decision, in their private relationship, Nicolas and Jake are still at the try and mistake phase. Nicolas is in love with Jake, but he is not sure of him and of himself; he is still not ready to share all his trouble with a soul mate, he still believes to be a lonely soul, still endorsed to take decision, even life changing decision, alone, without consulting his partner. On the other side, Jake, who long ago has understood that the real love of his life is Nicolas, sometime still clings to the idea of his youth lover Christopher, that is more an ethereal figure, than the real man who Christopher is become.

The development of the story is both linear than complex: basically the story follows Nicolas and Jake in few days of their life and the reader is plunged in their story with little preparation. There is no background explanation, sometime a flashback here and there helps the reader to understand their relationship, but those flashbacks are never enough long to give the fully explanation. At the end of the story, we know something more on Nicolas and Jake, but, truth be told, they maintain a mystery aura that makes them even more interesting and fascinating.

All the supporting characters have specific personality, even the lesser important ones, like Jake’s girls, or the most interesting, like Frederik Abaroa, that I wouldn’t mind to see having his own story, maybe with the sweet girl who “entertains” him one night. The story is set at the beginning of the century, between the I and II World War, but truth be told, the historical setting remain a bit on the second scene, since all of them are living in a situation that is suspended in time, far from the society of the time, people come and go, and the world outside is flowing a rhythm that is not the same in Maarif.

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Amazon: Because You Despise Me

Amazon Kindle: Because You Despise Me

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Someone could wonder if Remastering Jerna is a romance, and truth be told the publisher doesn't list it as one. When I started it, even I had my doubts, the story of Jerna seemed without hope, harsh and without pity, and love had a very little role. At least the passionate love, since, on the other hand, Jerna loves very much his family, a wife and two daughters, but I saw little passion in it. So for a good share of the book, I remained with my question: if and when I would have found the "romance" part of the book. The if was a legitimate doubt, because nor the author or the publisher promised it to me. Due to all this, you can imagine how glad I was when I finally found THE love I was searching, but, as you can understand, in the end this is not a romance, but more the life journey of Jerna, who starts as a teacher and ends as the taught.

Jerna was a submissive for a Master he respected, but I'm not sure he really loved. Even if the Master, Kimis, fulfilled Jerna's need to be dominated, it didn't satisfy his desire to have a family, to have child, and all the other ordinary things of life. Life with Kimis was mundane and good, but not complete. Jerna left Kimis to marry Tyrme, a good woman who, in all the novel, will always have a positive role; but to me Tyrme seems more a good friend, a loving companion, but not a lover. To Jerna's eyes, Tyrme is a whole with their daughters and family, when Jerna is torn apart from them, never once he says he misses Tyrme as individual, but instead he always mourns for his family. With this, I'm not saying that Jerna doesn't love Tyrme, I'm only saying that, as Kimis didn't fulfil every Jerna's need, so it doesn't Tyrme. In a way, Jerna passed from a Master to another, Tyrme is a very authoritative woman, quite the one who leads the family, but he hasn't still found the right one.

When Jerna is framed with a crime he didn't commit, he is forced to divorce from Tyrme and sent to prison. Jerna is a strong man, even if a submissive, and he faces the trial of prison and all the violence inside (also rape), with a strength that seems impossible. It's not a body strength, more a strong will and maybe also something that he learnt from his training as submissive. From the prison Jerna ends to be an endured servant in a brothel, and this means also being a whore: in his mind Jerna doesn't see it as a betray towards Tyrme, since it's only his body involved, not his mind, and above all not his heart.

All above changes when Jerna meets Ria; at first Ria is an untrained Master, who in his fight to find an outlet to his desire to dominate makes more damage than nothing. Ria is not a bad man, but he is not trained. The first bad experience between Ria and Jerna, I believe, is not all Ria's fault. It's true, he is untrained, but Jerna, from his side, has a bit of an aloof attitude, something he has always had from the first. Nor with Kimis or with Tyrme, whom in a way Jerna considers Master, Jerna has ever let this attitude down; he submits with his body, but deep inside, I think he still believes to be superior to them. Same attitude with Ria, even if maybe in this case he is more right than not. Anyway this leads to Jerna to agree to be Ria's teacher, to teach him how to be a good Master. Jerna starts it thinking to teach something to Ria, but I think that, in the end, also Jerna will learn a lesson, and maybe for the first time, he will find the right Master... one who he himself trained to the role. So yes, if someone was wondering why the "remastering Jerna" of the title, when apparently it was Jerna who was remastering Ria, this is the answer: both Ria than Jerna will learn that it's not enough to know how to do a BDSM scene, to have a real D/s relationship it's needed something more.

Amazon: Remastering Jerna

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It seems that the story of the Pauper and the Prince is pretty common among whom likes to revisited the gay romance with a fantasy / historical flavor.

This is the time of Mark Alders and his definitely fantasy tale. In a medieval fantasy kingdom, there is a sad prince, Wilhelm, who likes men but has to marry a woman to have an heir, and an even sadder pauper, Pavel, a very young man who has to barter his body for a piece of stale bread. Between the two, the one more clever to me it seems Pavel: despite his young age, Pavel knows that he can't be fussy with his partner choices, even if he fancies the handsome prince who looks at him with hungry eyes, the ones who give him food in exchange of sex are the lower class men who do that behind their stores. True, there is not much romance in this part of the story, but it serves the reader to understand Pavel and his disbelief to Wilhelm unselfishness: Pavel can't believe him since in his life no one has never given him something without asking something else in exchange.

This is true for people, but Pavel has a very special friend, a chimera, a mythical being with the body of a dragon and the head of a lion, who has always protected Pavel since the boy was less than 10 years old. But the chimera, Odoacro, can't protect Pavel from the ugly things of the human world, and can't prevent the man to sell his body for food. And so the chimera decides to push Pavel in Wilhelm's arms, hoping for the prince to be kinder than the other men. When Pavel goes to Wilhelm with his usually blunt barter, sex for food, Wilhelm is at first excited by the prospect, but then also horrified: he doesn't want the man like that, in his naivete, Wilhelm still wants Pavel for love not for sex; doesn't matter if the man has sold himself to other men, with Wilhelm will be only love. And so he asks only a kiss in exchange for the food Pavel needs.

The way as Wilhelm behaves, confirms to the chimera that he is the right man for his young friend. In a way the chimera is the fatherly figure both men lacked in their life: Wilhelm's father is not exactly a supporting parent, but truth be told, it's probably the way any normal parent will behave in his same situation. If I'm true, I didn't like so much how he ends up, quite a bloody way, but all the second part of the story took a decisively turns towards fantasy that almost borders on myth and magic. It's strange, despite being very sexy, and the sex quite explicit, let alone the memories of poor Pavel and the way he had to gain his morsel, the story nevertheless maintain a fanciful taste, I don't know, I had the feeling that both Wilhelm than Pavel were more boy at play than real men at work. It was like all the work was done by the others, like the chimera or Catherine, Wilhelm's fiance, and to Pavel and Wilhelm only be left the good share, like they suffered enough before the reader met them, and now it was time for them to be happy.

On the contrary of other similar novels I read lately, The Pauper's Prize is a full fantasy tale, and of the old school. It is not, and it doesn't want to be, historically accurate; this is like one of those classical fairy-tales where you don't question if the dress of the princess is right for her age! For a first book I read by this author, I have to say that it's a nice discovery.

Amazon Kindle: The Pauper's Prize

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At first Freeman comes out like one of those characters from an old noir movie, a man tired of life with nothing or noone of important in his life, who tries to drown his sorrow in a glass of spirit. And so at first Freeman comes out also older and disenchanted; when he meets Kit, it's like an old lion with a young kitty, Freeman is all low growls that never turn in real danger, and Kit is like a burst of energy, like a bouncing ball that Freeman has no more the energy to follow. And so at first I didn't like Freeman, since Kit was obviously in danger and Freeman seemed to care but really he didn't do nothing to real help him: Kit entered and exited Freeman's house, and when he was there he was safe, but when he went out, we knew that he was in danger. We even witnessed to a very sad scene, through Freeman's eyes, and we had to turn the shoulders to that scene since Freeman turned them. It was not exactly what I would like to see from an "hero", but Freeman is not an usual hero.

In a way, Freeman did the right thing, since Kit is a runaway kid, and he is running away from being an adult. He has to mistake and he has to find the force to do the right thing, by himself, since only in that way he will grew. Kit is always ready to accuse Freeman to treat him like a kid, but probably Freeman is the only one who doesn't do that. You tell to a kid what to do, and instead you give to an adult all the elements to decide what to do; Freeman is doing so with Kit, he is making him take his choices. Only that, unfortunately, before taking them, he will have to go through a very bad period in his life.

Due to this, this novel has a very dark mood in it, a mood that will always remain, even when the things will turn good for Kit. I often associate the mood of the book to the weather, and even if it's not clearly said, I always felt, reading the book, as if it was a dark night, without moon, or a covered day, with the sun that never really managed to come out from the clouds. Actually the only sunny moments are those when Kit is in the room, since he seems to have an interior light that never goes out, even when he is kept under the thumb of an evil man. Maybe this difference in behavior, Kit so open and exposed, and Freeman instead so dark and mourning, gives that first impression of a greater age difference between them, when instead there are less than 10 years. There is another things that linked them but has a different evolution: of both Freeman than Kit we don't know the real name for a big part of the book (Kit is from kid), and in the end, we will know Kit real name, but not that of Freeman: we will know all of his past, even maybe the reason why he is called Freeman, but we will not know if Freeman is a real surname, if it is a nickname... till the end the dark behavior of Freeman will be confirmed as well as it will be the one more sunny of Kit.

There is quite an originality in the way the author deals with the development of Freeman; usually the normal development of a mourning hero is to find the "light" in the arms of his beloved. Here instead, Freeman doesn't radically change, he more or less, remains the same mysterious man, since the mourning him was not a consequence of a some bad experience in his past: from what we know, he was always like that and he always faced the life with a silent and deadly approach, he takes home the job and moves to another one, always in silence, always without giving too much explanations or asking too much questions. Maybe the difference this time it will be that he will take away with him a bit of sun to light his cloudy day.

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The story is set in London in the '80 of the last century. I wondered on the reason for choosing that period, and apart the fact that it was a period in which police stories were pretty famous (at least in television fiction...), it's also before the AIDS plague, when the danger on being gay arrives only from society and not also from the love act itself.

Byrne is an inspector who is investigating on some corrupt policemen. He is not the classical up-tight by the book policeman, and he has his naughty secrets. No, the fact that he is gay is not his main secret, on the contrary, it seems that Byrne has no problem with it at all, not at work and not in his private life. His main secret is Peter, the hustler he calls everytime he needs sex. Peter is always ready, a perfect sex partner who leaves in the night, relieving him of the embarassment of the morning after. If lately he is always more attached to his little whore, it's only his problem, Peter has never done anything for becoming more "intimate" with him, since the very intimate act is sharing his life, and he didn't do that.

Peter is not what Byrne thinks. True he was a whore, when he was an underage boy, but he managed to re-enter on the bound of law, more, he became a policeman, a very by the book policeman, not like Byrne. So by the book that he testified against some other corrupt policemen and to thank him, he lost his job and any other chance to find a legal job again. So he devoted himself to the quest of cleaning up the police department from the outside and he is collecting all the proofs he can, paying for them. One night, he meets Byrne, and the man mistakes him for a whore; since he fancies the man, Peter plays along and accepts money for sex. But only from Byrne, a man he is starting to feel for, a man he doesn't know who he real is.

Byrne believes Peter a whore, and despite this he loves him; Peter believes Byrne some type of villain, and despite this he loves him... It's quite tender seeing these two men arriving to a bargain with their conscience all for the power of love. They are very similar Peter and Byrne, so similar that Peter can't accept to be a burn for Byrne; Peter is not waiting for the knight in shining armor, for much he loves that knight. Peter wants to reach his target with his own force, to prove to the world, and to himself, that he is no more the boy who sold himself on the street. And maybe also to prove himself worthy of the love of Byrne.

Byrne is quite a difficult character to understand, he doesn't speak much. He is for sure a man with a big heart and one who doesn't judge a man from his past. He was ready to love Peter even when he believed him to be a whore. But he is not attracted by the man since the other is weaker or in need of help. Byrne doesn't need to feel important or the macho in the relationship.

What I like more in this book, apart obviously the romance between Peter and Byrne, that is wonderful, is that even in the most cruel moment, the author doesn't indulge in the details. In a way she veils the story in certain moment, to be on the other side, opens and in plain sight when it's time to deal with love and feelings and passion. The relationship between Peter and Byrne is both sexy than tender, and in both aspect is dealt in a very good way.

This is a romance that I recommend to who likes to read of men in love who are able to share their feelings.

Amazon: Paper Flowers
Paperback: 287 pages
Publisher: Wayward Books (November 1, 2000)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1903531012
ISBN-13: 978-1903531013

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle


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