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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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A great historical that despite the length (more than 450 pages) was quite easy to go down, like a smooth glass of water. It's for sure less romance and more high sea adventures, and considering the pirate them, it was in a way old fashioned like the historical setting, but considering my being an aficionado of vintage things, that was a plus to me. Moreover, even if this is far from being a breeches rippers, the romance between Kit and Griffin was hot enough to satisfy also the romantic reader that is in me.

I have to admit, I'm not an huge fan of the setting, while I know it's extremely popular, especially among the UK readers, and also considering the best historical novels are about this theme; that is the reason why I was maybe a little reluctant to start this specifically novel. But it was highly recommended by different friends, so I almost "forced" myself to read it, and was I happy I do. It wasn't long that the usually boredom of reading about ships and officers and co was soon forgotten, and instead I was enthralled in understanding Kit and Griffin, their reasons, the almost rude courtship Griffin was clearly moving on Kit, and Kit not even realizing it.

My favor is of course on Griffin, cause he was more open about his desires, but it's also true that he didn't give many chances to Kit to understand loving him wasn't a so huge betraying of everything he believed as true and right. But indeed I recognize Griffin in such attitude, it's another way to destabilize Kit, and in doing so, having him fall for the trap love he is preparing.

Publisher: Etopia Press (December 12, 2012)
Amazon Kindle: On a Lee Shore

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The story was dark, not really fluffy romance, and while for sure this author is well-known for doing great with angst stories, she stepped into a whole another level with Racing for the Sun; these people are the dirty one, and not in the sexy meaning. They are the last, they are the ones going in the Army not cause they believe in an ideal, but cause they don't have anything else; nevertheless, while there, they are also the ones doing the worst work in the best way, cause they are good people, dirty and poor as they are. Maybe cause, among the poorer, they are able to see that, indeed, they have a chance those other people don't have.

Ace has his own scars to heal, but when he meets Sonny, he understands that giving to Sonny a dream will not only heal those scars, but also save the man. Sonny's dreams aren't big, a small house, a dog and a garage; with their joint savings they can have it, but the scary ghosts from past aren't ready to let them. To scare them away for good there aren't legal ways; perhaps their experience in the army had them believing that taking care of things by your own is the only way, perhaps Ace and Sonny know that utopia is a good place to be, but you have to live in real world, in a way or the other, reader will have to understand that to them, what they did is the only possible way. Is it right or wrong, perhaps it's not our job to decide.

Racing for the Sun was a deeply moving and highly involving romance, dark and realistic, but, oddly sweet at time.

Paperback: 260 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (April 26, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 162380647X
ISBN-13: 978-1623806477
Amazon: Racing for the Sun
Amazon Kindle: Racing for the Sun

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Hands up: I did probably make a mistake, I read Colorado Fire not only without having read Colorado Wild before, but also without having basically any idea of what the series was about. The result? I struggled with the beginning of the story to grasp all characters (this is really a choral book, with minimum two couples front stage, Zander/Marshall and Grant/Roger, and some other in the background) and their involvement with each other. Moreover, while I had an idea of the whole meaning of Wild Bluff ranch, it was only when one character said it aloud that I was really sure it was a some sort of special team of operative secret agents.

Anyway the secret agent side of the story wasn't really my cup of tea, wherelse I enjoyed the private interactions between the men. Basically all of them the strong and silent type, not really use to talk about their feelings, they were nonetheless able to admit they "had" feelings, and that those feelings were also scaring: they may be not scared by danger and weapons, but the hurting of the heart is something completely different. Sure, it wasn't probably too much realistic to see this big and bold men being at the mercy of their fragile heart, but this is a romance after all, and if we wanted to read about realistic secret agents, we weren't to buy a romance novels, for how much romantic thriller it can be.

The sex scene were quite hot, and, as I said, this is a choral book, even in that aspect, so there were many "pairings" happening, but now don't get me wrong, they were all between committed or soon-to-be committed couples.

So my warning is, if possible, to read the first book and then the second, and to approach this with the right perspective, to enjoy a romance, with a tinge of thriller.

Series: Colorado Heart
Paperback: 234 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 4, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1494850745
ISBN-13: 978-1494850746
Amazon: Colorado Fire (Colorado Heart)
Amazon Kindle: Colorado Fire (Colorado Heart)

Series: Colorado Heart
1) Colorado Wild
2) Colorado Fire

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Before talking of why I loved this story, I should tell you a little one myself: when my mother was only a child (she was born in 1942 in full wartime), she lived in an occupied city, Padua, by the Nazi Army. Most of the people was living in barns right outside the city, and near where they were there was a garrison of German officers; my grandfather, after years and years of wartime (he was enlisted in the Africa campaign and then Greece, and he had already lost a 3 years old child to pneumonia) had deserted the Italian army, and to be able to help his family, he was tending the German officers’ animals, mostly mules; one of these officers took sympathy on my mother, she was red-head and curly, and he said she remembered him of his own daughter, back in Germany; he brought chocolate to her and what food he could to my grandfather and grandmother; when the Army started to recede to Germany thought the Alpes, they took my grandfather with them, to tend the animals; but it was clear that he wasn’t to come back, as soon as they were at home, my father, an Italian deserter was probably to be sent to prison if not worse; the German officer told him to stay at the back of the group, and to wait for his signal; as soon as it was possible, he signaled my grandfather to run away. We don’t know what it was of the officer, we don’t even know his name, but we know he saved my grandfather’s life.

So this story of a high-ranked German officer who fell in love with the American assassin who was sent to kill him rang true to my ears. Not only that, I’m always a little weary of war stories cause they are usually tragic, with little hope for an happily ever after, and instead this one was very romantic, as light as it could be due to the matter, and yes, full of hope and with an uplifting feeling that lulled and comforted the reader during all the course of the story.

The plot develops in parallel, the story of Frank and Johann when the met, and that of 3 years later, when the war is over and Johann is under process at Nuremberg for crime against humanity. There is little Frank can do, he for sure cannot admit he was Johann’s lover and he cannot disclose his former mission; to the world’s eyes, Johann was an high-ranked German officer who was primarily involved in the Germany’s war strategies.

The love story between Frank and Johann was sudden and immediate, I did wonder if a trained assassin could really fall like that, I was always expecting for him to turn and betray Johann; on the other hand, Johann was like a romantic hero, talking of love and being the perfect lover, trusting Frank totally only for the reason he was in love; again, I thought he was maybe a little naïve, but I really liked his romantic streak, and for once, it was a joy to read a war story, and not a “tragic” experience.

Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: Fantastic Fiction Publishing (July 21, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1622341104
ISBN-13: 978-1622341108
Amazon: Lovers in Arms
Amazon Kindle: Lovers in Arms

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I’m not really a fantasy lover, but Nor Iron Bars a Cage bore nothing of what usually makes me stay away from these novels: even if the setting was complex and original, it wasn’t overwhelming so much it eat the story: I don’t like when I spend too much time trying to follow all the details the authors is showing off to prove they have done homework. That of Lyon and Tobin is a rendering of a Medieval kingdom, so some of it was familiar, but it was a place and time where sorcerers and ghosts not only exist, they are even common occurrences; moreover, to threw the reader a little more off the current time and into the fantasy world, time and space and how to measure it was different, there wasn’t the concept of weeks or years or miles, but similar concepts (the week is actually 6 days and not 7, the length is measure in horse feet or arrows’ arch, and so on).

But what was the most beautiful thing was the sweet love story between Lyon and Tobin: they were kids together, and young, but yes, already probably in love. Tobin, second son of a nobleman, was destined to the army, Lyon, from the middle-class, was the apprentice of a sorcerer. Tobin thought they had time, that he could go in the Army do his deed, and come back to Lyon, but when he did come back, in the end, Lyon was believed to be dead. Lyon wasn’t dead, but for him, he wasn’t far from it. He is living like an hermit, in a small cottage far from the city and he is trying to not let his tragedy kill him for good. There is no space for Tobin’s memories, or maybe, he has forced himself to forget. But when Tobin knocks at his door, everything comes back in a rush, with the only difference that he is no more the boy to whom Tobin was hoping to go back home.

Tobin is a really good man, nor before or now he lets jealousy, or passion, eating his love; he loved Lyon before and he loves him more now. Even if he is one of the more trusted men of the king, he will put Lyon before his sire. Lucky for them, homosexuality doesn’t seem to be a trouble, they are fays, and being fay isn’t a condemnation. Tobin easily admits he was fay when they were young, and with that, admitting also that he was in love with Lyon. This love will give a reason to Lyon to try to overcome his tragedy, and be ready to face life again.

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Amazon Kindle: Nor Iron Bars a Cage (Free Download)

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There were three main characters on this story, Johnny, Frankie and the setting, the excellence of all three of them making this a must for the historical romance lovers; and in this case, I would like to highlight the “romance” in the historical romance tag, cause, on the contrary of other novels, in which the excellent setting steals the scene to the love story between the main characters, in this case both strength are preserved.

I enjoyed both characterization of Johnny and Frankie, they were really at the opposite: first, the origins, France and Germany are geographically near, but totally far from each other in attitude, and Creole-French Frankie is sensual and sexy, and unabashed in his preferences, where Germanic-roots Johnny is reserved, self-flagellating himself for his “perverse” needs; moreover Frankie is embracing his heritage, floundering it with its luxurious joy of life and colorful attitude, he is like a rich brocade of a deep burgundy, while instead Johnny is trying to hide it, misguiding people to believe him to be a 100% WASP, giving me the idea of a brown cotton cloth.

While the Civil War time was an important element of the story, I have to say that I enjoyed it wasn’t as predominant as I feared, I’m not really into war novels (too much drama, too often a loss of young lives). More than 1/3 of the story is focused on Frankie and Johnny, before their involvement on different war fronts, so that, when it happens, I had the feeling these men had to find a way to stay together, for how much impossible it could appear.

There was quite the component of sex, so much that, sometime, especially at first, when the romance between Johnny and Frankie wasn’t already in place, it was almost to a level of erotica. I’m sure this was part of the character of Frankie, and also a way to not only prove how different he was from repressed Johnny, but also how far he will go at the end of the story, thanks to the love he has found.

Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (July 31, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1623806372
ISBN-13: 978-1623806378
Amazon: Where My Love Lies Dreaming
Amazon Kindle: Where My Love Lies Dreaming

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I do not have the patience, or time, to read the whole series, so basically, I’m jumping up and down, according to the mood ;-) This time I went back to book 6, again about Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett, and with a “family” flavor that made it different; oh, don’t get me wrong, there was adventures, this is after all a mystery/thriller series, but it was all regarding family troubles, small like the bartering between Ty’s parents, or big like the trespasses crime in Zane’s parents’ ranch in Texas.

Ty and Zane are not a consolidated couple; they are living together, they are talking of permanent commitment, and at one point, they are even considering their own family: if that will consist of furry or human babies, well, that is still to be decided, but at least they are at that point in life when future is not something far from you.

I really enjoyed both family environments, so much that my only regret is that the part devoted to Ty’s family is not so extended like the one for Zane’s. Ty’s grandfather is a wonderful character, but also the parents, a little crazy like Ty, but all the same devoted to their beloved ones.

I was so enjoying the romance, that I almost “missed” the development of the thriller, so much that, when it unleashes and arrives to the apex, I was almost caught by surprise, scrambling to put the piece together, cause I totally missed all the references to arrive to the culprit before it was written in black and white. To me, that was perfect, cause I’m more a romance reader, but I have the feeling that also who enjoys thrillers will like this book, considering the slightly complex mystery.

Paperback: 292 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (August 13, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193755158X
ISBN-13: 978-1937551582
Amazon: Stars & Stripes: Cut & Run, #6
Amazon Kindle: Stars & Stripes: Cut & Run, #6

Series: Cut & Run
1) Cut & Run:
2) Sticks & Stones
3) Fish & Chips
4) Divide & Conquer
5) Armed & Dangerous
5.5) Dine & Dash
6) Stars & Stripes

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More than one year ago, a friend of mine told me to check out an online series cause it was really good. At the time I did read an episode, but I have so little time to read that following a serial online was almost impossible. I did like it though. Then I forgot about it. When I saw this series on Amazon, Captive Prince, the first thing that caught my eyes was the simplicity of the cover, it reminded me of, I think, Coco Chanel’s motto: there is something you can remove, the less, the better. These two volumes of a Fantasy series were climbing the bestsellers list, and it was even more amazing considering they were self-published by the author. But again, I wasn’t so convinced, Fantasy is not really my cup of tea, and moreover, I’m not really a big fan of Master/slave plots. But, oh boy, was that cover so good, and the response from the readers so widely positive, that I decided to try test the first volume (bless Kindle and the easiness to buy a book, but I have to warn you, I have three devices, Kindle, Ipad and Laptop, and the Kindle app for Laptop doesn’t work for this file, I had to read it on my Ipad).

Anyway, I was immediately reminded of that online series, and I checked with my friend, and indeed it was the same. The author published it in two volumes and the third will come soon. I was really glad cause, where personally I wouldn’t have read it online, I’m more than willing to buy it as a three volumes series.

I was also immediately contradicted on my preconceptions on Master/slave plot: sure Damen is a former prince and warrior, who for the betrayal of his own brother, is now a slave in an enemy kingdom; not only, he is supposed to serve the prince, heir to the throne, who is, to Damen, a lazy and cruel man, not worthy of his respect. Damen wants only to find a way to escape, but in a few days he will realize that there are better way than running, and that an uneasy alliance can be the solution.

I appreciate a lot that violence, non-consensual sex, and all the similar “titillations” of a common Master/slave plot weren’t part of the deal here. So much that, at the end of the first volume, I’m not even sure there will be a relationship at all between Damen and Laurent, actually I think Damen doesn’t like much Laurent, and Laurent is probably interested to someone else and not Damen. Or maybe I’m wrong, and I would be glad of that, cause Damen and Laurent together would be a powerful pairing.

Also the care for details, good but not overwhelming was of my taste. I don’t really like those heave fantasy setting, where the reader is too much distracted from the characters due to all those lengthy descriptions. Here there was the essential, and then you had the plot, that was the center piece of the story.

Series: Captive Prince
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Gatto; 2 edition (February 4, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0987507397
ISBN-13: 978-0987507396
Amazon: Captive Prince: Volume One (Volume 1)
Amazon Kindle: Captive Prince: Volume One (Volume 1)

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Friends with benefits is a theme I like a lot, I have always found sexy when two “new” lovers know each other so well they have a mutual understanding that usually couples found in years of relationship. It’s quite common when the friends with benefits theme is paired with a gay for you, but here the author played an originality card: it’s not the gay friend who falls in love with the straight one and manages to conquer his best friends, it’s actually the opposite.

Kelly has always been the caretaker of the Sidewinder team, and so when he is injured and the bullet who took him down was directed to Nick, it’s only right that Nick will be the one to take care of him during his convalescence. Nick came out to his teammate one year before, and from that moment on Kelly, the straight one, looked at Nick with different eyes, maybe realizing that the yearning he was feeling sometime wasn’t jealousy for the women Nick was able to have, but cause he wasn’t the one to have Nick. But Nick isn’t interested in Kelly, he is actually in an on and off relationship with another man, and if he ever will consider a relationship, it will probably be with that one. Kelly takes a chance when they are alone in his cabin and asks Nick to kiss him… and that is the starting of everything.

I have only read one previous novel in this series, so I wasn’t familiar with Kelly’s character, but he was cute, not in the meaning of pretty, but more like he wasn’t aware of how much irresistible he was for a man like Nick, who, from what I gather, isn’t used to have to work to fill his bed, but Kelly is different, he is a good friend, a teammate, and he cannot be consider just another notch on the bedpost.

The novel wasn’t long, but I read the author is writing more on these two men, and that is good, cause I really liked them.

Series: A Sidewinder Story
Paperback: 106 pages
Publisher: Riptide Publishing; first edition (September 30, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1626490562
ISBN-13: 978-1626490567
Amazon: Shock & Awe (A Sidewinder Story)
Amazon Kindle: Shock & Awe (A Sidewinder Story)

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The only regret I have upon finishing this one is that it took me so long to read it. Actually, I’m ashamed cause I really liked the previous military romance I read by Marquesate, so I knew this one was probably as good as well, but there are so many books out every month, that I tend to read new to me authors, and let the ones I have already read got behind. Well, don’t do my same mistake and if you haven’t the chance, read Basic Training.

The main strength of the novel is the balance between manliness and romance, military and love story: never once the author forgot these were soldiers she was writing about, but at the same time, the romance was “romantic” (sorry the double similar words but they fit).

Aside from the military theme, that already part of a romance tradition, the author also ventured in another classical romance theme, the May/December romance, or better the young/older lovers: Platoon Sergeant Col 'Bulldog' Wilson is 35 years old, while new recruits Chris Thompson is 21 years old. Of course the age difference is part of the plot, with Col wondering if Chris is not searching a substitute father in him, even considering the bad relationship Chris has with his own father, but the author managed to shorten it with a clever expedient: Chris never hid his sexuality, since he was a teenager, arriving even to tick of the “homosexual” square in his enlisting papers, and so at 21 he hasn’t maybe much sexual experience on the field, but he had plenty of time to be self-conscious about his sexuality and desires; Col instead has always repressed his feelings, and at 35 he has never been with a man before, and he still needs to arrive to pact with his own sexual needs, let alone feelings.

It will be a long path for Col and Chris, another thing I liked of the story, we followed them for years, not just during the heat of the passion, but a path with a very romantic happily ever after at the end.

Paperback: 276 pages
Publisher: MLR Press (October 20, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1608204618
ISBN-13: 978-1608204618
Amazon: Basic Training
Amazon Kindle: Basic Training

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Very strange novel, with an original approach that I’m still thinking about; I didn’t want to write a review soon after I finished the book cause I wanted to think about it, I wanted to find a way to convey the feeling. The author doesn’t introduce her characters, they are actually presented to you with a bag of events you don’t know; the author will jump back and forward in their life until you will have all the elements to put together the pieces of the puzzle, but again, you will have to do that by yourself. The second thing I notice is that, in this post-apocalypse future, time is inconsistent and they are distances; in the course of few pages, the characters spend together almost 20 years, starting as barely legal soldiers to end as pushing 40 revolutionaries. The strangest thing of all is that for all those 20 years they are at the same time lovers and worst enemies, always at the opposite fronts. When it was war, they were fighting against each other, when it was (barely) peace time, they were competing against each other at the Olympics. But do not imagine Olympic Games as you know them, the Olympics in this story are dark and horrific, more like the Roman arenas where gladiators were fighting to death.

Anyway expect the unexpected from this story, do not expect linearity, wait for the turn of the tables; the only constant is that Merq and Armise love each other… to death.

Warning: this one was quick and the introduction to a series, The Borders War, so there is an hanging ending.

Amazon Kindle: One Breath, One Bullet (The Borders War)
Publisher: Total-E-Bound Publishing (May 30, 2013)

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle
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Conduct Unbecoming was a tour de force, a more than 300 pages novel when recently the average is around 200, it was nevertheless a commitment that I encourage you to take. Aside from being very well researched, both the experience of living abroad, in a completely stranger country, than the military life, it was also very good in characterization. Eric and Shane are two perfect example of military men, from difference experiences, but both of them very believable. More interesting than all was the fact they were not young, but on the other side of thirties, more near forties, and both of them with a divorce on their back. Eric more lucky than Shane, managing to maintain a friendly relationship with his ex-wife, and instead the one Shane has with his own ex-wife is barely civil. Also this was a very interesting aspect of the novel, giving the reader both side, both possible evolution of the future of a married men who comes out later in life.

The relationship between Eric and Shane starts as one night stand, hot sex without strings attached to quickly become love, so quickly that, aside for the very first encounter, love was always part of their romance. At first Eric and Shane don’t have the opportunity to meet again, and both of them are pining on the lost chance at love, because they have already understood theirs can be love. When they meet again, the spectrum of a dishonorable discharge for conduct unbecoming of a gentleman lurks over them, but the pull is too strong to be ignored. For most of the novel they will fight for their love, knowing that, if they resist for a little bit, what they are founding is a long-term relationship that will complete the rest of their lives.

It was interesting to read about this side of military life, Eric and Shane are not in a war-zone, Okinawa’s experience is almost like being professionals transferred to a abroad location (something that I experienced first-hand): there is the disorienting experience of not knowing the country, the cultural shock, missing home, and in the end, starting to appreciate the novelty so much that, when you have to go back, you know you will miss it. Okinawa and the Asian culture is an important piece of the novel, so much to be almost as much important as the love story.

Amazon: Conduct Unbecoming
Amazon Kindle: Conduct Unbecoming
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (December 3, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1619214059
ISBN-13: 978-1619214057

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

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Purgatory was the dark horse of last year Rainbow Awards, winning in a competitive category like the Historical Fiction, competitive since it draws the best pieces of fiction out there. Dark horse because, sincerely, not many had heard about this book, or at least not in the “usual” circles. I read something by Mann, mostly short stories in collective anthologies, and I have always found his pieces to be lovely, because he manages to deliver hot and sexy with classy, even the more dirty situation, presented with his lyrical style, become poems.

Jeff Mann is also a poet, or maybe he is mainly a poet borrowed to fiction; he is also a bear, something that you often found reflected in his own characters. He also writes of places he knows, or times he researched, and Purgatory is a summa of both. It’s not an easy novel, it’s about torture, and a time that was not pretty; I was also scared to read this novel because I like my happily ever after, and I was fearing there was no chance for these two to have one. But I think that, deep down, or maybe not even so deep, Mann is a romantic man (pun intended and citation of Mann’s poetry book, A Romantic Mann), and so, even if he was writing of torture, and pain, there was his lyrical language alleviating the whole, and the feeling that he loved his characters and wanted for them to have that impossible chance.

For what I can tell, not being an expert of the Civil War, this is also a wonderful piece of historical fiction, the time and the custom, the men at war and the places they visit, are beautifully rendered; sure it’s hard to think that war prisoners maybe went through what Drew did, I hope that is where the literary freedom enters the picture, but again, as I said, I’m not an expert of that period and maybe that was even possible in reality, unfortunately it’s not the first time I read of tortures inflicted in war time that rival with the worst medieval Inquisition.

There is romance, historical fiction, erotica and BDSM, all wrapped up with a writing style that is a pure form of poetry. Purgatory by Jeff Mann is destined to become a classic of the Gay literature.

Amazon: Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War
Amazon Kindle: Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War
Publisher Bear Bones Books (March 5, 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10 1590213750
ISBN-13 978-1590213759

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Scars is a story about a man who needs to learn how to deal with his internal and external scars and of the man who will help him doing so. This is the main focus of the novel and the target is completely achieved, the narration of Jace’s PTSD is good and realistic, with the right dose of emotion without trying to exploit the drama to make them more sensational. As the author says in the preface, she researched a lot and is near people who went through the same attacks, and you can say that from the way she described them.

Lynley Wayne is someone who apparently writes about things she know or experimented, and considering her other book is about a LGBT family, I have the feeling she experienced that is possible to build such family, maybe with some difficulties, but not impossible. Also in Scars there are various developments of the concept of LGBT family: Jace will have the chance to confront his own family with the reality of him being in a relationship with another man, will they accept his partner or not? The love they clearly have for their son will be corrupted by this news? And the same Jace, who had never once considered the possibility to be gay, will be able to accept to be in love with another man? To not give out too much of the story, I will not go further, but there are even more deployments of the concept of family in the story, more or less all of them with a positive insight.

So yes, while the story’s incipit is dramatic, the development is positive, always with a good perspective, always with a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not an easy path for Jace, but Nicholas is near him, leading him through the nightmares, helping, but above all giving him a reason to fight. I liked this side of the story, even if someone else could think it was too positive: as I said, I have the feeling the author experimented that reality is possible, or at the minimum, she strongly believes it possible.

If I have to find something that didn’t ring right to me, it was in Nicholas’s past, a 13 years old runaway that 6 years later is still innocent and naïve; unfortunately, too often we see that in such occurrences, young boys are used and abused, sometime even by the system that should protect them. 6 years on the streets is a long time, and for how much I would like for Nicholas to be able to preserve his innocence, I highly doubted it. But probably the author didn’t want to charge too much drama into the story, and considering Jace had already a lot of burden to go through, she wanted for Nicholas to be a more steady figure, someone who could give love, patience, comfort.

Amazon: Scars
Amazon Kindle: Scars
Publisher MLR Press (September 5, 2012)
Language English
ISBN-10 1608207609
ISBN-13 978-1608207602

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For how strange it can sound, there are two things in this romance that I both liked and didn’t like.

The first one is Josh’s relationship with Guy; Josh considers Guy a “fixture”, someone who is there just for the fun, and is not able to realize that instead Guy is in love. How he is not able to see it is far from my comprehension, because it’s pretty clear. Moreover, Josh goes to Guy right the night after he spent with Dane; truth that with Dane is not yet a relationship, and Dane did send him away and not in a good way, but still, I found quite callous from Josh to not think twice and basically using Guy as a second choice, without considering his feeling. On the other hand, as I said, I liked this side of the story because it made Josh a realistic character, I don’t think there are many men or women in real life that are behaving like a romance hero character.

The second thing is Dane’s attitude towards Josh, especially during sex; Dane is really forceful, almost arriving to hurt Josh. Dane is suffering from Post traumatic stress disorder, and sometime he doesn’t realize that, to chase away his nightmares, he is basically forcing Josh to accept him, in many ways. Again, I felt uncomfortable when that was happening, but at the same time, and again, it gave deepness to Dane’s character, again making him more realistic. PTSD is not some easy plot device the author can use to flavor their novel, it’s something serious and if you want to use it in the plot you need to manage the consequences. That is what this author did, and that was right.

In the end, I have only one regret, that among all the happiness the characters will find, they seem to have forgotten Guy… again, Josh is a realistic character, because in real world, it’s not easy to patch things, and I think Josh has still something to learn.

Amazon: Worth the Coming Home
Amazon Kindle: Worth the Coming Home
Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (October 26, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1623800447
ISBN-13: 978-1623800444

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Cover Art by Anne Cain

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The first book in the series had a similar incipit, twink meets hunk, and so it was not a surprise, but Why I Love Waiters is as funny as it was Why I Love Geeks, and as an added bonus, we have the chance to read more about Chuck and Herb from book 1.

This story follows John, Chuck’s brother, while he goes back to the small town where he is stationed and where he is falling in love with Heath. If he hasn’t yet done a move on the cute guy is only since he needs to decide if risking his military career is a price he is willing to pay. But as soon as he has the first taste of Heath, he is totally sold, and nothing will prevent him to make the guy totally his own.

There is the layer of homophobia playing in the story, but it’s also true that both Heath than John have a circle of supporting family and friends that has never given them the feeling to be alone; they have option, and finding an happily ever after is never a question, even if maybe they need to change their plans. The author decided to maintain the story on the light mood, she plays with her characters and with the reader, making this novel a little sexy, little funny thing, just a bit of this and that, without exaggerating with both ingredients. You smile and you coo on how cute Heath and John are together, doubling the cooing when Chuck and Herb come to visit: Heath and Herb together are almost too much, and that is the reason why Chuck and John give them little time to plot.

Nice, smooth, light read, for a R&R and lazy afternoon.

Amazon: Why I Love Waiters
Amazon Kindle: Why I Love Waiters
Paperback: 134 pages
Publisher: Amber Quill Press, LLC (August 13, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1611249465
ISBN-13: 978-1611249460

Series: Why I Love
1) Why I Love Geeks:
2) Why I Love Waiters

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A new author to me but I have the feeling we will hear about her soon. Lost Won is almost a sweet romance, despite the sexy beginning: Kevin and Christian met one night, Kevin out prowling the pubs for a no strings attached adventure and Christian at his first gay experience; both of them found what they were not searching, and for Christian was so shocking that he ran the morning after almost without words.

The first surprise is that the author doesn’t linger on the sexual aspect of that night, actually we will not be part of that; we know Kevin and Christian shared a bed, and that was very good for both of them, but we don’t read about it. Six years later, Christian is outed at his work place, but I saw that almost as a liberation for Christian; forced out of the closet, now Christian has the freedom to pursue his only true love, Kevin. Six year later Christian is still thinking at Kevin, carrying around a memento of that night like it is the only thing linking him to his sanity.

A chance encounter with Kevin pushes Christian to almost force Kevin to a meeting, and Kevin will have the possibility to see that Christian is not the same man he met before; Christian is now ready to a relationship, and even if Kevin wasn’t thinking that, it’s exactly what Kevin also wants.

Even if Kevin didn’t forget that night with Christian, I have the feeling he wasn’t so hung up to it like Christian; Kevin went along with his life, also forced by a tragic event, and had other not important affairs. While Christian was thinking to Kevin like his only true chance at love, I have the feeling Kevin remembered Christian like a lost chance, but not something he was to pursue. Realizing that he was such an important piece in Christian’s life, makes him reconsider their relationship.

Amazon Kindle: Lost Won (Liaisons Series)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

Series: Liasons
1) Private Eye
2) Question Mark
3) Lost Won

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The second in the series and you realize the author is building her world, adding characters and situation. The story of Josh and Mark is not so different from Mateo and Riley, they actually share the same cabin the previous couple did, the main difference is that, while in the previous couple Riley was playing straight, but well aware to be attracted to men, for Josh this is the first time he has real feelings for a guy.

Truth be told, Josh is not so “unwelcoming” to this feelings, sure, he is worried, and a little scared, but never once he denies his feelings are real and not really trouble they are for a man. There are other things that Josh is worried about, mainly the fact that Mark was sexually abused and he fears his sexual interest will arise bad memories in the other man.

These stories are delivering what you are expecting when buying them, i.e. hot strong men falling in love for the first time with another men. The author plays a lot both with the physical difference between the men, usually one is very muscular and macho man, while the other is lithe and sophisticated, but also with their social status; I’m not talking about money, since both men have jobs that allow them a good lifestyle, but more about the society they belong to and frequented until their meeting. In a way Josh is more rough, but he has also a very kind heart who is the right man for Mark now, a man in need of tender love.

Amazon: Alaska, with Love
Amazon Kindle: Alaska, with Love
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (February 5, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1470033917
ISBN-13: 978-1470033910

Series: Assassin/Shifter
1) A Marked Man:
2) Alaska, with Love

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The first in the Assassin/Shifter series, you can see the author is planning the structure of the entire story. Introducing Mateo, the hired assassin working for a semi-legal US government special unit, the author tried to make him “evil” but sincerely he comes through more like a man in need of “comfort” love. Mateo is alone, and he clings to everyone showing him a little love, it could be his lesbian best friend Naomi, or his closeted superior officer, Derek. Mateo claims to like his life on the run, without attachments, but he is the first to admit he is falling for Riley, the young CEO he is supposed to kill.

Lucky Riley, Mateo is always checking his orders, and when the target is an apparently innocent man, Mateo decides not to go through with it. And indeed they were set up, and they ended with Mateo being the guardian angel to Riley.

Riley is young and naïve in life like he is clever in his job as CEO of an electronics firm working for the government. Deeply in the closet, he is awakened to his desires from the close proximity with Mateo, and he got attacked to him like he would with a security blanket. Mateo represents his safe harbor, and on his side, Mateo is willing to play the role.

Even if the author tried to make this an high % adrenaline story, to me it was more romantic and sweet than else. And the happily ever after was obviously in the future of not only Mateo and Riley, but also of all the other men around them.

Amazon: A Marked Man
Amazon Kindle: A Marked Man
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 11, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1470033860
ISBN-13: 978-1470033866

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Peter's Chair is for sure a breaking novel, the fantapolitical novel on a gay Pope: how many boundaries it's throwing down? gays inside the Church, sex outside the marriage, celibacy (or the lack of it). That is probably not fantasy, but it's for sure something no one dares to speak. John Simpson decides to break that rule, and he does it from as a man informed of the facts. It's clear that he knows the way of the Church, its traditions and structure. Even in the simple things, like the use of foreign language, in this case Italian, he never once did a mistake. All the Popes he is referring to, at least until Papa Luciani, Giovanni Paolo I, are real, he only decided to take a different path in history from that event, and changed the name of all the other Popes after that.

For a human decision, the desires of some young Cardinals to change the path of history, or maybe for the will of the Holy Spirit, a 49 years old american man, Brian, is elected Pope. Brian is a man with a strong will and with his own ideas: he is gay and has a 27 years old lasting relationship with William, another priest he met in seminary, who now follows him everywhere as his personal assistant. If you are expecting a naughty tale about sex between men in soutane, change your mind: for all what is regarding Brian and William's relationship, they are more like an old couple than two horny men in love. More, when Brian is elected Pope, William is both worried than scared, he doesn't feel right to continue having a sexual relationship when Brian represents the same structure that condemns both homosexuality than the lack of celibacy among priests. In a way, Brian is more coherent than William in saying that he doesn't see what is changed, if they were having sex before, why not now? But I liked Brian's attitude, it was a way to prove that he really believes in his role as a priest.

Brian and William are very different, but complete each other. Brian is more a leader, but he probably wouldn't have reached that position without William by his side. William makes Brian think, gives him the chance to ponder his choices. On the other side, William has not the strength to be a leader and probably not even the outside image. It's not that William is weak, it's more that he doesn't like to be on center stage. I really liked their relationship, it talked a lot of their past together, without need to speak the words aloud.

Brian, as Pope, is more a political chief than a man of the Church, but sadly that is the true. Vatican is a little state, but it has a lot of power in the matters regarding the free choices of people all around the world, and so the work of a Pope is more a political issue than that of a shepherd of God. Peter's Chair is a a lot of adventure / thriller novel and not so much romance, but it has its sweet moments, like the day to day romance between Brian and William, made of little habits honed by years of cohabitation (Brian is not a morning person, William is a bit on the stubborn side, and so on), and the naughty side of the sex relegated to more younger men, like Brian's personal bodyguards. But still, the sex is not really the main element of this book, and I think that is right like that.

It can be said that John Simpson has a deep knowledge of the recent political history and in particular all regarding the Church. It's also clear that he has is idea and he has no problem to expose them. And, little side note, it's also clear that he doesn't like so much Italians or Italy: some remarks by Brian on how he wants all American things around him, also the smallest things like a tv programs, made me wonder what we did to him ;-) Italians and Italy are not so bad after all, at least not all of us.

Amazon: Peter's Chair
Amazon Kindle: Peter's Chair
Paperback: 200 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press; 2 edition (December 7, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1613727054
ISBN-13: 978-1613727058

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I think the main reason of this novel was to prove how stupid the war is and how rigid the military structure can be, above all if they try to see the world in Black and White.

The main characters of this novel are a group of kids with special powers. I say kids, even if they are probably in their twenties, since I had the feelings all these guys were taken from their family when they were still teenagers and they didn’t have the chance to grow into real adult and above all soldier. When the story starts they are approaching graduation day from the Military Academy, and to me it was like reading of boys approaching the last day of high school.

The story is told in first point of view by Mik, a misfit among them; Mik is an orphan and so he has no bad experience in his past with his family; all these boys have supernatural powers but this is not a bonus in this futuristic society, on the contrary you are considered an abomination, and most of the time your own family disown you… I think there is a parallelism here between being gay and having supernatural powers, like in today society you are disowned for being gay, in that futuristic society it happens the same when approaching adulthood you find out you have special skills people fear.

At the beginning I didn’t feel the attraction between Mik and his roommate Ash, but thinking at it twice, I noticed how Mik was jealous of his best friend; in any case it’s not Mik who does the first move, but Ash, almost taking advantage of Mik’s almost breakdown after he has to kill for the first time. Ash brings to bed a drunken Mik, and he has his way with him, tighten the bond between them that will last for all the novel, with some bumps on the road.

Dawn of Darkness is the first book in a series, and that is the reason why there is no a wrapping up ending; moreover, after the blow the author decided to give to the reader at the last chapter, he also opted for giving hope and the very last word will help many readers who maybe wanted a different ending.

Amazon: Dawn of Darkness: Daeva: Book One
Amazon Kindle: Dawn of Darkness: Daeva: Book One
Paperback: 328 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (November 18, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1466423714
ISBN-13: 978-1466423718

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Even if apparently this is the classical bad cop/good cop theme, actually in Cut & Run there is no good cop at all; both FBI agents Zane Garrett and Ty Grady have ghosts in their own past, and no one of them is a by the book agent.

At first glance, Zane seems to be the perfect FBI agent, all rules and restraining, and instead he is a recovered alcoholic with a problem to tighten another bond after the death of his wife; Ty is a unleashed dog, former-marine with posttraumatic syndrome who don’t take well orders. They are both bisexuals, actually I think their Kinsey scale leans more on straight than gay, but when they are throw together in the investigation of a very particular serial killer, they find out they click together better than expected.

I think one of the best character of this story is Burns, the boss of both Zane and Ty, who chose to put them together instead of firing both of them; instead of picking a good and bad to balance one another, he took the risk to put two self-destructive men in the same team to see if, instead of giving each other the final blow, they could find a way to exit to the black tunnel they begun.

I think the sexual relationship between them is their own way to help each other; sure, it’s passionate sex, and they like it a lot, but it’s also a way to nurture each other back to a some sort of mental sanity. Zane and Ty are too burned to trust someone else out of their bond, and if they need to find a balance to work together, that balance has to be total, in and out of work. Moving the working relationship to a personal level is the only way to stay safe and sound, they can allow only one behind their protective shield, and if that one is the working partner, than it will become also the life partner.

Cut & Run itself is a long novel and it’s only the first in a long series; it will be interesting to see how the fragile balance they reached will work in the long time, but in a way I think the balance seems fragile only to an external eye, for them, it’s stronger than steel.

Amazon: Cut & Run
Amazon Kindle: Cut & Run
Paperback: 376 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (September 29, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193519223X
ISBN-13: 978-1935192237

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Romance in full swing. That is probably the entire review in 4 words, but I will add more, don’t worry. Christie (that despite the name and the looks is a man) is the unexpectedly single father of Frankie, unexpected since a) Christie is completely gay and b) he was supposed to be only the biological father, a favour he was doing to his best friend Caro and her partner Liss. But then Caro and Liss died in a car accident and Christie is the father of Frankie, and of course he has to take care of her, doesn’t matter Christie is a career soldier soon to be deployed. He strikes the lottery when he meets State Trooper Robert Lindstrom, that not only is the Norwegian god the name suggests, he is also ready to be part of an already made family and has a lot of relatives ready to give an hand if necessary.

That between Robert and Christie is love and lust at first sight, and Christie doesn’t really need much wooing to allow Robert into his life and above all bed, 2 steaks and a bottle of wine and he was ready to open the door (no pun intended). Truth be told, Christie was probably on a too long dry spell, and Robert is the answer to many prayers, he is the oddity among the gay guys, someone who is not scared by commitment and a toddler.

I liked the full romance mood of the story, I liked the happy ending and I also liked they had some trouble but nothing major they couldn’t face and manage. I think the army setting was good and realistic, maybe I wondered of the chance of an openly gay man like Christie, that apparently is screaming “gay” as soon as you see him, to be a career soldier with apparently no trouble from his fellow soldiers and commanding officers. True the story is set in the period when gay marriage is becoming legal in some of the United States, but still I think the Don’t ask Don’t tell was still strong inside the army. Anyway, as I often said, this is a romance, and if happily ever after are not in the romance, where should they be?

Despite all the romance and pink glasses perspective, and the flaming gay attitude of Charlie, the author didn’t forget she was dealing with two men, something you can clearly see in their interaction, especially that first night, when basically Robert is trying to score from moment one without knowing that Charlie has already decided to let him win; while Charlie can desire a long-term partner, he has also his “needs”, and there is nothing bad in having Robert help with that.

Amazon: The Soldier and the State Trooper
Amazon Kindle: The Soldier and the State Trooper
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: MLR Press (August 13, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1608204022
ISBN-13: 978-1608204021

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If you consider the time this novel was first out, 1979, and the period it refers to, II World War, Wingmen is a daring novel since it “allows” to its heroes an happily for now ending, something that was seldom read at the time. Novels with gay themes had sometime made their appearance in the past, but most often than not, the heroes were not allowed to be able to enjoy their love. Even in most notorious novels like Gaywick, another release from Avon Books of the ‘70s, the happily ever after was not a 100% one, and not all the gay characters had it.

Having read “From Here to Eternity”, I can recognize the similar theme, but in that novel there was a subtle shame for being gay, and those characters who consciously admitted they were gays, were seen like weak and needing men, beginning sex in exchange of money. Love seemed not part of the equation, and that is the main difference in Wingmen; true, there is sex between Jack and Fred (even if, remember, this is the 1979 and set between 1940s and 1960s, so nothing is overtly on your face), but there is above all love. It’s a great love story, and both Jack than Fred are able to admit they are in love, that is not only basic physical desires attracting each other.

Wingmen is also a good war novel, with plenty of details on the war and war setting; it’s strange because I have always thought to Avon like a romance publisher, but that is probably the evolution they had from the ’70 on, starting to publish the notorious Savage Romance novels. Instead Wingmen is as much a “man” novel as it’s a romance, able to mix the two elements in a perfect combination.

And if someone is wondering on the real possibility of such story happening, I strongly suggest to read Coming Out Under Fire by Allan Berube (re-released in 2010 in a 20th Anniversary edition), many of the stories in that essay are a replica of what happened between Jack and Fred in the novel, and many like Jack and Fred came back from that war changed in many ways, and trying to reconnect with a world that was no more theirs. Some of them managed to be happy forever, some of them for a brief period, but at least they tried, at least they had the courage to fight for their love like they fought for their country.

Amazon: Wingmen
Amazon Kindle: Wingmen
Paperback: 372 pages
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing (February 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1937692086
ISBN-13: 978-1937692087

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The story doesn’t span a long time in the life of Lieutenant Conrad Herriot and Seaman Tom Cotton: when we met them, they are already “together” since when Conrad was a 13 years old boy entering the Royal Army as officer and Tom was assigned to him as a servant, Tom himself a boy of 15 years. They basically grew up together, becoming the men they are without no one intruding between them, no family, no women, no other men. The bond is so tight that Conrad prefers the company of Tom to other officers and this is arising embarrassing questions. They have nothing to hide, not yet at least, but the ship is a nest of gossips and they are condemned before being real sinners.

I like the bond between Conrad and Tom before and after it turns in a romantic relationship; it speaks of ordinary things, of everyday and of brotherhood. Sure there will be physical passion between them, but first of all there is a bond that was born when both of them were developing into men, it was like an imprinting, something that is impossible to break.

I’m not sure they would have arrived so soon to the physical side of the relationship if not for the gossiping of the other men, I can imagine both of them retiring in the country, now more friends than lord and servant, and enjoy a quiet old age far from indiscreet eyes. This was denied to them, but Conrad and Tom will find a way to dramatically change their future, and still be together.

I like that Tom was not so ready to lose his integrity in exchange of the satisfaction of his desires but most of all, of his life. Sure it doesn’t take long to him to reconsider the option, of what he is gaining in exchange of what he is losing, but still, it’s not an immediate decision. In this he is behaving more gentlemanly than Conrad, who should be the real gentleman between them, but I have the feeling that Conrad is also the more romantic… romanticism is something that noblemen can afford wherelse simple men like Tom are usually more practical.

Amazon Kindle: By Honor Betrayed
Publisher: Carina Press (November 7, 2011)

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Do you know how they say that self-published stories cannot be good? How they maybe can be original but lacking in all those details a publisher and/or an editor help the author with? Well, forget everything about it, since Latakia by JF Smith is one of the best novel I have read this year, including those by mainstream publishers. And if you considering I’m not much of a fan of thriller/adventure novel, it tells you even more about this novel.

Matt is a volunteer of Doctors Without Borders who was in the wrong café at the wrong time. He found himself kidnapped and without any hope of seeing freedom again since he was not even the one they wanted. Matt is a dead man only waiting for his last minute and he knows it. And then 4 men, Navy SEALS, enter the scene, rescue him, and completely change his life. The leader of the team is Travis “Mope”, the nickname for his tendency to mope a little; but Travis is also a real man, a good man, on the contrary of the vain boyfriend Matt has at home. Between the two it’s clear who is the best pick, but the problem is that Travis is not free to come out if he wants to maintain his job. And he loves his job.

Latakia is first of all an adventure novel, and there is a lot of action, some violence, explosions, secret missions, brother in army mentality, soldiers equal heroes, and so on. Basically more a manly man novel than a romance, but surprise, surprise, the author was also able to stuff the whole with a lot of romance, almost like a club sandwich, one layer of dangerous mission, one layer of tender kisses, one layer of perilous travel, one layer of “look this is my hunky new boyfriend” in front of your lame former boyfriend and his even lamer new boy, one layer of terroristic attack and one layer of we are brothers, no matter what happens, not matter who you love and loves you back.

This is also a sexy novel, even if nothing of what happens in the intimacy between Matt and Travis is shared with the reader; if you want to imagine, you have all the clues to fill the gaps, but mostly this is about the romance not the sex.

I like that the author didn’t minimize the issue about Travis and his homosexuality in the army, but I also like he gave him, and other like him, hope; it’s not easy but not impossible to come out, not at least if you are part of a team, a real team, one you can trust your life to, since they are brothers, and not simply colleagues. Yes, in the end I think this novel was as much about brotherhood as it was about romance. And I highlight again, it had a “mainly” flavour, without for this reason lacking at all on the romanticism department.

Amazon Kindle: Latakia
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services

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This day I really didn’t need to cry more, but it was time for me to read this Christmas novella by Jardonn Smith and so I did, and of course I cried. The Good Shepherd is a bittersweet novella, it’s a Christmas novella only since the two heroes met during the Christmas season of 1944, but they did so in a prisoner camp in German territory under Nazi occupation; during that 1944 they were lucky and with the help of a German shepherd they managed to escape and go back to United States to start a life together. Good you will say, that is a story with an angst beginning but with an happily ever after. Wrong. The author didn’t deceive the reader, he starts the story in 1951 and Harold, Jack’s lover, dies in Korea; from this event, Jack walks through the memory lane and tells us the story of their brief but deep love. Jack had only 6 years with Harold, but those six years will last all his life, a life that will be 10 times longer, 60 years.

Sure, this is a bittersweet story, but it’s also a love story. Jack loved Harold, and he understood that harnesses his lover in a country life would have meant killing him. But Harold died anyway, so what is the meaning of Jack’s generosity? That he was not the one who killed him. Harold was not happy in their farm, he wanted to fly, to fly away; he loved Jack and I’m sure he was thinking that he was always coming back to him, but that is the war, and that was the fate of many soldiers who didn’t believe they would die in war. And maybe Harold thought he was different, he had already managed to escape once, why not two? Harold was for sure a dreamer, and maybe he was also young. I don’t blame Jack for letting him go, probably if that was not the case, Harold would have gone in any case, and their love would have been destroyed. In this way, even if Jack has no more Harold, he has at least the memory of their perfect love.

Amazon Kindle: The Good Sheperd (MLR Press Story A Day For the Holidays 2011)
Publisher: MLR Press,LLC (December 18, 2011)

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Definitely a good Regency romance, maybe a little too much focused on the war and diplomatic issue of the time (but that is probably justified by one of the hero being an officer) but nevertheless very romantic.

What is probably the best achievement of the author is to make me like Charlotte “Lottie”, a supporting character that I was ready to hate even before starting the book; true, in the blurb they presented her like a supporter of Charlie and Tristan’s relationship, she is Charlie’s sister and Tristan’s wife, but well, she had two children from Tristan and I didn’t think it was really possible she had no amorous feelings for her husband. So, or she was a sad wife who realized she couldn’t have the love of her life, or she was someone who really didn’t care for her husband at all. She is nor one or the other. Lottie is a practical woman, and apparently she has no romantic dreams; I have the feeling that, if she met the right man, she would fall in love, but, first she is not searching and second, that man had to have a very strong will to match a woman like Lottie. In the meantime, Lottie had nothing against the idea of the arranged marriage with Tristan, mostly since it allowed her to be independent. The relationship with her father is strange, but the reader will later realize the reason of that.

This long introduction is also giving you the idea of how important Tristan’s bisexuality is for the plot; actually Tristan is not bisex, he is strictly heterosexual until he meets Charlie, but this is not a gay for you story. Tristan has a complex relationship with his father, marred by the wrong idea that if Tristan is not a perfect son, his father will not love him; and since Tristan is far from being perfect, at least at his own eyes, he thinks no one can love him. Being homosexual, a sodomite, is not an option, and Tristan is repressing his feelings so much that it will lead him to a nervous breakdown. The reason? I think that, until he is having affair with women that are as much disinterest as him, he is not facing the issue of his homosexuality; but when he meets Lottie, a woman who is more than worthy to be loved, and he is not able to “impress” her enough to build a love relationship, he has to admit that the love of a woman is not what he is seeking, and that is the end. Doesn’t really matter that probably Lottie will never find the right man, that is not Tristan’s fault, and that, more or less, their marriage is a good one, probably better than most of the bon-ton marriages around them.

If the first part of the novel is a little slow, or maybe I read it like that since I was not really interested in that part of the story, when Charlie enters the scene the story takes a faster pace, and the love relationship between Charlie and Tristan is one of both love, trust and friendship. There are really no obstacle to their love, Lottie not only approves of that, she is even encouraging it, and even who is not aware of the personal nature of their bond is favouring it, for the good influence that Charlie has on the former scoundrel that was Tristan. Maybe that was something not really realistic, as probably it’s not Tristan’s choice to become a doctor (no aristocrat of the time would probably considering such idea); but there are example of middle class men of the time who were scientist or intellectual, so maybe it’s not impossible that someone like Tristan, after having assured to his descendants a good future, could spend the rest of his life doing something he enjoys.

I didn’t speak a lot of Charlie; he is not at all a plain character, on the contrary, he is a noble and sensitive man, but probably in comparison to Tristan he is too “good”, and you know, the bad guy is always attracting the romance readers ;-) but joke aside, Charlie is an impressive romance reader, and someone with a great courage, not only on the battle field but also when dealing with love and relationship.

Amazon: Kindred Hearts
Amazon Kindle: Kindred Hearts
Paperback: 350 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (May 2, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1615818987
ISBN-13: 978-1615818983

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This is a collection of two novellas, completely different in theme and setting but from the same author, and so, with the same feeling.

This Ground Which Was Secured at Great Expense is a First World War tale, the time is the beginning of the twenty century, and as I often say, you can feel the changing in the air: the soldiers, and in particular the officers, are more knights than war-meat and honour is still a concept taken into consideration.

Nicholas Southwell is a member of nobility and while he is in love with his estate manager Paul Haskell, he thinks this love unrequited; plus there is the war in France and every men worthy of that name feels as he needs to enlist. Even if Nicholas denies it when Paul suggests the idea, I also think that Paul’s pacifist ideas don’t fit well with Nicholas’s heroic idea of what is war. Truth to Paul, he is unfit to enlist due to a trouble to his leg, so in any case there was no chance for him.

At French’s front, Nicholas meets Philip, another fellow officer, another man from nobility… again, I don’t want to be unkind with Nicholas, but I think that is fast shifting of interest from Paul to Philip is also due to the fact that Philip fits better the idea of companion that Nicholas has in mind. True, Paul is not so welcoming of the hero when Nicholas comes back home on a leave, and instead Philip is there, willing to comfort the broken heart nursed by both of them for different men (also Philip has another lover, Fergal).

In a way or the other, it will not be Nicholas that will choose, events bigger than him will path his way out of the emotional trap he himself built around his heart.

The Case of the Overprotective Ass is set at the end of the Second World War; less than 40 years divide the two novellas but the men in them are completely different. Gone is the idea of heroic knights at war, gone is the uncertainty about each other feelings, what remains is the forbidden relationship between two men.

Alistair and Toby are two heartthrob of the UK movie industry of the ’50. Like many closet cases of the time, while they love each other and are in an exclusive relationship since years, to the public opinion they are best friends and contendants to the heart of fellow actress Fiona.

The intake of this story is light and mostly funny; Alistair and Toby are also surer of each other feelings and as such, they display their affection with more freedom than Nicholas and Paul.

I really am not able to say what is the more romantic between the two novellas, as I said they are very different; maybe the first one has a little more bittersweet aftertaste, while instead Alistair and Toby’s story is sparkling, a good parallelism is dark red wine against champagne… you can appreciate both, but not compare them.

Amazon: Home Fires Burning
Amazon Kindle: Home Fires Burning
Paperback: 198 pages
Publisher: Cheyenne Publishing (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 098282677X
ISBN-13: 978-0982826775

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Considering this is a novel by Carina Press, the ebook imprint of Harlequin, I shouldn't be surprised the romance is good, but well, I was. Sci-fi novel with a heavy military subtheme, “doctrine” as a credo and various other elements made me wonder if the romance in the story was able to not only survive but emerge. Yes, it was, and in a way that without doubt makes this a romance. Even if Mike and Sergei are of different side of the war, even if they should be enemies, even if Mike is betraying Sergei each time he makes love to him, despite all of these, when they are together it seems they are in a different reality, in a place where they are two boyfriends meeting at home after a difficult day at work.

Sergei is a military and someone who believes in the Doctrine; already for this reason I should not like him, but even if he is stronger than Mike and a little stubborn (mainly since he is not able to see the Doctrine is not exactly the good thing they taught him), I felt almost pity for him. That first sex scene with his superior officer, where well, he got off, but in a cold and impersonal way, was so different from the following love scene with Mike that I felt bad for him he was not able to have his first experience with Mike. In this, but also in other moment, I had the impression Sergei was like an overgrown boy, someone who had not the chance to fully develop on an emotional level like he did in his body, and in a strange contraposition, when he will reach the apex of his emotion, he will have to give up part of his physical perfection.

Mike is a good soldier, but not in the “robotic” way of Sergei; he is more sanguine, he has more emotions at stake, he really believes in what he fights for. But exactly for this reason, he ends to be more involvement than requested with Mike. From tidbits here and there, especially in the last part of the novel, I built this imagine of Mike like someone who would have not chosen to be a soldier if not forced by the events, and when his mission will be accomplished, he will be glad give it up all to go back to his civilian life. He is exactly at the opposite of Sergei since Sergei was taught there is no life outside the Doctrine, or he is a good brother or he is nothing; Sergei is so indoctrinated that he is not even able to see when his own brothers are trying to get rid off him.

Even if I said the romance is surprisingly good, don’t expect this novel to be smushy or sweet; it’s dark, dirty and with a good dose of violence, even if all of that is not gratuitous; sometime I had the feeling the authors granted some bestowal to the romance to not scare too much the readers, but it was done in a good way, so much to entice the romance reader to go on, and the fans of more gritty story to not look up in annoyance when the two heroes took a break from the war.

Amazon Kindle: Dark Edge of Honor
Publisher: Carina Press (August 15, 2011)

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It’s easy to like, and love, an hot macho man but caring Marine, not so easy to love him when he shows you his human (not so macho) side, and that he, as a man, make mistakes.

If David has to be sincere with himself, the wonderful night he shared with a stranger Marine, Bud, was only that, a one night stand, and nothing more. But David fell in love at first sight, and when Bud came back to him, he was unable to say no. So is Bud’s entirely fault when their relationship took a wrong turn? Truth be told, even after their second night together Bud tried to sneak out without being noticed, so it’s not that he has given many signs to David that he wanted a long-lasting relationship. Now don’t get me wrong, from my words it appears as if Bud is a completely bastard who takes advantage of David who was too much in love to be reasonable. On the contrary, I think Bud is maybe as much as weak as David, above all when you are speaking of true feelings; Bud is a fighter, a good soldier, but he was a foster child without foundations while growing up, and so I think he is a bit “damaged” on an emotional level: he felt the need to bind himself with the wrong person too soon and too young, and now that binding is preventing him to enjoy his love story with David.

But despite the good and bad, Bud is a ray of light in David’s life, and in a way, it’s better to have loved and lost than to have not loved at all. And again I don’t think I will spoil you too much if I’m saying that this is an happily ever after story, after all the author decided to use as a prologue something that to me sounded very much like an epilogue, and so, reading the book, I was sure that I was heading towards an end that I would have liked.

In comparison to other stories about soldiers, and in particular Marine, I noticed that these men cry a lot; that is not something I have never found, they reminded me a bit some characters of Bobby Michaels, and knowing how much that author loves Marine, in novels and real life, I have no doubt that the description done by Drew Hunt is true, or at least for some of these men. And as in Bobby Michaels’ novels (that if my friends don’t remember, I like a lot), these men have sex that is down to earth, very physical and graphically detailed, again another bit of contrast with the emotional turn they sometime have.

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Amazon: Rough Road to Happiness

Amazon Kindle: Rough Road to Happiness

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Mission: Carnal by Mary Winter

When former Vietnam soldier reborn as action figure died a second time also in his toy life, he thinks that this time will be forever. Instead the Toymaker has other idea in mind for him. But this time he has not a war mission but a love ones: he needs to teach to love again to Adrian, the shop owner who bought him as a broken action figure and that repaired him.

After an initial perplexity, Adrian is ready to enjoy his new toy, the muscular and strong Mack, who hides inside a gentle soul. Adrian usually is not easy to let people near him, but maybe, since Mack is an extraordinary man, means that he is not real, it's more simple for Adrian to let go; all in all, maybe he thinks that this is still a dream.

This is the first in the Live Action Man series by Mary Winter; it's not so short, almost 70 pages, but the plot is pretty simple: the story is a funny sexy romp with a lot of sex, even if sometime it edges on the emotion when Mack remembers his time as a soldier.

Mission: Raw (Live Action Hero 2) by Mary Winter

The second story in the Live Action Hero series is a bit more sad and with more elements to link it to reality.

Sawyer, like Mack, was a former soldier. He fought in the late '70 and when killed in action, he became a Live Action Figure, a toy for a kid along with other three former soldier. In life Sawyer was a Native American man with a penchant for adventures and men. As a toy he was an hell of a fighter, but obviously sex was his last thought. When also his "second" life come to an end, the Toymaker gives him another chance: to be again a man and to fulfill the need of love of Dean.

Dean is Adrian's colleague (Adrian was the main character in the previous book, now Mack's lover). Outside Dean is an happy-go-lucky man, always ready to a new adventure, both in life than in sex, but in reality he is a wounded man, who fears to love again. Probably only a strange and unreal situation like this could push Dean to let go his fear so soon.

As I said, this second book is a bit "more" real: there are a bit more information on Sawyer's past, and since the "surprise" of Sawyer being a toy is not so new, the reader maybe is more open to accept the story. And it's also a bit more "sad" since we know something about Sawyer's former life, and about how he, maybe, regrets of having lost his family.

Still remain a mystery why at first these men became toys and why turn back human... It's obvious that the series will end only when all the four former soldier will find their match. I believe that, to enjoy this series, you need to try to forget your rational mind, and start again to play with toys.

Mission: Possession (Live Action Hero 3) by Mary Winter

The third live action hero is ready to find his man. In the previous two books, the two real life men who find their lovers in a action figure comes to live, didn't know what was expecting them. In the third book, Hugh instead knows that his two friends found love with a paranormal help from the Toymaker, and he is torn between hope and reality. When he repairs his own action figure, Talon, deeply inside he is hoping for it to come alive, and so when it happens, he is not so surprised.

Talon was a soldier during the Desert Storm in 1990; where his fellow soldiers didn't realize that after their death they were turned in action figure, Talon knew that and in a way he was right with it: before enlisting in the army he was a model, and so, from playing in front of the camera, to play for a child, things weren't changed much. But one thing he missed, having sex. So when he comes alive again, he has only one though in mind, and Hugh is more than willing to help him. But after that, what will be Talon's role in real life? Will he be always only a "toy", a pretty face no one care really for? This time Talon wants something more, and maybe Hugh is not the man for giving him that.

First of all, let me remind you that this series is pure fun, so we haven't to find deeply meaning in it; but said that, the third chapter in the series has a bit more meaning than the others: maybe since both characters are aware that they are living something magic, and even if they don't know how all it happens, they are more prepared than their friends.

Mission: Touchdown (Live Action Hero 4) by Mary Winter

With Touchdown, the series about the action figures come alive ends: Brice, the last of the toy squad, has his own mission to accomplish. Brice was a soldier in the Balkan war, this was quite a recurrent characteristic for all the previous stories, all of them were soldiers in different war time, and story by story the period was always more recent, first Vietnam, second Uganda, third Desert Storm and last Balkan territory. Another current characteristic was that the companion they found in their third life (from human to toy and again from toy to human), is similar to them in ambition and life. Brice's partner is the last of the friends who own The Fantastic Five, a comic book shop; but Van's expectation in life is to come back to law school and become a lawyer; same as Brice wanted to do, before enlisting in the Army. So when Brice comes back to the world, it's only natural that their expectations correspond and their paths become one.

Since Van was the man that in the previous books supplied fake identities to his friends' lovers, he is not surprise for him to find out that the last action figure is now a fully man. He has also no problem to benefit of the sexual favors Brice is more than willing to give him. His only problem is that he feels guilty for his desire to come back to school and let his friends down with the shop: a very common problem in a very uncommon and fantasy situation. Nice contrast for the plot.

As I said in the past, the Live Action Hero series is pure fan, you haven't to find deep meaning and neither try to find all the reasons (how Van can supply fake identities to four men without any apparently problems, why all these men don't try to contact their family, even if they are dead for the world, at least to know how they are doing...). They are all little enjoyable escapades from reality.

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Chasing Smoke is about how you never forget your first love and about a little spoiled teenager.

Daniel and Trey were friends as teenager. They were not exactly best friends, their parents were and the kids went along when the parents did. Daniel was the son of a wealthy doctor, living in the best neighborhood of the town; Trey was the son of a police officer, with an comfortable house in an average neighborhood. But it was Daniel who envied Trey; he envied his house, his parents, his life, and desiring all of that, he desires also the boy. Daniel was young and skinny, a bit of a nerd, where Trey was the next door good boy, with a cheerleaders as a girlfriend... even more than one. It's obvious than in a situation like that, when both Daniel than Trey realized that they preferred men on women, they started a secret relationship; Daniel, with all the certainty given by money and youth, was careless and full of hope in the future, and instead Trey was still in the closet, trying to be the perfect good boy that everyone thought he was.

I don't know if the relationship would have lasted, I have the feeling that Daniel was too immature, and Trey too scared. But a tragic fate gave a sudden break: Trey's mother was killed and Trey's father was framed; he went in prison while Trey was welcomed inside Daniel's home as a second son. But Daniel was not able to see Trey as a brother, and Trey was too scared to let his feeling transpire; as soon as it was possible, Trey enrolled in the Army. Daniel saw it as a betrayal, an abandonment, and also him took the first chance he had to let the city.

Years later, Daniel is an agent for Homeland Security, and he is also a playboy on the side. He has openly gay sexual relationship, also long-term relationship, but always without strings attached: as soon as one of his boyfriends try to tight the knot, Daniel runs away. I believe he still has the feeling that his story with Trey is not ended; as I said, if it was given the time to the boys to grew on their relationship, probably they would have realized it was only a teenager crush on the only other gay boy around, but like that, Trey's dreaming image became the forbidden fruit for Daniel, something he couldn't have despite all his money. Any man after him was only a means to forget Trey and didn't work. Now that Daniel is coming back home for Christmas, and Trey is there, working as a police officer in the same department as his father, even if Daniel is feigning indifference, I think he is on the prowl to capture that dream of long ago.

I like Daniel, but I said, I think he is a little spoiled. He always does what he wants, and he is very demanding, in and out the bedroom. Even when he is the submissive partner, I always have the idea that he is the one in command. On the other hand Trey is a more gentle character; it's true, he had not the courage to come out years ago, but I believe it was in his character. Trey is a man that has to ponder every move, to weight the pros and cons, but if you give him time, he always arrives to the right decision. Even years ago, if Daniel had the patience to wait for him, he would have taken the right decision.

The story is pretty sexy, there are a lot of erotic sex scene, where, as I said, Daniel is always in command, even when he is the bottom. He is demanding and eager, while Trey is caring and gentle... it's really interesting how the author was able to mingle so well the characters in and out the bedroom, maintaining their characteristics in both place.

Amazon: Chasing Smoke

Amazon Kindle: Chasing Smoke

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Cover Art by Anne Cain
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I’m not new to read a cop themed novel, and even if it’s not my preferred genre; some of them are very good. But there is a thing that usually let me a bit cold, when the cops are self-righteous perfect hero, maybe with a baggage of bad experiences in the past, but always so damned perfect. Truth be told, sometime, they are so perfect that they are also boring, sincerely I’m not for the big bang-come here baby type of men. In Personal Demons, James Buchanan managed to avoid all of above, without making the heroes losers.

Special Agent Chase Nozick lost his partner (work partner, not private partner) during the same mission in which he was badly injured. Now some years later, he has the chance to capture the man who did it, and so it’s quite understandable that he is eager to accomplish the task, but I think that, in any case, Chase faces the new job with big professionalism, yes, true, he has some personal reasons, but they are not distracting him from doing the job by the book. Chase seems to always behave by the book… almost. He is right there on the edge, he drinks a lot, but not enough to dim his judgement, he let his gut drive him, but not enough to take the wrong path, he is gay, but not “enough” for him to be kicked out of the FBI.

Chase has not trouble with his homosexuality, he knows what he wants, but he also knows that he can’t be an openly gay Special Agent, and so he simply doesn’t mix the two things: when he is on the job, he is asexual, and when he is out of the job, he prefers to hook up with strangers, so no strings attached to worry about.

Problem is that on the new job he is partnered with Enrique, a LAPD cop with a lot of connection with the Cuban society, among where their target is hiding. Enrique is the perfect man for the job, but he is also the perfect man for Chase: gay and like Chase, not flaunting it to avoid to be kicked out of the Police Department, Enrique is not against the idea to mix work with pleasure, at least for the time of their mission. Chase is not offering more, and Enrique is not asking. I like this attitude since no one of them is disillusioned or hurt. And even when the simple partners with benefits relationship moves to something more, the attitude is more or less the same: Enrique makes clear that he is interested in seeing where their relationship will go after, but it’s up to Chase to take a chance. Enrique is not hiding his feelings, and above all is not hiding that they are “feelings” and not simple desire, but he doesn’t play the guilty card: he asks, he suggests, but he doesn’t force Chase to take a decision. I can feel that Enrique is really involved, and I think that he makes it clear also to Chase, but Enrique’s way to face the relationship is new to me, no pressure, no forceful behaviour, no attitude like “I love you so you owe me something”. The way to face it is dry but not cold.

On the other side there is Chase, who pretends that he is not interested in a serious relationship, but who is also the first to behave as they were in one, and even if the word “love” is not speak between them, I think that Chase is the first to fall for Enrique.

As I said the novel is a classical cops themed one, but the love relationship always remain in centre stage, it is never overwhelmed by the mission; it’s the mission that helps Chase and Enrique to be near and near, which helps them to understand that they are perfect for each other, and so in the end, this is more a romance than a thriller novel.

There are some points that I’d like to see developed, but probably, if the author will decide to take in hand again these two heroes, it can be done in another book: Enrique is not a lone-wolf; he has a family, a family that is quite near and supporting, so I’d be interested how they deal with Chase. Then there was a hint on Enrique’s former partner, but it was not developed: again, it seemed an interesting story.

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Amazon: Personal Demons

Amazon Kindle: Personal Demons

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Second in the Futuristic Regency series by J.L. Langley, this is the story of Payton, the older brother of Aiden, and second in line to the throne of Regelence. Regelence is a planet where men can marry, more it's more common for the peers to marry a man, and they can also procreate in lab an heir with the genes from both male parents and without the female component.

Payton is a IT geek and Nate, Aiden's husband, asks him to help in decipher a message which probably hides a conspiracy against both Regelence than Englor, the other planet in the Alliance that lives accordingly to the Regency rules. But in Englor those rules are more strictly than in Regelence, and even if same-sex marriage is not against the law, it's highly discouraged. And so Payton, who is a pampered prince nursed to become a beautiful ornament to the arm of a powerful and rich man, finds himself suddenly free to roams Englor's street without a chaperon, even if it appears that his genetically modified interest in other men is not so welcomed.

But not all the men on Englor are the same, and Payton meets Simon, not other than the heir to Englor's throne. Simon is a friendly and very sexy man, one that, as soon as he spots the pretty new officer, can't help to seduce him. Not that Payton resists so much to the advances... it's almost not clear if Simon seduces Payton or if Payton is the "innocent" seducer.

Even if Simon is the supposed Alpha male, he is really too open and young to be a real dominant character; Simon is the perfect scoundrel, very good in the battle field as well as in the bedroom, no matter that, in his case, the chosen bedroom partner is a male and not a maid. And Payton is not the usual virgin maid type of character; true, he is virgin, but he is a lot older than his 19 years old. In a way, Payton is more ready to be a king than Simon; Simon still needs the advice of faithful counselors, but not since he is prudent, I believe since he is still too young. So Payton and Simon make a good match, and together maybe they will manage to not destroy Englor...

As usual in a J.L. Langley's book, there is a lot of funny situations, and Payton is the perfect little firecracker, cute and to be handed with caution. Not sure if Simon is strong enough to handle him. So funny and sex as well, but I have to said that the sex it seemed more... dirty, but in a good way. Sex was always an heavy component in the mix for the previous books by the same author, but in this case it was an orgy of sense, down and dirty; with the balance of the humor, the result is a very involving story.

Amazon: The Englor Affair (Sci-Regency)

Amazon Kindle: The Englor Affair

1) My Fair Captain:
2) The Englor Affair

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Cover Art by Anne Cain

Cover Art by Anne Cain
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From the blurb and the setting, you would expect for this one to be more adventurous, big bang boom style: undercover secret agents searching to dismantle a terrorist organization. And instead it's exactly the opposite. The story starts when all is finished; the terrorist group is over, the interactions among the four secret agents are defined. There is the boss, Nolan, there are the good boy and the body, Grady and Ramirez, and there is the rookie, Riley. Obviously the boss is bent to push the rookie to his limit, and between them there is only competitiveness and tension... or not?

The mood of all of them is different from a "normal" situation, there is not the adrenaline to be in danger. They are waiting to leave the quiet sea town where they were standing for the last 9 months and Grady and Ramirez are happy to go back to their lives. But for Riley is not the same; he has noticed that Nolan is strange, that living near the sea gave him a strange mood; leaving this place for Nolan is both a good thing and the worst event ever, near the sea he has let out something of himself. And Riley was there to catch that info and store it.

When the story start, there are three men, Grady, Ramirez and Riley, talking. Apparently between them and Nolan there is only a professional entanglement, and nothing else. Then they start to remember: the first event is a work related fact, and something that strengthens the idea that Nolan is somewhat aloof and estranged from his colleagues, as it is also proved by the fact that he is not there with them.

Then with the second walk on the memory lane, something changes, Nolan is somewhat more human, and Riley has suddenly a more personal interest in him. And so the worry that the present Riley is feeling towards the absence of his boss is more comprehensible; maybe also the reader is starting to wonder if maybe it is not happened something of tragic, if the reader and Riley himself have not to go searching for the man he loves... yes, since now it's clear that Riley loves Nolan, but it's not still clear if the feeling is mutual.

And finally, with the last memory, also Nolan comes out, his feelings and his mourning, and maybe also the reason why he is so upset to leave a place that only cause him pain. With the finally memory the circle is closed and the story is ready to start again, this time in present time and with a path no more shadowed by painful memories.

I like a lot the development of the plot, all was already decided, the characters already have set their mind, and the reader was letting inside them little step by little step. The mood and interactions between them clearly changed memory by memory, and in only 70 pages we read of all the spectrum of their feelings. What I liked maybe most of all, is that the novella was more intimate and warm of what I was expecting; the "secret agent" side of the story is in the background, and there are no firestorm to distract the reader from the main core, the two men and their love.

Amazon Kindle: Footprints

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Cover Art by Dan Skinner
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This is a classical thriller story but with the hand of a woman in the doing, and so it doesn't lack of romantic elements. BUT this doesn't mean that the thriller part is not strong and cold, but it's a neat cold, not bloody and messy like sometime it's if the writer is a man. Sorry, but I'm really convinced that you can recognize the hand of a woman or that of a man, as I'm convinced that there are "limbo" zones where it's almost impossible to distinct. In this case I felt the hand of the woman when the characters got sentimental, when they share their feelings, when their dreams all in all convoy in having a suburb home with a dog in the back garden. Or maybe this is only the ordinary and the thriller author I read in the past lacked in describing it.

Jack is the good guy of the story, probably the only one. He is a surgeon in Baltimore, a divorced man who realized later in his life that he prefers men over women, and he is a so good guy that he managed to get a friendly divorce and rebuilt a life of his own. Now he is quite the workaholic type, even if sometime he indulges in his pleasure. He has not a bad life, and probably with time, he will also improve it, adding the above-mentioned home and dog, and maybe also a partner. But all of this crashed down when Jack witnesses to a murder and he is the only one who can recognize the killers. He is taken into custody waiting for the trial, and relocated in another city... all his life is shattered and he has no hope to regain it.

Enter D, an hit man with a personal code of behavior: he only kills people who deserve it. Since he is the better in the field, he can choose, and what he doesn't want to do he passes on. But this time he can't refuse, he is blackmailed into killing Jack. Only that when D meets Jack, he really isn't able to kill the man, the innocence of the man is clear in his eyes and D is tired to let people die due to an event that isn't their fault. So D turns from enemy to protector, and he appoints himself the only protector of Jack. He kidnaps the man and runs all over the United States with his precious load.

The two men are at the opposite: Jack is open and friendly, without any secret in his past, who he is, is plainly displayed in his face. Jack is not a temperamental man, he is quiet and serene, he is the classical doctor that inspires you trust. Jack is upright and trusting, he doesn't hide his feelings and he is easily hurt since he is so open. But Jack is also unable to hold a grudge and he is the perfect partner for D since he is able to see behind the facade D presents to the world.

D is not cold and aloof as he seems; he doesn't even choose to be who he is, someone else at the beginning of all made that choice for him, and D followed the path it was presented to him. Times ago, D probably had the same dreams of Jack, of an home and a family in some nice places. Then a tragic fate, something he has no guilt of, shattered his world, and D claimed himself an avenger, and in his own particular way, he tries to correct the fate for whom has no guilt. And sometime he kills the one he judges guilty.

Where Jack is gay, and has already made his path out of the closet, D is still in the limbo. He is not actually in denial, since he simply excluded any personal relationship from his life, both with women than men. When he meets Jack, he is more drawn by the innocence of the man than by the man himself. In a way, their relationship is another joke of the destiny, since probably D would have fallen in love of a woman, if she was as innocent as Jack, but since he met Jack, Jack is the object of his love. D becomes Jack's protector, and Jack becomes all D's world, from not feeling anything, D passes to feel even to much, and all his love is poured on Jack.

As I said there is a lot of emotion flowing throughout the novel, and also some very nice sex scenes, but there is also a good level of tension, and the novel is also very long, and so we have also the chance to reach an apex, slowly come down, and suddenly reach another apex, all the time with some new details and events that maintain a fastpacing rhythm.

Amazon Kindle: Zero at the Bone

Amazon: Zero at the Bone

Jane Seville's In the Spotlight post:

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle

Cover Art by Paul Richmond
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Since I'm not enough M/M focused and I LOVE to go against the preconceptions :-) here is a book to improve that 2% of my feminine side...

All right THIS is a menages, no dancing around the matter, no trying to find some hidden meanings, this is a pure and simple polyamour menages. And probably I wouldn't have read it if, first it wasn't the fifth story in a series I already read all (and one of the stories it's even an erotica M/F), second it wasn't from an author I like. For me these two very important details since even if I like to try new authors, I'm also a faithful reader and like to follow the things, so really, it would have been impossible for me not to read it. Said like that, it seems almost that reading this book was almost like take a bitter medicine, and instead I have to say that it's a nice surprise.

And the nice surprise is not determined by the fact that this is a menages where the M/M side of the couple is stronger than the M/F, but exactly for the opposite thing. Sasao and Kyoru have a very good marriage, two children and a good life; Kyoru's career in the ChildsPrey group is steady and fruitful and Sasao's career as actress is taking a dive toward success. Always would be perfect if not for the fact that Kyoru is bisexual (yes, great taboo, a bisexual man!) and after years of monogamous relationship he is starting to miss something. He always likes to have sex with his wife, but he misses that edge he had while having sex with a man. And the problem is that temptation is there in the house for him, in the beautiful and sexy body form of their bodyguard, Ken.

After being hired to protect Sasao from a stalker, Ken remained with the family as factotum, from security to nanny services all in once. Why a man with his credentials accepted to do that is quite clear: Ken was banished by his family when he admitted that he was bisexual, loosing not only his family support but also his work in the military Corps. And now he probably enjoys to be near a real family, even if he is not part of it. I believe that Ken is not particularly drawn by one of the two, Sasao or Kyoru, he is attracted by them as a whole. They represent what Ken wants but he is not willing to break them as a couple to reach what he wants.

And then there is Sasao. Sasao loves Kyoru, point. She can admire Ken as a beautiful person, both in body than soul, but she do that as if she was admiring a piece of art, she will never even consider to betray her husband. But loving him as she does, she comprehends that her husband has needs that she is not able to satisfy, even with sex toys. Since Kyoru loves her back, and Ken respects her, it's up to Sasao to be the pointer for their relationship. It's a subtle play of balance in this story, and probably it wouldn't have worked, if, as I said, the M/F part of the menages was not so strong. Another thing that allows things to work is that Ken isn't inclined towards one of the two more than the other.

Another warning to the readers (I need to give that since probably there are more M/M minded people between my friends than not), most of the sex scenes are between Sasao and Kyoru (and it's obvious since I said that they are the stronger in the menages), there are then some solo, and only a polyamour scene. But my opinion is that all of them are very nice and well done.

Series: ChildsPrey
1) Orange Moon:
2) Winter Song:
3) Under a Silver Moon:
4) Secret Moon:
5) Their Lover

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle


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