Showing posts with label Gay Romance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Romance. Show all posts

Friday, May 25, 2012

Minis: J.L. Merrow, Annika Martin

Happy Friday! In the States we have a three day weekend coming up for Memorial Day. I'm ready!

I'm leaving you all with mini-impressions for two novellas I read this past week: one gay romance and one erotic romance. They both turned out to be solid enjoyable reads for me. Enjoy the minis and your weekend!


Hard Tail by J.L. Merrow (Click on title to read book summary)

I really enjoyed this gay romance between a 28 year old man who has been so deep in the closet his whole life (married and now separating from his wife) that friends and family think he's homophobic, until daily contact with a klutzy, lovely young man changes his mind and he decides to that maybe being "out" might be worth the risk.

So far I've enjoyed J.L. Merrow's characters, and Tim and Matt are no exception. The secondary characters, Jay, Tim's brother, and Adam, Matt's best friend stand out in this story. The main plot points are well rendered as Merrow tackles the subjects of closeted gay men, the different ways in which closeted gay men deal with their choice and situations, and on a related thread also features an abusive relationship.

However, don't be fooled, although those are serious subjects Merrow mixes them up with plenty of light and amusing moments: Tim's family takes the cake, the cat is hoot, the "grey pubes" moment is priceless, and I love Tim's internal dialog throughout the whole story, plus there's plenty of sexual tension and heat to go around. This is a solid and enjoyable read. Grade: B


The Hostage Bargain by Annika Martin (Click on title to read book summary)

I also enjoyed this erotic roller coaster about thrill seeker Melinda Prescott and the three bank robbers who kidnap her and at her request make her part of their gang. This story works well as an erotic contemporary with plenty of hot D/s threesome and one-on-one scenes, thrilling adventure moments, plenty of snappy, humorous dialog, and some voyeurism to top it all off.

The three bank robbers are only known by their "god" names: Thor, Odin and Zeus, and although Melinda takes the name Isis as her "god" name, there's a sense of mystery that comes with the men's anonymity that enhances the sexy edge in this story . This gang is all about trust, sex, and well... taking and enjoying the moment. This is the first of an erotic series by Annika Martin, also known as Carolyn Crane. A great start to a hot series! Grade: B

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Review: Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen

Fired from his job at Phag magazine, Peter Mallory has to find a way to make a living...and get revenge When his best friend suggests writing a book about the bear community--and using his new ursine look to go undercover at Phag--Peter is soon letting his body hair grow and practising the fine art of flannel couture. When Peter's sabotage campaign works only too well, he starts to run the risk of discovery. With an envious fellow bear set to unmask Peter as a fraud, and a relationship with an intriguing bear on the line, things are about to get very hairy.
I'm a fan of bear erotica and bearish romances when I find them, so Bear Like Me by Jonathan Cohen, an amusing, light tale about a man who becomes part of the bear community, through let's say the back door, is right up my alley.

Cohen weaves this bearish story around Peter Mallory, a journalist and self-proclaimed twink who becomes obsessed with getting revenge after he's fired from his job at Phag magazine. In the meantime he needs to make a living and at his friend Mac's suggestion Peter decides to write a novel about the bear community. Unfortunately, he is clueless. Problem? He's part of the mainstream gay community and lives in what he refers to as the "gay ghetto," but Peter doesn't even know what a bear is!

Mac suggests Peter go undercover to research his novel. To blend in he grows a beard, stops waxing his body hair, and gains heft by eating like food is going out of style. And in some of the most amusing moments in the story, his wardrobe undergoes a dramatic change as Peter sheds his trendy suits and ties for flannel. Of course there's more to the experience than growing fur, changing wardrobe or gaining weight.
"Becoming a bear, just like coming out of the closet, requires a certain shift in perception. What you find attractive, what you find acceptable, what you deem important, all changes. In a way you become an outsider, but in a way you become part of a small, select private group. Usually this is a long process that accompanies repeated exposure to the bear community. I didn't, however, have the luxury of time." 
Peter's partner Danny is not necessarily over the moon about the lack of income, but all the physical and psychological changes that slowly turn Peter into his other self, Dan the bear, take a real toll on the relationship.

Peter/Dan is driven by his obsession to get that revenge against Phag, meanwhile that "shift in perception" slowly takes place within Peter. This takes time, however even as he clings to the belief that inside he is still a twink and that his foray into to bear community is temporary Peter falls for Ben, a big teddy bear of man who sees the bear and other qualities in him that Peter doesn't see in himself. Unfortunately Peter doesn't know when to stop lying and scheming, so that by the time he comes to his senses it might be too late to keep the friends who welcomed him with opened arms, or his man.

There are over-the-top moments (Peter loves and attracts drama like a magnet), and since this book was first published in 2003, a rather dated back story. But I like that through all the mayhem Cohen sneaks in slight critical views of both the mainstream gay and bear communities from an insider and an outsider's point of view. Additionally, the pace of the novel is quick as lightning and it makes this story not only entertaining, but a super fast read.

In Bear Like Me, Cohen presents an overview of the bear community with all its rules and bearish family atmosphere. Peter's second coming out story as a bear is entertaining with an intentionally campy style, outrageous moments, and a surprisingly sweet romance.

Category: Gay Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Bear Bones Books/June 9, 2011
Source: Lethe Press
Grade: B

About the Author (Summarized): Jonathan Cohen was born to non-bear parents 40-some years ago in Toronto, Canada. The rise of the Internet in 1995 connected Jonathan to a community he'd never heard of before. "Bears" were hairy, bearded, large men, Jonathan found to his surprise --- and they liked men just like him! After coming out to himself and others as a bear, he decided to study their community, their rituals, and of course their sexual practices. The novel Bear Like Me was the result and was published in 2003. Jonathan now lives in Toronto. Brown hair is turning to gray, but Jonathan still remembers those halcyon bear days and gropes of yore.

Monday, April 30, 2012

A Look at Xavier Axelson

I read my first book by Xavier Axelson, The Incident, back in November of 2011. This book is a gay romance, but the way Axelson dug deep into his characters had a lot to do with the reasons behind my including it with my list of  2011 LGBT Favorite Books and Authors under the romance category. I liked his style.

Since that time I've read a few of his books, from his back list and new releases as they come along, but I've not reviewed them. This month alone I read titles by Axelson, so I figure it's time to go ahead and give you some quick impressions of his books and why I read them.

First let me begin by saying that The Incident remains my favorite book by Xavier Axelson. After having read most of his works, it is the one gay romance written by him that I found to have both depth in characterization as well as that emotional connection that makes for an effective and memorable romance.

Having said that, Axelson also conveys that emotional connection between the main characters in The Birches. In this story, I love the way that he connects eroticism and the pleasures of sex with those of food and cooking. The depth of character that I found in The Incident is not there, but then this is a lighter, less character or angst driven story, instead the romance and the erotic make The Birches a surprisingly pleasurable read. Certainly after reading it, I kept looking for more books by the author. :D

Of  Axelson's older romance-related releases, Dutch's Boy is my favorite. Of course this may be because I love westerns and to me there's nothing sexier than a cowboy. What I found in Dutch's Boy is an idealized romance between a young man who finds the courage to show his father his independence by competing at the rodeo, while finally finding love in the arms of the young man he has dreamed of throughout his young life. It's a lovely, sweet romance with some very erotic moments between Harry and Reb. Axelson can certainly write those bedroom scenes... although I particularly enjoyed that tense scene on the train between Harry and Blake. Pheww!  

There is also the very short story Christmas Eve At The Powers That Be Cafe. I believe this was the author's first book... and although it has its flaws, I definitely recommend it as a sexy holiday M/M romance read set during World War II. Again, I was particularly taken with the intensity and emotional connection between the characters during the sexual scenes, and of course I love the setting and atmosphere even as the ending struck me as being less than plausible but high on the sweet scale.

Axelson also writes stories that fall under the erotic horror category, or speculative fiction with a strong dash of the erotic. In Lily we have a father who lost his daughter to the woods and a wolf. He suffers deeply but believes that she'll return to him for one day on the anniversary of her disappearance. During that year he finds a man who believes in him and loves him. This story is about new beginnings and accepting loss. I don't know why I was so surprised at how sexy this story turned out to be, even with all the angst and suffering, and the loving... there's lots of love here too. For me, although there's that paranormal/horror aspect to the story and Lily is a key character, the romance is just as important so I love that it has a good happy ending for the main couple.

However in Earthly Concerns although there are some erotic scenes and romantic angst, the horror supersedes the romance and the erotic. This story is definitely more on the spec fic side. There's a chilling fear and horror that permeate this story. As one character is warm and caring, the other is cold and remains distant throughout, making the reader doubt his true motives and intentions until the very end. Speaking of the end, because I read this story from the spec fic point of view and not necessarily as a romance, I was a bit disappointed. Although in this case, I have a suspicion that I might be in the minority. [grin] Except for that ending, this is one chilling, scary story and although short, I thought it was very well done!

As an interesting aside, three of Axelson's books, Dutch's Boy, Lily and Earthly Concerns, feature sons and/or daughters and subjects related to parental errors in judgment or parents who need to accept loss and/or their children's choices.

If you're an M/M romance reader, you might enjoy these books and I do recommend them for you. If you would like to know a bit more about Mr. Axelson, you might want to read "A Conversation with Xavier Axelson by Gavin Atlas."  This interview inspired me to read that first book.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Minis: Mel Bossa, S.E. Culpepper

Hi there! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. I took a few days off to rest and regroup. I needed them.

The good news is that the rest really helped and while relaxing, I read for a change. Good stuff! So, yes... I'll be reviewing a few books in the near future. :) In the meantime, here are a couple of mini-impressions that I put together for Goodreads for two gay romances that I read this past weekend.

I haven't been reading too many gay romances and I thought it was high time to give a couple of them a shot for a change. Here are my finds. :)

SPLIT by Mel Bossa

Quiet and imaginative, Derek O'Reilly spends a lot of time watching a movie in his head. His fiancé Nathan, aka “Mr. Alpha,” wonders why Derek hasn't taken any interest in their wedding planning. Aunt Fran—his spiritual guru—would like to know when her guilt-tripping nephew became some kind of kept boy. One evening, she drops Derek's childhood journal on his lap, forcing him to remember the name he's been trying to forget since he was eleven years old. Nicolai Lund.

Nick was Derek's neighbor—and first love.

Weeks before Derek's engagement party, a chance meeting with Nick catapults Derek into the past. Nick could flood Derek’s stale existence like a blond tidal wave, but Nick isn't that sixteen-year-old rebel anymore. He's a man hardened by invisible scars.

As Derek reads through his diary, Nick and Derek’s powerful relationship sways between past and present, sweeping over their emotional landscape, revealing what they were, still are, and might yet be to each other.
Split is the best, angst-ridden gay romance I've read in a long time. Well-written and executed, with excellent characterization, and an emotional plot that nevertheless left me satisfied at the end. The reader connects with the characters from beginning to end, and that not only includes the main character, Derek, but also all of the secondary characters which are beautifully developed.

The title Split has multiple meanings in this novel, including the fact that the author goes back and forth between Derek's childhood and his present life as an adult. Bossa works these shifts beautifully, and keeps the reader glued to the pages. I know that I read this book in one sitting and it has been a long time since I've read a gay romance that has touched me so. A marvelous debut for this author.

Warning: Get the tissues ready and prepare yourself to fall in love with a few great characters: Derek and Nico, Boone, Johan and the wonderful Aunt Francine.
Grade: A-

PRIVATE EYE by S.E. Culpepper
Rafe Bridges stopped mixing business with pleasure long ago, but when he receives a call from an intriguing cop who needs help searching for an old family friend, he breaks down and takes on the case. With each day that passes, Rafe becomes further fascinated with Jeremy Halliday...but the biggest problem isn't his attraction to the cop or his growing need for him. It's the tiny little detail of Jeremy being straight.

Jeremy isn't as immune to Rafe as he'd like to believe and as they work together, sifting through a case that is more mysterious and dangerous than it seems, Rafe draws away from him. Knowing he might miss out on someone incredible, Jeremy has to figure out what and who he really wants. And soon.

Nothing is black and white anymore.
I liked the investigative aspect of this novel, the storyline is interesting and it has a good climax. The romance is a typical "gay for you" type of romance between a gay PI and a "straight" cop. The romance is developed slowly by the author and these two don't jump each other's bones immediately. Unfortunately for me, there's nothing that really made Private Eye stand out from other similar stories. Grade: C-

Sunday, November 20, 2011

...On Chulito by Charles Rice-González

I was able to finish reading one book last week while surrounded by stressful family situations, mainly because that book just wouldn't let me go even through all my worries and stress. That says something about a book, yes? Of course, this is by no means a perfect book, plot-wise there are a couple of questions that are not answered by the end, but this is a minimal complaint from me compared to what it offered.

That book is Chulito by Charles Rice-González. This author co-edited and included a story in the From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction anthology that I reviewed recently. However, Chulito is not a pure fiction read, although the excellent writing and the in-depth exploration of characters and their motivations certainly places it in that category. Chulito takes center stage in this story as he comes to terms with his sexuality and his developing romance with childhood friend Carlos. So there's a coming-out story with a romance between two young adults -- sixteen and seventeen years of age -- with sexual content and mild violence included. How the author goes about telling his story? Well, that's what this is all about.

There are quite a few aspects of the book that grabbed me from the beginning. Rice-González develops the romance and especially Chulito's slow journey toward coming to terms with his sexuality by using the South Bronx as the backdrop for his story, so his characters are for the most part Puerto Rican kids from a Latino neighborhood. First, he really captures the neighborhood's atmosphere -- both the sense of belonging and the claustrophobia felt by the residents of Hunt's Point. Second, his focus and grasp of Latino macho culture is excellent. The author depicts how the extreme macho Latino's attitude manifests itself toward women. However where the author really succeeds is in his main focus which is in showing how the gay sub-culture is viewed and the effects that macho attitude has on gay Latinos.

Rice-González explores this macho culture from the inside out by making Chulito a Latino "thug in the making," one who has to make a decision between being what it's expected of him in front of his "boys," or being true to himself and his very confusing feelings for his childhood friend Carlos. As you can well imagine, this is not an easy decision for Chulito to make, not when he has been brought up to believe that being a "pato" means rejection and possible violence from the very people that mean so much to him.

Carlos represents the smart, educated Latino young man who left the neighborhood to go to college. He's also gay, out, proud and ready to leave the neighborhood, except that he himself is pulled back not only because his mother and Chulito live there, but also because of that sense of belonging. Carlos is an admirable character in this story, not only because he is 'out' in the neighborhood and doesn't care what anyone thinks of him, but because he refuses to compromise his beliefs. Interestingly enough, to a certain degree even Carlos can't help but be attracted to and admire the beauty of Latino men. The macho attitude is a big turn-on for him, Chulito's in particular.

There's a section in the book where Chulito is dreaming and Rice-González conducts an in-depth exploration of the different degrees on the "macho" scale. This is also where the author begins to bring some balance to the equation.
Then they had a quote from the woman who invented the Macho Meter: "All men have macho in them. Even gay ones, but there are varying degrees, and while most forms of macho are lethal to the progression of the world and society, there are some acceptable levels, very low levels, that can sometimes be useful." 
There are female characters included in the story and Rice-González mixes it up by portraying sad, dysfunctional and healthy relationships between men and women to round up this story. There are also examples of different types of males used across the board. From the drug dealer Kamikaze and the would-be macho thugs hanging on the corner, to ex-convicts and the hard working men who populate the neighborhood.

Also key to this story are the gay characters that live in the neighborhood: Julio or La Julia owns the local travel agency and serves as an example and mentor to the younger men. Puti is the sad and lonely local drag queen. Lee from the Chinese restaurant, and one of the best characters in this story, Brick. Brick is a tough ex-drug dealer who got out of the game and whose best friend is Julio. He's flawed with positive and negative sides to his character, but serves as a great example of the Latino uber macho whose masculinity is not threatened by his close friendship with a gay man. Overall there's a wonderful mixture of characters.

Rice-González takes his time developing this story. Chulito's background, feelings, the challenges he faces on a daily basis are all explored in-depth. His life in the neighborhood as a runner for Kamikaze, the local drug dealer and Chulito's mentor. The relationship he has with his "boys" from the neighborhood. The deep love he shares with his mother Carmen and the resentment and indifference he feels for his dead father. Coming to terms with his sexuality is not an easy step or a ride in the park, and his romance with Carlos is riddled with deep disappointments, betrayal, tenderness, passion, yearning (like you wouldn't believe), angst, and deep love.

Ever since I read From Macho to Mariposa I've been looking for other books to read by gay Latino writers and well... I thought this book might be the perfect beginning. It was. Chulito is a great mixture of gay fiction and romance with a focus on the gay Latino experience. I highly enjoyed Charles Rice-González's writing style and his down to earth, no holds barred depiction of characters, culture, sub-culture, circumstances and setting in Chulito. I will keep my eye on this writer, hopefully there will be more books like this one from him in the future.

Category: LGBT - Gay Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Magnus Books/September 23, 2011- Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Charles Rice-González here.

ETA: This was not meant to be a review, just my thoughts or impressions on the book (see post title). But, I think it turned into a review in the end, so I gave it a grade... Solid with excellent qualities!