Review: Foxe Tail, by Haley Walsh (Rating: 3/5)

walsh-foxe-tailFoxe Tail, by Haley Walsh (Skyler Foxe Mysteries, Book 1)
Publisher: MLR Press (September 2010)
Page Count: 288 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Mystery/Romance

Rating: 3 out of 5

* I was given a copy of this book from Pride Promotions in exchange for a fair and honest review. *

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While reading this, I kept thinking of it as “that book with the twink who needs to learn when to call the cops”. Probably not a flattering thing to refer to it as, but that’s pretty much what it was!

Skyler is a high school English teacher, but when he finds a dead body, he decides to try his hand at detective work as well. The only problem is, he doesn’t realize how dangerous it is until he almost gets himself killed. Multiple times. (Yeah, he just can’t learn!)

There are actually two mysteries in this book: the murder that Skyler stumbles on, and a series of weird events at the school he teaches at. The latter was really distracting… there needed to be just one plot!

And in the midst of all this is Skyler’s crush on his (probably straight) co-worker Keith, who is sex-on-legs and has more mood swings than a pregnant lady. I’ve been told that Keith gets more relatable in later books, but I just didn’t like him in this one. He was an asshole for most of it!

The novel itself was really fun, though. It’s an interesting plot, and Skyler’s students were hilarious and really great to read about. The murder mystery was put together pretty well, and I liked piecing the clues together along with Skyler. But OH MAN, Skyler is the most annoying detective! He finds evidence and then decides not to turn it in to the police, he doesn’t know when to shut up, and he jumps to conclusions based on how much he hates someone, rather than actual facts. (Oh, this person is a homophobe? They must be the killer!)

And the fact that the police searched the murder victim’s room and a) didn’t take his laptop, and b) didn’t find the cell phone that wasn’t exactly hidden… yeah, I just don’t buy it.

Still, don’t think about it too hard and this book is a fun murder mystery with a cast of sarcastic and sassy friends and a lady police detective who’s totally badass. I might try out Book 2, to see if Skyler’s sleuthing gets a bit more tolerable, because it was otherwise an enjoyable book.

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Review: Dangerous, by R.G. Alexander (Rating: 3/5)

alexander-dangerousDangerous, by R.G. Alexander (The Finn Factor, Book 3)
Publisher: Self-Published (August 15, 2015)
Page Count: 239 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance

Rating: 3 out of 5

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Warnings: mentions of noncon (highlight to read)

This is book three in a series, and you really need to read the first two or you’ll be pretty confused. However, the characters from the previous books are only in the background here.

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Right off the bat, I’ll say that I did not enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the first two. Curious and Scandalous both had interesting plots, and action that moved along. This book moved very slowly, and the action was contained to one very short scene. The plot carries over a lot from Scandalous, and most of it was talking, setting up for the action… and a lot of sex.

The sex itself was really hot though, and Brady is a great conflicted character. His relationship with Ken starts off as purely physical, and he struggles to make it emotional because of their different views on kink. Brady suffers from PTSD, and the thought of bottoming for Ken gives him flashbacks to his time as a Marine, but Ken is incredibly patient and never tries to push his kink on Brady.

That said, I was disappointed with the lack of actual kink. Ken is a rope Dom, but that important bit of his character plays almost zero role in this book, as he spends 90% of it submissive to Brady in more-or-less vanilla encounters. (Also, on a personal note, and as a rope sub myself, I don’t like bondage with nylon. It stretches and slides around too much. Jute and hemp all the way!)

On the whole, it was a good book, but not as much fun as the first two. It needed more action and more drama to really help it stand out. (PS, there’s a bonus short story at the end featuring Owen and Jeremy from Curious!)

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Recap: The Best Books of July

July-Best-Reads

July was an amazing month for new books! I tried to diversify my to-read list, and hopefully I was successful. Here are my top picks for July:

(Click on the bolded title below to read the review.)

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Bound With Passion, by Megan Mulry (Rating: 4/5): a ménage romance (M/F/M) set in Regency England, this novel was hot and sexy and all about the romance! Lady Georgiana agrees to marry her best friend so he can claim his inheritance… but he’s already in a relationship with another man!

A Story of Now, by Emily O’Beirne (Rating: 4/5): this lesbian romance follows Claire and Mia, two university students in Australia as they learn more about themselves and each other. Really beautiful, and the second book in the series is out at the end of the year!

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1), by Rachel Caine (Rating: 4.5/5): the first in a new YA series, set in an alternate timeline where the Library of Alexandria never burned and owning a book is illegal. Eventually it will be an M/F romance.

Focus on Me, by Megan Erickson (Rating: 4/5): an absolutely brilliant M/M romance that deals with mental illness and acceptance. Riley, a former model suffering from depression and anorexia, and Colin, a man who can’t seem to succeed at anything he attempts, are strangers who end up on a road trip together.

Risk it All, by Megan Derr (Rating: 4/5): a short M/M story set in Derr’s urban-fantasy universe, this is a perfect example of guilty pleasure reading! Kipling is a werewolf who murdered his alpha, and is now on the run. But then he meets Tori, a human who has secrets of his own, and the attraction is overwhelming.

About a Girl, by Sarah McCarry (Rating: 4.5/5): this is the third in a trilogy, and centers around Tally, a young woman trying to figure out where she comes from. It’s an F/F and M/F romance with a transgender character, and weaves Greek mythology alongside the everyday. Absolutely beautiful!

Making a Comeback, by Julie Blair (Rating: 4/5): a lesbian romance with two women who bond over music and a love of jazz. Liz lost her wife a few months ago, and lost her interest in music at the same time. When she meets Jac, a jazz critic, she learns that loss isn’t the end of the world.

Soul of Smoke, by Caitlyn McFarland (Rating: 4/5): Such a fun urban fantasy novel! It’s an M/F romance with dragons in modern day, which Kai discovers when she accidentally stumbles on a battle between two rival dragon clans. When she ends up accidentally bonded to Rhys, she realizes that she’s gotten in over her head.

Breaking, by Barbara Elsborg (Rating: 4.5/5): Assassins, attempted murder, and a delicious mystery weave together to form this fantastic M/M crime thriller. Archer is a (retired) assassin-for-hire, and Conrad is a powerful London barrister who was hospitalized after a hit-and-run. The two alpha males find themselves fighting each other–and their attraction to each other– as they try to stay alive.

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Review: Breaking, by Barbara Elsborg (Rating: 4.5/5)

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Cover Artist: Kanaxa

Breaking, by Barbara Elsborg (Fall or Break, Book 2)
Publisher: Samhain Publishing (July 28, 2015)
Page Count: 321 pages
Genre: Gay (M/M) Romance/Thriller

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Summary: Contains a mercenary who’s broken the law beyond all recognition, and an uptight barrister who is the law. Also: a whole lot of crossing lines drawn in the sand, and even more tussling to determine who gets on top.

Archer Hart has just completed a freelance hit job when he finds himself in a sniper’s scope. It’s a clear message: someone wants him dead. His only choice is to assume a new identity and keep running. Conrad Black is a barrister recovering from a hit-and-run “accident” at an isolated beach, wondering if he’ll ever regain full use of his legs again. When he spots a surfer in trouble, he throws his crutches aside to pull the man to safety.

Note: You do not need to read the first book in this series in order to understand this one, as it features different characters. However, this novel does reference some of the events and characters from Falling.

My Thoughts: This is an action-packed thriller from start to finish, with a great mystery and with two alpha men locking horns for dominance both in and out of the bedroom! The burning hot sex is balanced with the emotional, as Archer and Conrad struggle to remember what it feels like to love and be loved.

After finishing this book the first time, I sat for a while and thought about it. And then, instead of getting up to jot down my thoughts like I normally do, I started reading it again. Because unlike all of those other thriller/romance novels out there, there was something about the characters in Breaking that really drew me in. Part of it was Conrad, damaged and in pain but still so incredibly strong, and part of it was Archer, a killer with a conscience who will protect those he cares about at any cost.

I’ll be completely upfront and say that I didn’t enjoy Falling (the first book in this series) very much, which was largely because I struggled to relate to Malachi. So I went into this novel with some trepidation, thinking it might be more of the same. But Elsborg has really stepped up her game with Breaking, and the characterizations for Archer and Conrad are absolutely brilliant! There’s a visible evolution of the relationship as the men move from lust to trust, and the slowly growing comfort between them– shown in their ability to laugh and joke, to engage in some light BDSM, and finally to surrender and bottom– was beautiful.

Now, I’m not sure if this is just me being a picky reader, but I do have to say that the language used in the sex scenes threw me off a bit. It seemed almost immature at times (such as the repeated usage of “butt”, which is a) not a very sexy word, and b) not a word usually seen in erotic scenes, in my experience). But since that’s the only nit-pick I can find, I’m going to wave it off!

The plot is fantastic, the revelations were genuinely surprising, and the romance between two men who truly should not be together was phenomenal! So, I’m going to go finish my re-read of this book, if you don’t mind!

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Review: Shadows Fall, by J. K. Hogan (Rating: 3.5/5)

Shadows Fall, by J. K. Hogan
Publisher: Wilde City Press (June 10, 2015)
Word Count: 103,000 words
Genre: Gay Romance/Paranormal Mystery

* I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review *

Cover Artist: KHD Graphics

Cover Artist: KHD Graphics

Short & Sweet: Titus McGinty is a lot of things: a small business owner, a pretty decent roommate, openly gay, and an outcast from his Romany tribe. Oh, and he sees dead people. It’s the last bit that gets him in trouble, when he starts seeing the ghosts of a serial killer. It doesn’t help that the man he’s crushing on, Detective Charlie Hale, is desperate to find the killer… and Titus knows more about the victims than any normal person should!

My Thoughts: This was a really fun read from start to finish, although it definitely has its ups and downs.

Titus’ ability to see and speak with ghosts is something that he’s never accepted, and he goes out of his way to avoid the spirits trying to speak with him. But when the ghosts become more insistent, he realizes that they’re all victims of the same killer. On the ‘normal’ side of the case is Detective Charlie Hale. He’s gay, but deep in the closet. His attraction to Titus leads him to give a gay relationship a try, but he quickly realizes that Titus is hiding something about the case.

I love crime dramas, and I love novels with a fun cast of characters. Every character in Shadows Fall is quirky in the best of ways; everyone knows someone like the unreliable Riot, or has a grumpy relative like Hester, so the characters were easy to relate to.
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Review: Murder & Mayhem, by Rhys Ford (Rating: 5/5)

Murder & Mayhem, by Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press (June 5, 2015)
Page Count: 236

Short & Sweet: Rook Stevens, a thief turned legit, is accused of murder after finding a dead body in the middle of his shop. The detective who brings him in is the scorching hot, Cuban-Mexican Dante Montoya. Rook and Dante have a past, and a lot of sexual tension, but Dante is pretty much set on pinning the murder on Rook and locking the thief away.

Ford-MurderandMayhemMy thoughts: Rhys Ford has done it again… another fantastic novel with a twisting, intriguing plot, and a romance that is original and intense. Ford is excellent at taking two contradictory characters and writing them into a convincing and scorching hot relationship, and she’s definitely succeeded with Rook and Dante.

Rook is a complicated creature; a cat burglar who has retired from crime to open up his own shop, he’s unable and unwilling to trust anyone, but always repays his debts and has a strong bond with a number of retired (and not-so-retired) con artists around the city. Dante is a homicide detective who was almost fired over a previous investigation into Rook’s criminal activity, and is now desperate not to let his prime suspect get away. The only problem is that Dante can’t get Rook’s body out of his mind, and a chance encounter in a club years before was enough to light a spark between them.

Romance novels with actual plot are a bit of a rarity, in my experience. Instead of creating a plot as an after-thought to the erotic scenes, Ford establishes two separate worlds that collide violently when Rook discovers a body in his shop and winds up the lead suspect in the murder. The attraction and sex aren’t after-thoughts, but they’re not the entire point of the novel. Instead, it’s about shaping the characters of Rook and Dante, and their evolving relationship as they learn to trust each other.

I will read anything that Rhys Ford publishes, because I know I’ll always get a fantastic novel that really draws me in, and that has a riveting plot, compelling characters, and a relationship that grows organically from the first spark of attraction.

Highly recommended… and I really hope we’ll get to see more of Dante and Rook soon!