Monday, 31 December 2012

Quid Pro Quo (Market garden #1), L A Witt and Aleksandr Voinov


Jared wanted to look, to see the two of them in the mirror, all tangled up in mutual cocksucking ecstasy.

- Review by Kazza K

Quid Pro Quo by L.A. WittYep, I think that heading sums it up. Sexy as fuck. This book is not huge on plot, it's not meant to be, but there's just enough for the reader to be invested in the MC's. Jared works at Market Garden, a club that caters to an upmarket clientele looking for attractive men. Men you pay for sexual encounters. It's a slow time of year, economy doesn't help, and Jared, whilst feeling the financial pinch, gets some time to admire the gorgeous and self-assured Tristan one of his...colleagues.

While Jared and Tristan are having a conversation, a john approaches and wants them both for the night. The john is dubbed 'rolex' for the watch he wears. Tristan is happy to show him a sample of what to expect, for a fee -
"Like that?"
The man smirked and nodded. "I do, yes. So do you both fuck and get fucked? Because I will happily pay for both."
"I go both ways." Tristan looked at Jared, that eyebrow arched again.
Jared nodded. "Same."

...and Tristan certainly makes him pay for the services the john wants and, as a bonus, both Tristan and Jared are quite up for getting it on. Score!

If you like the following -

Rentboy stories



Guys fucking and negotiating all at once, all kinds of hot I'm here to tell you, where someone has to hold off on a climax and is begging for it *fans please*

Very well written sex scenes/Good quality Erotica

Interesting characters

You're not looking for a rentboy happy ending everytime. You're satisfied with a mutually sexy outcome

A quality short read.....

Then definitely read Quid Pro Quo because it is holy shizemballs hot! and had lots to keep me flying through it. Hope there's more.




Happy New year from Cindi and Kazza K. We hope 2012 was a good year and no matter what, 2013 is even better. A bit of something to get you in a....festive mood. If you feel this is not representative of what you want we can sure add something more. Just let us know -

Our own personal light display.

Hmm, someone is all tied up!

Oh, yes. I know I need some rescuing...
Nice wings. You can fly our way.

Thanks for changing the tyre. What will we do with the spare?

Nice, uh, jeans.

Nice in white.

The jeans seem to be coming down today *grins*

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Red Hot Holiday Anthology, Various

Three Christmas shorts, one M/M and two M/F from three different authors.

- Review by Cindi

Wish List by K.A. Mitchell (M/M)

Red Hot Holiday
Due to a love/hate relationship that I have with this author's work, I went into this one hesitantly.  Unfortunately I was unable to finish this story.  I made it until the middle of chapter 7 before I realized that there would be no finishing it for me..  Granted, I should have read through until I completed the 10 chapters but I just couldn't.  I tried.  There are a couple of things that if they are introduced in the books I read are considered game-over for me.  While one of the characters did not actually act on this in the part of the story I read, he might as well have.  He took the first step. Once that happened, that ended it for me.  Even if he had no intention of going through with it (as I've read in other reviews), he put himself out there for it to happen.  There was no coming back for me after that.  

This started out well.  Jonah is in the middle of packing for a trip with his live-in boyfriend, Evan, to visit Evan's family for the holidays.  While looking for tape in a desk drawer, Jonah stumbles on something that he is not meant to find and it freaks him out.  Instead of asking Evan about it, he allows it to consume him until it gets to the point where there were problems in the relationship.  The two men go to Evan's parents house with Jonah still acting strangely toward Evan.  Jonah writes a list of things he wants sexually that Evan is not meant to see and then leaves it where Evan finds it because Jonah is careless.

The entire story:  Evan is a former Dom but Jonah is not aware of this because their sex life does not consist of any type of BDSM and Evan has chosen to keep that part of himself secret from Jonah.  Jonah is secretly fantasizing about the BDSM lifestyle but he is too scared to mention it to Evan.  Instead of having a discussion with his partner to see if he would be up for it, he takes steps to experience it with others behind Evan's back.

Here's my issue (other than the part where Jonah did something really, REALLY stupid that made me stop reading).... Jonah and Evan have been in an exclusive relationship for 2 years.  In those two years did they never communicate?  Ever?  They've lived together for 14 months and they never discussed things that were bothering them?  Evan never once tried to do something different in bed?  It states very clearly (several times just in the part that I read) that he is a former Dom but yet for two years he is all vanilla in bed with Jonah and that Jonah is not aware of his former BDSM lifestyle?  I don't buy it.

The story is silly.  The characters are lame.  The relationship is a joke.  I could not force myself to finish it.

I Need You For Christmas by Leah Braemel (M/F)

Ryan is an artist.  Meg is a Mountie.  They have spent several years having a long-distance relationship, only seeing each other every several months or so.  Instead of the distance waning the relationship, it allowed it to grow stronger with each loving each other more as the time went on.  

Meg comes to visit Ryan during Christmas with the surprise that she has resigned her position and accepted one closer to him so that they can finally be together full time.  What Meg doesn't know is that Ryan has also resigned his position as an instructor at the local college so that he can move in with her.  He will still do his art but he will do it wherever she is.  Each plans to surprise the other on Christmas morning.

This was a good story with the exception of a few secondary characters.  Meg and Ryan's relationship is solid and the love they feel for each other shines through.  They are each willing to give up their own dreams so that they can finally be together.  The way the revelations come to a head is sweet but somewhat frustrating at the same time.  Ryan's family is quite annoying and instead of allowing Ryan and Meg to have their private moment, they intrude on it. Not just intrude on it, but totally kill the surprise for one of them.   Other than that, the way it ended was sweet.

There are a couple of characters (June, Ryan's agent, Ryan's family) that had me shaking my head and while the sex between Ryan and Meg was good, it was a bit much at times.  There is a tad of light BDSM play, but not enough to really even call it that (contrary to other reviews I have read that state that it is a bit heavy).  Otherwise, a good story.

(Note:  If someone had made the comments to my husband that Ryan's agent made to him in regards to Meg, career or no career, there would have been no holding him back.  The way that particular part of the story was handled almost killed the entire thing for me).

Breath on Embers by Anne Calhoun (M/F, with one M/F/M experience)

This is by far my favorite of the three in the anthology.  A well-written story about Thea, who is living in grief two years after the death of her husband.   She uses loud music and hook ups to make her forget, if only for a little while.  For over a year she has hooked up with only one man, Ronan.  Ronan is a New York firefighter who is interested in taking the sexual relationship to the next level but Thea refuses.  She is still dealing with the loss of her husband and insists on keeping the relationship with Ronan strictly sexual.  She wants no emotions involved, no dinners or dates, nothing pertaining to a 'normal' relationship.  She has moved across country to get away from her family and that of her late husband.  She wants no emotional entanglements at all.  She has a demanding job... by choice.  When Ronan pushes for something more, she pulls back due to fear... fear of feeling anything other than the grief that she lives with daily and the numbness that she feels as a result of her music and hot sex.  Her husband died close to Christmas so she hates the holiday and tries to stay numb until they are over, never allowing herself to feel for anything... or anyone.

This was a very good story.  I read reviews that mention a threesome and I admit to not being too big on that as most books with them simply aren't written well in my opinion.  While reading I kept waiting for this wonderful story to be ruined by the threesome that I knew was coming.  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The reasons for it make complete sense and it opens Thea up to emotions that she had been denying during her entire relationship with Ronan.  Yes, another man is involved, but with the way it was handled, it proves to Thea that what she and Ronan have is special, unique.  Bringing another man into their bed, while exciting for all involved, was nothing but sex... just sex.  With Ronan, the emotions are there.  Emotions that she has not allowed herself to feel because feeling something for a man not her late husband is wrong, cheating.  

This was a very enjoyable read.  At times I found myself frustrated with Thea and the way she handled Ronan but in the end it all worked out.  Ronan is wonderful.  He has a lot of patience and instead of walking away when Thea pushed him back, he held on knowing that they were meant to be together.  The sex is hot and not overdone... meaning not on every other page and not used as an excuse to not deal with bigger issues.  

A beautifully written, sexy story about real issues.

This book was provided by Net Galley and Carina Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

A Chip in his Shoulder, L A Witt

L A Witt goes Cyberpunk in style!

-Review by Kazza K


L A Witt never ceases to amaze me. This time it's Cyberpunk (think dystopian meets high tech) and it's well done. It's not long, around 70-80 pages, but it packs a bit into those pages.

My two cents worth.

Liam, part vampire, part machine - he's full of mods to improve him, help him heal quicker, be a more efficient assassin - is sent to kill his ex lover and heir to a Cyber empire, Daniel. Daddy is none to happy his son knows too much about his dodgy empire and doesn't approve. It's a very well written backstory by the way, it would make any conspiracy theorist proud. Liam is set up, Daniel and Liam join forces and have to leave the better part of town, the Sky, for the seamier part of town, the Gutter. Lots of action on the way. Some world building, which I hope will be expanded on in book 2, because, while it was pretty good in the pages provided, it could have been edgier to give greater depth and more atmosphere.

It took me a while to warm up to Liam and Daniel but once I did it was all good. Did you have to shoot him, Daniel?

The dialogue was terrific - sharp, sarcastic, witty, obnoxious. Everything I would expect of this style of writing -

"Don't you judge me until you know what I do with the money," I snapped.
"Enlighten me then."
"If you must know, there's a serious lack of medical facilities for the working class, so I-"
"You murder the rich and bandage the poor?" Daniel laughed. "My my, Liam. Your altruism is positively stunning.

There was plenty of action escaping one part of town -

He was on his stomach, bracing with his knee and his elbow, his lips pulled into a tight grimace. I was the heavier of the two of us, and blood loss had weakened us both. Worse, my two bullet wounds had ripped apart again, and just holding on like this was agony.

...having to remove a potentially toxic chip in Daniel's shoulder....ah the title of the book! Love it when the title ties in and Ms Witt did it well.

Some sex, some eroticism, not a lot, (as can be expected given the length and action.) But when it happened it was L A Witt good -

It didn't help that I was already aroused as I ran my gaze over his body, or that the taste of his kiss was still on my tongue and the vibration of his pulse still lingered on my lips.

His heart pounding as he fucked me hard, hard, harder.

Technically the writing was just right; I have a real love of nanotechnology/nanobots, and I thought the writing was technical enough, interesting enough, without overwhelming, or (potentially) boring the reader.

I bought this book to lead into book #2, Something New Under the Sun, which I've pre-ordered. Looking forward to the next installment for Liam and Daniel.      

Friday, 28 December 2012

Blessed Isle, Alex Beecroft

Beautiful, sensual, historical LGBT literary fiction.

- Review by Kazza K

I'm not going to fully review this book. I just think it's better read. So I'll just throw some thoughts of mine and some quotes out there to give a general idea.

This is a beautiful piece of writing. I hope it gets a good reading audience. It is LGBT fiction, very much grounded in history. If you go into Blessed Isle thinking two men, an island, a shipwreck = wild man love you will be severely let down. I'll be up front and say there is no sex in this book, it is alluded to but it is a short sentence and then off page. And yet it is gloriously romantic and sensual -

When we woke, that first morning, we made love....It was sweet and weary and gentle, just kisses and the stroke of calloused palms.

Every night it is the same. We tryst with great mutual pleasure, and I, sated, fall asleep.... 

I'm not quite sure how to describe the narrative. While it is not strictly a series of letters, I guess epistolary would best describe it as Harry writes a diary, in which Garnet has his two cents worth as well. The book starts near the end and ends slightly further along, with journal entries and recollections in between. Both MC's directly address the reader, at times, as if a letter is being written to us, and indeed that is the case. Harry says it best here -

I think of it as a message in a bottle, cast out into the seas of time. May the future reader know what we have not been permitted to say in the present: that we are happy....
It is important to me that someone should bear witness to our love.

The language used by Ms Beecroft is a delight to the senses. It is utterly charming. I couldn't help but love Harry and Garnet for their extremes in personalities and for the decent men they are.

Harry Thompson is the newly appointed Captain of the HMS Banshee which is about to head off to Australia to drop off its payload of convicts as Captain Arthur Phillip has proved can be done quite successfully. He is career oriented, ambitious and class conscious, only in that he doesn't come from wealth, needing to break through his working class background in order to succeed. Desirous of becoming a Captain in his own right -

In 1784 I was made lieutenant. The most junior lieutenant of the Barfleur under Admiral Lord Samuel Hood. A man like myself, with no family connexions, may serve his whole life as a lieutenant, but I was determined that should not be my fate. If I required either a miracle or an act of heroism to secure a captain's rank, I would produce one. (Which he most certainly did produce.)

He did not want anything to get in the way of his service, responsibility to the navy, his country, his duty, his command. When he meets Lieutenant Garnet Littleton on his ship, the HMS Banshee, he, and Garnet, likened it to being struck by cupid's arrow and yet he denied and denied and denied his desires for Garnet. Always duty, plus fear of being hanged, over all things -

We had not spoken of this thing between us. In truth I had avoided him, hoping that he would have the sense to leave it alone, that the attraction would die of its own accord for want of encouragement.

Lieutenant Garnet Littleton is so carefree. Of upper class birth, albeit the fifth son. Younger, sure of himself, knows he is a handsome man, and not ashamed of his feelings towards men. He is an adrenaline junkie, likes to take risks and wants to take one with Captain Harry Thompson once he meets him. When Garnet makes his feelings known to Harry, and he does, Harry is concerned about being pilloried, losing twenty years of hard work. He does not wish to show his feelings for Garnet, for any man, even though he is smitten by Garnet. Garnet, in true Garnet style, asks Harry -

"Am I not worth the gallows?"

On their journey the Banshee and the others in the small fleet are struck by Typhus, tiring sailors, bad weather and having to allow the remaining convicts to help. The convicts, having nothing to lose, mutiny, and add to the storms that ravage them. All are death knells for the Banshee and it's accompanying fleet. The descriptions of the seas, the weather are so vivid and so well done -

...we plummeted down the troughs of waves that had become mountainsides. The sky had met the sea, and we breathed water only a little less dense than the ocean. The tear and smack and boom of lightning raced towards us on clouds like boiling tar.

Also the reaction the men have to their circumstances. Garnet and Harry see it as better, more fitting to die at sea than ravaged by old age and maladies on land. So typical of the animal -

Garnet looked up at me, this distant lightning reflected in his eyes. "Dear God, sir," he laughed, his smile wide and bright. "It isn't often you get to watch your own death flying towards you across the water. It's just as the poets say. It's sublime!"

With all ships lost, Harry and Garnet land on an island somewhere near Tahiti and set up camp for eight months. This is when all things relationship truly develop. During this time Harry and Garnet learn much about each other. And Harry, for the first time in his life, feels happiness and freedom to be who he is, a man desiring another man. A man falling in love with another man. Garnet eventually grows sullen and longs for civilisation again, whereas Harry enjoys the solitude and freedoms he has here with Garnet -

"You and I, it's the first honest thing I've ever done. And that's because this place has given me the freedom to do it." A little sigh of amusement mingled with melancholy. "Your prison is my refuge."

I think I have put a lot down in this review already and what occurs after their time on the island is best read.

There were so many things that I loved about Blessed Isle. The title is perfect for the story and what it means. The love these two men have for one another in a time when it was strictly forbidden and looked upon as an utter abomination is heartbreaking to think about. That loving someone meant a death sentence. Yet think about it you do. I hold the highest esteem for the men who were the great adventurers of their day - these ships were small, think Sydney to Hobart Maxi-yachts, that took on big seas, vast oceans, with little to no gadgetry to speak of. Amazing, stout men doing unbelievable things. Alex Beecroft is a poetic, romanticist. Does that sound right? Because it feels right as I write it. I was transfixed to my Kindle throughout the whole book. I loved it. If you like more graphic sexual encounters in your M/M reading try to not let that put you off. I love a good, hot, kinky book too. But I also love a well written piece with sensual notes and beautiful characterizations, and good detail in the history; without being hit over the head with it. Look up the HMS Pandora, if you are interested, it was actually wrecked here, in Australia, on the Great Barrier Reef, dig deeper and you will find that fourteen men did leave her. Lovely research and detail that I adored. Harry and Garnet are wonderful characters and I've not really touched much on their words to each other because they can't just be plucked out and seem as meaningful and beautiful as they are in the book.

I'm going to end my review with some far better words than I can muster, from Harry Thompson -

Why do I want to leave this record? Why not leave our story untold? It is dangerous to speak, let alone to commit the words to paper. My need to confess may be the death of us both. But it leaves a bad taste in my mouth that this love should go unrecorded, that posterity should judge men like myself, like him, by the poor fools driven out to grope strangers in alleys, all fumbling fingers and anonymous grunting. Those of us uncaught must perforce be silent. But one day, perhaps, when the world has grown kinder, this journal will be read by less jaundiced eyes. To them I will be able to say there was fidelity here, and love, and long-suffering sacrifice, and joy. To them I will be able to speak the truth.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Run To Me, Diane Hester

 A taut, edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller.

- Review by Kazza K

First of all I have taken great pains to be as careful as I can not to give away too much but there will be some give and spoilers. It's hard to write a review this length without giving some things away, bear this in mind before you read the review.

It is important that you read the book for yourself to get the maximum enjoyment from it. Run to Me starts in a strong manner and continues at a sharp pace until the very last page. I'm serious when I say that this book is a veritable rollercoaster ride with no stops.

When the book opens Shyler is walking her 5 year old son, Jesse, home from soccer. As they cross a bridge they are ambushed by a small gang of teens who demand money from Shyler. When she hands them her purse she only has five dollars. One of the them grabs Jesse, hanging him over the edge of the bridge telling her they want more, she offers then whatever they want, but a car startles them. Frightened they run off and the one holding Jesse doesn't know what to do -

"Raising her hands, a calming gesture, inching forward. 'Please be careful. Don't...'
He let go and ran.
She sprang to the rail, the moment imprinting itself like a scar. Silken hair sliding between her fingers.
The terrified scream she would never stop hearing.

The book fast forwards two years in time. This time the initial focus is on Zack, 10, Reece, 7, and Corey, 5, three unrelated children living with neglectful, dysfunctional foster parents, the Leary's. Zack is trying to organise food for the younger two who are frightened by the prospect of eating Ritz crackers, all that's in the house, and the perceived reaction by Frank Leary to them actually eating what he considers his food. Zack is also admonishing the younger two for having followed him to a warehouse he frequents to find goods to pilfer to make some money so they can actually eat. Zach in effect, at ten years of age, parents the two younger boys who look up to him. While he's convincing Reece and Corey to eat two social workers turn up, persuading an untrusting Zack to let them in; after seeing their ID he agrees. They assure the three boys that the system has 'failed them' in the past but not anymore, show general concern for their bruises, and tell the three boys that they will find 'better living arrangements' for them, 'together,' something Zack's heard on numerous other occasions. When the Leary's arrive home they are told there have been complaints and they need to sign  forms releasing the boys into their care, otherwise charges will be forthcoming. All seems like it may be better, they end up at a safe house, have clothes and baths awaiting, but Zach is feeling bad about another house, another set of smells -

Zack looked around. Another strange house. How he hated this feeling. He'd been in so many these last three years. Smells were the worst. Even when they weren't bad they were creepy and somehow they always brought on his dreams.

Long story short, Zack discovers the 'social worker's' aren't who they say they are, and the 'safe-house' is, in fact, very unsafe. The 'social workers,' Vanessa and 'Westgate' (aka Nolan) and their associate Tragg have seen the boys at the warehouse and believe that they have seen/know something that could lead to the whereabouts of a suitcase and property that they want very badly for a person named Lazaro. The three boys all have a common thread - nobody cares about them, they serve a purpose, and can be discarded with no concern. Besides Zack's heard their names and he knows the name of the leader of the organisation -

'He was listening to you. Little shit heard everything you said....'
Tragg turned his rage on the pair. 'Two fuckwits using a name they shouldn't have!'

Zack isn't staying around. He knows what will happen if they don't escape. He'll think of something to get them out of the hands of these people and then he'll do what he always does, take care of them all somehow. They do end up escaping as they are being driven from one location to another. Once free they hop in the back of a truck leaving a nearby truck stop, and end up in a small town in Maine. But the antagonists are not easily shaken, and they have the details of the truck. They want the information and they need the boys, particularly Zack as the oldest. My heart was in my mouth as I read about the boy's escape, what Zack did to try to keep them together after, all juxtaposed against the antagonist's complete lack of concern for three little boys and the fear, hunger and cold they were exposed to, while Vanessa and Nolan stayed in warm cabins with food.

Meanwhile the book brings Shyler back into the picture. She has moved from New Hampshire to a small town in Maine in a cabin she inherited from her father. She carves wood and keeps to herself. She lives off the beaten track in amongst forest and no-one  knows her. She uses her carvings to barter for food and supplies. Tourists buy them at the local general store and she uses the credit on her trips to the store. Shyler is isolated, children send her into a fugue state and she has constant nightmares. As the book progresses you learn more and more about her and her plight.

Then we get to meet Dr Chase Hadley. Chase is three weeks into his newly acquired medical practice in small-town northern Maine and 'meets' Shyler when she comes in to have a wound seen to. She used to barter with his predecessor, Dr Muir, and once Dr Hadley sees her work he agrees, it doesn't hurt that she's easy on the eye. He's worried about her minimalist speech, her agitation, her general demeanor. He also discovers that she has no address on file. Chase becomes somewhat....obsessed with Shyler and sets about finding out who she is as no-one in town knows where she lives or anything else about her; only her family used to visit there 20 years ago -

'Who are you hiding from. Shyler O'Neil? Everyone or someone in particular?' 

The book moves between several different camps - the antagonists on the ground in Maine, Vanessa and Nolan, and  the antagonist elsewhere, Tragg. The protagonists - Shyler, Zack and the boys, and Dr Chase Hadley. And it's done in such a seamless manner. You have intimate knowledge of all the players in the book and I was so invested in them all - hated Vanessa, Nolan and Tragg with a passion. Cared deeply for the others.

The book is intensely multi-layered -

By character -

Shyler - my heart ached for her, a woman with PTSD who, it seems, no-one cares about, or believes - the police could not seem to find any supporting evidence for what Shyler claimed happened to her son, to her, on that bridge in New Hampshire. Her husband has left her, it appears people she once knew seem to feel she may have, at best, been distracted, at worst, thrown her son off a bridge. In the parts of the book when she is with Zack, she believes him to be Jesse and has moments of deeply dissociative behaviour. Yet having said all of this she is incredibly strong. As unwell as she is, she outwits some very bad people, leads them through the wilds of Maine, and she is unbelievably protective of 'Jesse.'  So what is true, and who is right?

Vanessa - is one of the main antagonists who is front and centre throughout. She is trying to exceed the 'lowly' expectations of being a woman in her uncle's very male dominated crime organisation. She is fit, can shoot, track, kill and put her feelings aside like the best of them. Irrespective of whether that means using and killing three little boys to break through her crime world's glass ceiling. An interesting concept...and character, I loathed her as much if not more than her accomplices, the ignorant Nolan and the sociopath Tragg. But she certainly threw herself into

The boys - I just wanted to wrap them up, feed them, protect them, help them, particularly Zack who had the weight of the world on his young little shoulders. It's all kinds of devastating to be thrown out by a mother who likes her latest boyfriend more than her child. Then to have her die and any hopes of her love coming back dying with her. He is old before his years. But still only ten. Having feelings he shouldn't, propping people up he needn't, being so distrusting so young, needing to think on his feet, and calm people...

Dr Chase Hadley - is this incredibly caring, gentle, kind and naive man, who wants to help. It doesn't hurt that Shyler is attractive, but she is high maintenance, in a psychological way, yet he is there for her, going above and beyond to find out about her. Find out what it is that makes her so afraid, so hyper-aware, so secretive. He also helps her in her hour of greatest need and puts himself at risk, for not only Shyler but Zach as well. People he doesn't particularly know. The world needs more Chase Hadley's - smart, uncomplicated, innocent, yet holding the courage of one's own convictions at the same time.

By psychology/relationship -

The psychology of Shyler was sound. Yes, PTSD is exactly what she would be suffering, irrespective of whether her son died at the hands of others or because she was distracted for a moment in the life of a five year old. Her five year son who died in a river while she was there. It was correct, subtle yet strong in its use and development, and I liked the sensitive way it was handled. Being with Zack would exponentially ramp it up, and more - which I won't discuss as it would spoil the book. Also the thoughts and reactions of Zachary were very, very real. Having lived through so much he was street smart, but still a little boy at heart and in his psychology of reasoning. A young boy who hurt deeply and blamed himself for his mother's poor choices, for being a 'bad boy' when angry, at times, because of a foster system that constantly failed him. The way every house had a 'smell.' It's true. When you're young, you're brain is developing. When you're dealing with dysfunction on top of it all it is so incredibly hard - going through/living at many houses that may be your next home or disaster. You strip it down to things that are basic but are memory and trigger intense - sight, sound, smell.

The relationship that developed between Shyler and Zachary was incredible. Yes, Shyler was unwell and believed Zack to be Jesse. Oh how Zachary wanted the love to be for him. And yet it would make him feel angry because he 'didn't need it, wasn't a baby.' He lapped up the love and caring that she showed, no matter how he tried not to, he'd never known anything like it -

She lifted her gaze. Crying and laughing she swept her hands over his face as though to confirm her eye's weren't deceiving her. 'My precious boy. You're really here.'
Zack gazed into her upturned face. Even if it had been a product of insanity, her courage had made her a hero in his eyes. If she needed so desperately for him to be Jesse, then how could he not?
He cleared his throat. 'Yeah, Mom. I'm here.'

'Even crazy Shyler's the best mom there ever was.'

Overall -

Run to Me is superbly crafted and edited. Maine came alive to me whilst reading, the woods, the town. The characters all fully realised and three dimensional. Even though there are several different perspectives it flowed perfectly and the interweaving of characters and situations was effortless. It did not slow down. From the minute it began there was always something happening to someone - Shyler and her son, Zack, Reece and Corey,  Shyler, and, once their paths crossed, Shyler and Zack, then Chase, Shyler and Zack. For me the best way of describing this book is a taught psychological thriller. One that had me white-knucking it many times throughout. There is also a basic romantic interest, of sorts, with Chase attracted to, caring deeply for Shyler, believing in her. I believed in Shyler as well, but for a while I wasn't sure what had happened to her son, because she was unsure....except the teenagers, who she had nicknamed in relation to the bridge incident, dogged her life, her thoughts, her nightmares. I did not know how Run to Me would progress. Just how dark it would get, who would live, who would die, and how. And I needed to know! I needed to get to the end because it literally didn't stop until the very end. So it kept me on my toes throughout. Then when it was over I thought some more about the characters. They left their mark on me. This is a novel by a very talented author. I cannot recommend Run to Me highly enough. It is due for release in March 2013 and if this book sounds remotely like something you might be interested in grab yourself a copy as soon as you can. A stellar debut novel.

This book was supplied by Random House Australia through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 23 December 2012



Merry Christmas and a happy 2013 to our blog members and visitors to our blogspot from Kazza K and Cindi. We appreciate your support and look forward to continuing to build this blogspot into something bigger and better each and every year. Including guest bloggers and giveaways.  

If you're not a member or you know someone who would like to be, come along and join us. The option is on the blogspot. We'd love to see you here and for this site to grow so we can offer you competitions and free 'stuff' in 2013. We would love to give back to you :)

Hope you enjoy our pictorial Christmas offering of 'Santa'-

Something to Believe In, Sloan Parker

A Christmas short that tugs at the heart.

-Review by Kazza K

"Sean Timothy Weber, if you walk out of here now and keep being a disgusting little faggot, don't you ever bother coming back."

Two years ago these are the words from Sean's mother that drove Sean away from his family home in Ohio. Sean is a high school drop-out and for a while he waited tables and lived with some other people, but he lost his job and place at the apartment four months ago, and has lived on the streets since. Cold, lonely, sad, selling his body in order to pay for a meal, to survive day-to-day -

Even after all this time, they were the same words that seeped into my mind whenever I found myself on my knees in a public men's room.

One Christmas Eve he ends up at a local homeless shelter, and while there is no room to stay he gets to have a hot meal. There he sees 'biker boots' laughing at how quickly he is eating his meal and showing general interest in Sean from across the room. Sean leaves after his meal. Out into the cold again, with nowhere to stay, the idea of having to service more men all makes him feel overwhelmed and aimless with little hope for much of a future. So he thinks about 'using,' get's offered, but 'biker boots' comes along and dissuades him, and makes a connection - 

"What's you name?" I opened my eyes at his whispered words. He was still staring at the doorway,
"Sean, yours?" I didn't think he was gooing to answer.
Then he finally said, "Gavin."
And with that one name, I was no longer alone.

Fast forward a year, and Sean and Gavin, aka 'biker boots,' are now solid friends. They both sell their bodies and seek out a living on the streets, but they look out for one another. Until one week Gavin goes away with an older man and comes back with good money which allows them to share a cheap motel room for a week leading into Christmas. It's here they discover a lot more about one another, share their feelings, which they've both kept inside, that Gavin wants to protect Sean, sees him as salvageable...but not himself. It is a catlyst for change.   

Something to Believe In is only about fifty pages, and Sloan Parker uses every one of those pages to give you a feeling of the despair at being young and not having much to look forward to. How easy it is for someone to find themselves in that position. How cruel family can be and paradoxically how loving family can be. I wanted to hold onto both Sean and Gavin, tell them things would be okay, I felt angry at Sean's family but ultinately there was also hope.

I wish it were always true!

I thought that Something to Believe In was a good read leading into Christmas. It makes you think of family, whether that be good or...difficult. I hope it helps people empathise about the plight of the homeless and how easy it can be to end up on the streets. There are young people out there who should be sleeping safely in a bed and having a family to love all year, giving them something to believe in, and yet, that isn't always the case. If you are wondering this book is light on sex but Sean and Gavin are sweet and their time together in the motel is romantic amongst the backdrop I've outlined. It is all well written and does have a HEA. I highly recommend it for a tug at the heartstrings, some hope, and love.
Something to Believe In

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Two Christmases, Anne Brooke

A terrific Christmas short about love and forgiveness.

- Review by Kazza K

Official Blurb -

I liked my 'cover' better.
Danny Brigson makes a serious mistake when he sleeps with Marty, an old boyfriend, one Christmas. He tries to cover it up, but Marty tells all, and the love of Danny's life, Jake, throws him out. Over the next year, Danny tries to sort his life out with the hopes that when the next Christmas comes around, Jake will give him the chance to put things right.

My review -

And that offical blurb sums up what this 30 page ebook is about,'s more than that. It's the way it is told. The depth of feelings. Danny is truly sorry and the mistake he makes plays heavily on him -

Around me, the decorations he'd already put up for the holidays glittered like an accusation.

Jake is told by Marty just what happened when Danny went clubbing, drank too much, smoked too much, and cheated on him...with Marty. So Danny has made a big mistake. Robert, his boss, takes pity on him, gives Danny a brochure for an addiction program and tells Danny it's what he needs if he wants to get Jake back, keep his job, and be a better person.

I give Danny credit where credit's due. He cleans himself up in all aspects of his life. Sees where he's been less than a decent person to his ex, Marty, when he initally broke up with him. Where he's messed up stupendously with Jake, who he actually loves. During the year he's in the program Danny runs into Jake three times. Each time they are civil, more civil, and friendly. Ultimately leading to another year, another Christmas and a nice ending.

If you have the ability to enjoy a story where one person has done the wrong thing but sets about bettering themselves. And if you can understand why someone might just love a person enough to give them a second chance, then this is a nice Christmas short about the power of love and forgiveness. I think it's a great little Christmas read.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

My House Boy Elf, Kimberly Hunter

Just what I needed going into Christmas. Something light, bright and sweet.


My House Boy ElfVincent and Wesley run House Boy Services and a client of theirs, Donovan Eliot, needs their house boy assistance at his gay club, Sakura, for the busy holiday period.  More than running a house boy service Vincent and Wesley matchmake using the magical Snow Crystal and they know Donovan needs some love in his life. Donovan Eliot lost his partner, Garrett, three years ago and the two match-makers see a special someone for Donovan amd that special someone works for House Boy Services, Trace Moore.
Donovan is a self-made man and the moment he sees the sweet Trace, complete with nipple ring under his sexy elf costume, he is smitten.
Trace Moore is approached by Donovan and, spurred on by a friend, Donovan makes a move on sweet, tempting, sexy Trace.
Of course Trace reciprocates the mutal feelings of attraction, and then some..
It's insta-lust/love, it's a short story - I didn't want to be bogged down, I wanted to cut to the chase. These two sweet men did cut to the chase, but Donovan was being extra romantic before the....main event.
My House Boy Elf is only about 30 pages so there's not a lot of room for full character development, but there's just enough to make it sweet, cute and lovely. There's also a nice HEA. And in a world where things can be harsh it was exactly what I was looking for leading into Christmas. I got a big serve of sweet pudding here with Donovan and Trace and I couldn't have been happier.

Second Time Around, Sandrine Gasq-Dion

A very unique short story about two men who are separated by death but somehow find a way back to each other.

- Review by Cindi

I'm not sure how to word what happens in this story without making it sound silly and ridiculous.  That is not the case in any way.  The author takes a very unusual and off the wall subject and turns it into a wonderfully worded love story.

Ronin Eastland has lost the love of his life, Maverick (Mav) Holliday.  Maverick was killed by a drunk driver after sharing twelve happy years with Ronin.  The story starts with Ronin at the cemetery as the man he loves is being lowered into the ground.  The author does an excellent job in bringing out the emotion that Ronin is feeling.  It is heartbreaking to read as the burial is so final... Maverick will not be coming back.  A year passes and Ronin is a shell of his former self.  His position as a teacher is suffering as he no longer cares whether he lives or dies.  He starves himself and does not take care of himself in any way.  Without Maverick, he has no will to live.   

Maverick wakes up in an all white room with a twink-looking-somewhat-angel (the author's words, not mine) and he is informed that he has been dead for a year.  And what do you know? Someone made a mistake.  He wasn't supposed to die that day.  To fix this mistake, Maverick is told that he will be going back to earth and that he will be put in close proximity to Ronin.  It is Maverick's job to find him and give him back his will to live.  The catch?  Once Maverick is back on earth, he will have no memory of his old life or of Ronin.  The connection between the two men will hopefully bring them together again so that 1) the mistake of Maverick's early death can be fixed, and 2) to once again give Ronin a reason to live.  He will be put in the body of a man whose name is close to identical.  He will have the same profession as Maverick Holliday, a physician.  He will have similar looks and the same mannerisms.  But he will not remember Ronin in the new body.  According to the twink-looking-somewhat-angel, no one who has been sent back has ever regained their old memories.  Maverick is determined to be the first.

Ronin's body finally gives out after a year of abusing it.  He collapses in his classroom and is rushed to the hospital for starvation and dehydration.  He opens his eyes convinced that he is looking at his dead lover.  The man he sees is his physician, Maverick Cruise (yeah, the name was funny and yes, it was taken from the movie Top Gun).  The doctor looks like Mav, he sounds like Mav and he even has the same expressions as Mav.  Over a period of time with Ronin as a patient, he is convinced that the doctor treating him is his Mav.  Now he must convince the fine doctor that memories that he (Maverick) is suddenly having of a time with Ronin are real.  The way he does this is cute.

There are a couple of flashbacks in this book.  Normally I avoid books that have them but they were critical to this story as the reader needs to know the back story of the two men involved.  The flashbacks do not last long nor are they frequent but they are important.

This is told in alternating points of view.  You get inside Ronin's head for awhile and then you jump into Maverick's.  I love how that was written.  Because of the emotional aspects of the story, you need to feel what each character is feeling, not merely be told.

I love the twink-looking-somewhat-angel, Gabriel.  He is only in the story for a very short time but he was adorable.

This book is short.  It only took a little while to read it but I never felt that I was missing anything.  The author does an outstanding job of saying what needs to be said in only a few pages.  

Overall, this was a wonderful little story.  You are able to feel the emotions of all characters.  You will wonder how Ronin and Maverick will find their way back to each other.  You will smile hugely when they finally do.  

Great story.  My first by this author.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Post Newtown, Conneticut - Comforting Parents/Family and Children

America and the world have just witnessed a very traumatic and upsetting event. The shooting/murder of young children and teachers at an elementary school in Newtown, Conneticut. With the inital shock, constant news updates, and information overload there are some definite feelings that people can have - anger and upset being at the top of the list. A few things happen within a family after tragedies involving young children in a place that should be safe 1) The parents of (young) children can become highly anxious, even obsessive about their children's welfare, and 2) Children can become disturbed about the event and, depending on their age, they can become fearful themselves or fixated on death.

Everyone reacts differently to traumatic events. Some people take it in their stride and can put it aside and keep going on as per usual after the inital shock. Other people can be affected at a deeper level that manifests itself through everyday stress, anxiety, depression and plain fear. Everybody has their own way of reacting and processing the information of a traumatic event.

While it is understandable at times such as these we feel an even greater need to protect our children it is also important to maintain as much normalcy as possible in our lives, not sending out worrying, anxious vibes throughout the family fuelling our own intense worry, rippling down on to our children. Children pick up on their parent's body language, mode of behaviour, voice tone, and houehold differences. So it is important that parent's feel more at ease first of all in order to talk to their children, and support their worries or concerns.

There have been several events that I can recall with the utmost clarity that have horrified me and made me, as a parent, very worried for my children and their safety. They can easily be remembered to this day if I choose to pull the memories to top-of-mind. I'm not going to talk about what they were because I don't want to talk about further traumatic events. I don't want to give them a voice here. I just want to say that as a parent I understand how easy it is to become worried, fearful, and to allow something like this to more than side swipe you. It can feel like a collision with your psyche...if you allow it to take over. If you don't actively look for something to ground you and to dispute negative thoughts they can easily become all consuming.

I thought I would add some general tips. And they are general because I'm addressing people of many beliefs, ideas and personalities. I'm also talking generally about children who can range in age from 5 upwards. So the information is very generic. These tips are intended as a guide and are aimed at people removed from the event but still worrying and scared. Which is what happens after a trauma so close to home, one that you can empathise deeply with as a parent, as a family, as a human being.

For parents -

There will be probably be a very strong desire right now to keep your children at home and close to you. Wanting to keep them away from school and away from public places  - sport, dance, shopping centres (to name a few places) as you work through some worries and emotions of your own. For a few days this is not a problem; believe me it is understandable. However, after a few days, if you are still having problems letting your child/ren do what they ordinarily do it starts to become more problematic. If you are lying awake thinking about it, can't seem to put it to the back of your mind for the most part, and it starts to impact on your work, your family or life in general, it is excessive worry. Talking to a therapist/counsellor would be a good idea so you can function without this excessive worry taking over your everyday life. No-one can wrap their children up in cotton wool. You cannot always be there by their side. Children need to socialise and work their way through life as they grow and mature. Our role as parent's is to love them and guide them, and children need a guide who is not full of worry.

Some tips -

1) Be as calm about life as you can. It is important to allow your children to vent. If they sense that you, as the major authority figure in their life, are fearful they won't feel like they can talk about their feelings to you. Believe it or not children do worry about upsetting their parents and if mum or dad seem upset they will keep information inside Then you won't know what may be going through their minds - their thoughts, their worries, their needs, their questions.

2) Be honest if/when questions arise, within reason. Every discussion you have should take into account the age of the child, their level of maturity and what you feel is relevant or too traumatic for them to know. Don't avoid questions because you feel uncomfortable, be open but do it in a calm, appropriate manner. Validate your child's feelings without allowing them or yourself to get anxious over a question or answer. As adults we don't like to feel our questions are silly or irrelevant or are dismissed out of hand. Children feel like that too. They are allowed to be worried or feel a particular way. It is our job as adults to comfort and nuture them, especially during times of crisis, trauma or uncertainty. Explain things in a clear, kind way that they will understand and that will help soothe. If a question takes you by surprise take your time to collect your thoughts before you answer, there's nothing wrong with that. You can always say "that's a very good question, I'm not sure let me think about that" or "we can think about it together." Ask them their opinion if it warrants one because that can often get the ball rolling on a good discussion..

3) If God or religion is a part of your household you can certainly use it at this time to comfort your child/ren. Do not use vengeful passages or anything that speaks of retribution - that will add to conflict and worry. There are many kind words in scriptures, look for those. Jesus was particularly fond of children reprimanding the Apostles when they tried to 'shoo' some children away. Once again the age of the child determines the way you deal with it. Angels are always beautiful, ethereal and often comforting images for young children to understand and relate to. Using prayer to send positive messages and to allow your child/ren to say their own words and prayer is also comforting and a means of them having some control.

4) Plenty of (appropriate) hugs and kisses are fine. Children may be more clingy, needing tactile support just a little bit more now. They may need to be reassured by seeing you, touching you. That is fine. Don't force children to have to hug or kiss if they don't want it or need it, but be aware they just may need that extra comfort for a little while to feel safe, secure and grounded.

5) Children may feel like they need to be around you more. They may follow you or want to be involved in some of your activities like cooking,  housework, shopping, gardening. Let them feel that's okay by engaging them in activities to help or just feel good being around you and feeling they are doing something productive. Planting a tree or flowering plant can be a terrific way of remembering negative situations in a positive way. "We're going to plant this tree to remember...."

6) Animals often play a big part in comfort at this time because they love unconditionally, they don't ask for much more than a pat or to be around you. They can give a sense of protection and joy. Animals also 'listen' when children talk to them without the child feeling judged. Sometimes you can get a child to open up to via your pet and you can listen discreetly to what they may keep inside otherwise.

7) Art is often a way for a child to express inward emotions that they can't verbalise. If your child/ren wish to draw, or if you are worried, get them to draw how they're feeling at the moment. Do they have a sad face in the picture? A happy face? Are family members missing from the picture? Is the picture a happy one, or a sad, or angry one? If the picture(s) concern you you can use them to show a therapist.

9) Routine is good. Showing that their part of the world is still doing the same things and their family are still doing the same things says 'there's no need to fret'. That life is okay and everything is as per usual. If you suddenly have anxiety running through the household, whispered talks, changes to school - keeping them home, not wanting them to go anywhere, getting teary when you drop them off or pick them up, allowing standard rules to drop it can cause concerns, problems and alarm for your child/ren.

10) Reassurance is a good thing. Reassuring children that things are okay. That family members are still here, love them and are not planning on going anywhere is a good solid platform for children to feel anchored to. Reassurance is generally only required if you can see that your child is needing it or asking for it. Don't make a fuss about something that they aren't worried about. No need to ask unnecessary questions when there doesn't seem to be a concern. Younger children, in particular, don't do very well with a lot of direct questions or fuss.

11) Keep up activities that your child normally takes part in because it gives tham a strong sense of their everyday life, friendships, teamwork and community.

12) Please don't stop having fun. The world keeps on going after any death or tragedy. You and your family need to enjoy your life, or it's a life wasted.

13) I know it can be hard to not know what the latest develpoment is but if you are overly impacted by the events of Newtown, Conneticut stay away from the news. Do not allow young children access to upsetting pictures or details. Protect them. As a parent? You cannot change the outcome of what has happened but you can keep yourself in a more positive frame of mind. The news is full of sad stories with photos which make it so much more real. If you are profoundly impacted it can make you feel decidely worse. You need a breather and to watch things that are neutral for a while.

Seek professional help if -

You, as a parent, find it hard to leave your children at childcare, school, or other places where this has never been an issue for you before. If you are having frequent worrying thoughts about your child being harmed. If you are more clingy to your child, tearful around them, you should talk to a professional therpaist/counsellor to help you through it. It is not a sign of weakness it is seeking support for a short period of time after a traumatic event.

Your child is suddenly fearful of going to school, or other events, and this is out of the norm for them. They seem scared to leave your side, and this is unusual for them. If your child is suddenly withdrawn, not wanting to eat, not wanting to socialise, and this is out ot the usual for them. If they are suddenly fixated on death, talking about it - whether it be them, a friend, the children of Newtown, or a family member and things you say don't seem to be helping, then seek a therapist/counsellor to help them through it.

Just a few things to think about. Love your children, show them you care, you are always available to listen and support them. That they are allowed to have concerns but don't let those concerns bloom into something that is insidious and unnecessary. The same applies for you as a parent. It is easy to become unsettled and increasingly frightened that your children are unsafe, however it isn't necessary to become so upset that you act out of character, becoming depressed or anxious. There are people available who are trained to listen and help.

I hope that the information above is helpful in some way. I hope it makes you feel like someone understands. It is my way of reaching out from Australia to show solidarity, support and love.

Christmas and Losses, 2012

I originally planned a happy post for Christmas.  In light of the events that occurred on Friday, December 14, 2012, I find myself unable to do so.  I apologize in advance for the seriousness and length of this post.

- By Cindi

As most know, I am a parent.  My husband and I raised three boys, ages 24, 21 and 18.  I remember the joy of watching my boys as time raced toward Christmas morning.  If there were sales papers around, it was common to find specific toys circled and the papers left where Mom or Dad would easily find them (next to the coffee pot for me and the remote control for him).  Christmas has always been a big deal in my house.  Two of my sons no longer live at home but they still spend every Christmas Eve with us.  I know this will change as they all find wives and have children of their own.  Until then, I will cherish these days just as I did when they were younger and asking Santa for tonka trucks and footballs.

There are no words to describe the sadness I feel for the parents who are now unable to spend Christmas morning with their precious children and other family members because of the senseless tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday, December 14, 2012.  They will never again be able to experience the joy on their child's face at the exact moment they see what Santa left under the tree.  My sons are my entire world.  I could not imagine a world without them.  Within minutes of the news breaking in regards to the tragedy, each one of my sons called... just to tell me they love me.  They know me.  They knew that I would be sitting here with my heart breaking along with the rest of the world.  They knew I would need to hear their voices and to connect with them.  Those calls were precious to me because they knew that that was what I needed at that time... to hear the voices of my children.... the children that I would give my life for without hesitation.

December 25th will be exactly three years and six months since we lost my beloved sister, Sherri.  Sherri was 44 when she died to my 42.  She was not just a sister to me.  She was my best friend and I hers. It wasn't always that way as we had many battles growing up.  We fought as sisters are known to do.  We were so much alike that it was difficult to live under the same roof without wanting to strangle the other at times.  She was only a year and eleven months older than me which also added to our problems.  But no matter what, we were there for each other always. Sherri was a tiny, little thing at 4'11" to my 5' 1 1/2" (yes, that half inch is very important).  I called her little sister to annoy her because I was the tall one in the family.  And annoy her it did.  Fun times. :)  Years later, the little sister took on a new meaning when I stepped into the role of big sister for reasons I will not go into here.  When Sherri got married and moved out of the house, she and I became the closest of friends.  We were inseparable as the years went on.  I have never been closer to another person and I know she felt the same.

Unlike some who will go on about how wonderful someone was after they are gone, I told everyone long before... long before I even knew she was ill.  She was a generous person who would not hesitate to give someone her last dollar if they needed it.  That was Sherri.  I have never met a person who did not absolutely adore her. She took in teens who were kicked out of their homes for their sexual orientation or other reasons.  She was known as the "cute little cat lady" because she never saw an abandoned cat that she did not adopt.  She was known to giggle often and she was the most forgiving person I have ever met.  She was my best friend.

Losing my sister turned my world upside down.  There was no getting over it as some actually had the nerve to say a few short weeks later.  For me, there was no dealing with it.  A part of me died along with Sherri.  I was forced into a hell that I had no hope of crawling out of at the time.  Only by the support of my husband and sons was I able to get out of bed each morning.  When others needed me to help them through it, I was unable to do so even though I am considered the strong one in the family.  I couldn't take care of myself so how could I be there for others?  I still live that hell three and a half years later only not to the same extreme.  Time does help. The pain never goes away but things do get better.  I still have what I call my mini-breakdowns on occasion... more so during the holidays.  But I survived it.  I don't know how but I did.  Perhaps the only thing that truly got me through the loss was knowing I could go to bed every night of my life knowing that my sister died knowing that I loved her dearly and that there was no unfinished business between us.  Other family members, unfortunately, cannot say the same.

On Christmas morning I will do as I do every year and get up long before everyone else.  I will walk outside with my coffee and have a little cry.  I will shed those tears for the loss of my sister and  for those parents and family members who will never spend another Christmas morning with their loved ones after the events of December 14th.  I will do this and then I will go back inside, happy face in place, to spend time with my husband and sons.  I will do this because life must go on.  The pain never goes away and some days are worse than others... but life still goes on.  
Hug your child a little tighter.  Tell your spouse or partner you love them... just because.  Catch up with old friends that you have been meaning to contact but could never find the time.  Make it.  Do this because you don't know what the next day may bring.  I woke up on Saturday, July 25, 2009 as normal.  I went to bed that night knowing that my life would never be the same again.  The same applies to those lost on December 14th.  Sherri died of natural causes.  Those innocent victims were killed by a disturbed individual.  I think about losing Sherri and I could not imagine how it would be if her death was as a result of violence.  I am not sure I would have survived emotionally knowing that someone had intentionally taken her away from us.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I send great wishes for a happy New Year.  If you make resolutions, I hope you follow through.  My birthday is a few days after the 1st of the year so I make goals in hopes of meeting them before the next one rolls around.  I did this last year and I met a goal I have had since I was a child.  I wish the same for all.

    Merry Christmas from me to you.


Sunday, 16 December 2012

Trick of Time, J L Merrow

Nice mix of contemporary and Victorian London with wonderful main characters. Loved it!

Trick of TimeI'm not ususlly a lover of a time travel or parallel-time themed books; but I love the arts, and I love period writing. Plus Muscling Through was a really good read. So on the back of those likes I requested Trick of Time. Glad I did. I thought it a terrific read.

Ted Ennis works at The Criterion Theatre in London as a theatre asistant. He lost his family in a car accident eighteen months earlier - his partner, Alasdair, and his mother and father were all killed. An accident where he suffered a brain injury that leaves him with a few problems. He can slur his speech, have bad headaches and blackouts from time to time. Not to mention the grief he has that  comes from such a loss. Ted enjoys his job but sometimes he likes/needs to go outside and have a cigarette. Whilst the night's performance is under way for the Cri's latest production, Wild Oats, Ted  takes the opportunity for a smoko. When he steps out for his usual Gauloise it's not the bright lights of a modern Piccadilly Circus but a darker lamplit Victorian-era London that he finds. Ted believes that Rob, his late partner's friend and Ted's boss, is playing a trick on him with some sort of Dickens revival. However the more he looks the more 'elaborate' it all appears -

I shouldered through the heavy front door, popping a cigarette in my mouth...and found Piccadilly Circus full of ghosts.

And the more it appeals to a man who has lost so much -

I'd always thought there ought to be something more, something beyond this shallow world of fragile lives and shattered dreams.
Jem is a rent boy in 1886 Picadilly Circus. He has a larrikin's attitude but he is a rent boy with so much heart. His cockney accent, his acceptance of Ted, his sweet outlook, given things he's been through, and how he makes a living, were so endearing. Jem was everything Ted needed - someone to take contol, to a certain degree, help him come out the other side of loss and want to live again. When Ted first sees Jem leaning on a lamppost he is besotted. Jem is attractive, albeit in threadbare clothes -

He was a pared-down Lord Alfred Douglas, the highborn beauty who'd brought a playwright to his knees. 

Jem quite obviously assumes that Ted wishes to avail himself of his services and is happy to oblige  down a dark lane. After their intial 'encounter' both men get to know each other during short nightly interludes which are very sweet and also steamy at times. Ted goes to great lengths, duing 21st century time, to be able to find a way of paying Jem, in Victorian times, so Jem can buy a meal and have a better life. Then one evening Ted seems stuck in Jem's time, and they learn much more about one another. It goes beyond sex and payment. You know both men have the strongest feelings for one another and want to share more time together. But how?

What I Liked -

Ted Ennis and Jem Pocket. I've only read one other J L Merrow book, Muscling Through, and I remember the two MC's in that book to be totally endearing. I had the same experience with Trick of Time's two MC's. I loved Ted and Jem - their sweetness and their ordinary ways in an extraordinary situation of parallel time periods. Call it time travel if you like.

The sex to story ratio was excellent with plenty of plot and storyline, but when Ted and Jem were together it was a lovely mix of sweet and steamy. It was just right.

I loved the references to both times in London, especially the 1880's. Ms Merrow really brought this time to life - the smells, the grit, the coal dust, the smoke, the transport, the buildings and parks that existed then and now; with a brief but interesting nod to the attitude and language of the time. It was all done well within the fictional genre that it was written in. It was never too much, too wordy or boring. Ms Merrow obviously has a great love of The Criterion, and little features are mentioned which I enjoyed, and, once again, it's not too much, it's just right.

The language and writing were lovely. Ted is a modern man yet he is olde world in many ways. He has a grace, kindness, gentlemanly manners that fit another time when he was there, but he's also a contemporary man who values all that the twenty first century has to offer, including not fearing jail or death for loving another man.

I had no problem believing Ted was in another time. I liked it, I believed it. I thought the way Jem handled it was pretty good, all things considered - someone comes into your life telling you they are from the future. However, Ted had a zipper in his pants, a lighter, and other modern items. It was not a long book I'm glad no time was wasted on Jem agonising over where Ted came from, or how, rather getting to know him in the moments they shared together.

I loved how Alasdair's photo portrayed the emotions Ted was feeling, to Ted. I really thought that was a nice touch.

The whole parallel time thread was well developed, especially given the shorter length of the ebook. I liked the blending of the importance of a current play with a revival in 1886, and another play in 1889. I loved the plays that were mentioned, just little details that are so good. I also loved the poem at the end which tied into a moment in the book, and was another historic look at the times.

I enjoyed the suspense element. Would Ted and Jem be able to be together? I wanted Ted and Jem to make it and at it was definitely touch and go. I nearly threw my Kindle at one point, let's put it that way.

Overall -

I really enjoyed reading Trick of Time from beginning to end. There is an epilogue which helped wrap the story up really well. I didn't feel like I was left hanging or needing more. It gave me what I wanted and I walked away happy. If you like endearing characters, a romantic step-back in time, some nice writing, that flowed with the theme of the book, and a nice is a good book for you. Trick of Time is a terrific read that I highly recommend.