Friday, 29 June 2012

Wicked Game, Mercy Celeste

Mercy Celeste cannot write a bad book. Another sexy, interesting read.

- Review by Kazza K

When the book started out I wasn’t sure if I was going to go the distance, but I'm so glad I did. There's a definite quirkiness to the characters, their relationship, their banter, sex, and the writing.

Jaime Dalton is an NFL player needing a PA. Cass Pendleton is an out of work school teacher needing work - it's an economically desirable match. The problem is they know each other from childhood, and there are plenty of memories of mutually shared personality clashes that make you think this is going to be a personally undesirable match. Along with why TF would you do this to yourselves?

Jaime and Cass, aka Lord Ironman and Pepper Potts, grew on me. They really turned out to be a great pair, and I loved their “I hate you” line, this is a phrase very well known to all in our household, so it held personal affection for me, and I seriously laughed out loud at times about it. Jaime asked Cass to lift her breasts for him -
J: “That’s it, baby, lift them high. Oh yeah, Pepper, that looks nice”.
C: “I still hate you.”
J: “Hate me all you want, but you lust after me, and that’s all I need to know.”

And after Cass had been away from Jaime, for a bit of space -
“I still hate you.” He just laughed. “Come home, Pepper, I miss you hating me to my face.”

I liked Cass - her intelligent, independent air, that she didn’t know anything about football, that Jaime was a childhood frenemy who received no adulation for his sporting prowess from her. He becomes more than her employer; he became a confidant, friend and lover. However, along the way, there are moments when Cass is not sure how Jaime really feels about her, how she feels about him. Are they just having fun or is this arrangement going somewhere?

I really liked Jaime. He was self-assured, bordering on painful at times, sexy, sensible, and a guy who loved their banter and snarkiness, that Cass didn’t treat him like someone special, that she was grounded, didn't lust after his money, and had a brain in her head. He was developing feelings for Cass, you could just feel it in the way he regarded her, but were they deep enough, and why didn't he move her into his room? Was there something in the way? Just how strongly did he care?

The things that stopped it from being 5 stars for me were - the hiring of Cass was somewhat expedient, the mystery as to who was behind the scenes causing trouble, was an easy guess; but I feel that these parts of the book were very much secondary to the interesting romantic and sexual advancement of the protagonists. The character development - childhood competitors, opposites, to sexy partners, (with a kink), to actual lovers – plus the banter and the sense of camaraderie were the most central and satisfying themes of the book, and I appreciated this very much.

Once again Mercy Celeste delivers a nicely written sexy, sexy read – lord above the NFL sideline phone sex alone was worth it - interesting characters, great chemistry, no great angst; rather a simmering tension, which helped the book move along nicely. This is, yet again, a different model from the other books of hers I have read. I love the mixing up of themes, characters and style.

I seriously didn’t want work, cooking, family, talking in general, or sleep to get in the way of me reading this book; however, I’m crazed when I don’t sleep so this was vetoed by my (selfish) family. I must say that I highly recommend Wicked Game as a sexy, enjoyable read.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Escape to Love, Kimberly Hunter

Short, sweet, easy to read M/M.

- Review by Kazza K

This was a short but interesting read for me.

I want to go on record as saying I have a soft spot for a stronger male/damsel in distress male combination in some books, and I liked it here. I don't always want two alpha males in a relationship, that's not realistic anyway.

Rory was an older, blokey-bloke pub owner in Alaska.

Sebastian was a softer, young writer, whose ex was, well, a sadistic nutjob.

Basically, Sebastian ends up escaping said ex by going to Alaska, he has a connection there. Once he arrives he's none too well after a serious beating from his ex. When he arrives he's taken care of by Rory and the local doctor, not to mention some caring by the friendly locals. Perhaps they were all too concerned too soon, but sometimes I wish the world cared a little more than it does, so I'm not unhappy with the nice sentiment. Also, there is major insta-love here but I'm OK with insta-love, by and large - it does depend on the book, setting, writer.

Normally I would have a problem with so many gay friendly people in a small community, but it worked here, for me. I used to watch a show called Eerie, Indiana; the catchcry was something like "The epicentre for weirdness in the entire universe" - don't quote me. I feel this little Alaskan town was the epicentre for LGBT and tolerant people in the entire universe. What's not to like about that? It's a sweet idea.

That's what this book is, sweet. The characters are nice, there's one sex scene (I'm a perv, I tend to want more), which is well written.

On the negative side, the word "baby" probably did get tossed out there a bit too soon and, towards the end, too often. Sometimes the writing was a little stiff, editing should have picked up some typos. The book wasn't quite long enough - although that has a double meaning - I liked it enough to want to read more, but plot development became a little rushed near the end. Plus, did I mention I'm a perv?  Hint, hint, I wanted more sex.

I will certainly read more by Kimberly Hunter. It suited me after just finishing a YA book. I wanted something shorter, M/M, with sex, and I got it here. If you like a sweeter M/M book, you're looking for a shorter read, you don't mind insta-love, and you like a HEA, then Escape to Love is sure worth a read.

The Art of Marriage


A good marriage must be created.
In the art of marriage the little
things are the big things...
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you"
at least once each day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values
and common objectives
It is standing together and facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that
gathers in the whole family.
It is speaking words of appreciation and
demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to
forgive and forget.
It is in giving each other an atmosphere
In which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the
good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying the right partner...
it is being the right partner.

Monday, 25 June 2012

The Good, The Bad and The...Something - Reviewing Book Reviews.

- By Kazza K

I've been looking at book reviews lately with a more critical eye, mine, others as well. Some people write amazing reviews whether they be positive or negative. Some people love everything, some people appear to hate everything, some people seem to rate as the book moves them. Then there are the people who seem to troll authors or book genres they don't really like in the first place. They appear to pick things out that they don't/won't like, don't actually read the books half of the time, then proceed to rate it poorly; often with no substance to their rating. Do not get me wrong, I firmly believe everyone is entitled to their opinion, I give mine enough and I'm not entitled any more or any less than anyone else. I've given books 2 stars and a keyboard slap that others have raved about, however, I always read the book. If I DNF then I normally don't review it at all, unless there is something that has really upset me and I feel is ill-informed, insulting or prejudicial. I also try to keep my opinion informed, although there is one I feel a bit of regret about, I didn't explain myself particularly well on that occasion. I believe people should back up what they say when they rate a book with either a 1 or 2 star rating. Also, I don't think it is fair to rate a book containing a) things you don't like, even though the official blurb explains clearly what's in it, but you get it anyway, and then bitch that it's about things you don't like or b) review a book poorly because it's subject matter squicks you out, when it has clearly been labelled as containing sensitive/strong material or subjects that are known to, well,..."squick" people out. I've moved on plenty of times, and not rated, because it wasn't what I wanted. It happens. I'm not going to shit on someone's livelihood or love of writing because of it.

Obviously, it's not possible for everyone to like the same genres, writers within genres, topics, subject matter, writing style, humour, darkness, sweetness etc etc. The world would be a boring place if we only liked the same things and if we all liked things to the same degree. Everyone sees something or some things differently, I tend to find the slightest bit of psychological content and grab hold of that for dear life. I think I sometimes over-analyse things. I read a particular writer's blog recently, one that I like as a writer by the way, who didn't like people like me making something complicated out of what, they felt, was uncomplicated. OK, but sometimes the writer isn't aware of how they may be unconsciously putting down material that is deeper than they realise, but, anyway, that's just my view. Everything is not always analytical for me, I also like humour, when it's done right - but my idea of humour and yours may be two very different things. That's OK. I loved Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, I loved him taking the piss, but there were plenty who felt he was offensive, whatever. That's what makes the world go 'round isn't it?

I'm not a writer, never have been, other than reviews, my therapy sheets, and some other boring and dry documentation. Of course, I now write here at this little rambling blog, pretty much for myself, because it's cathartic. I think it's a pretty hard gig, writing books that is, and I respect that; after all I love to read. I've seen a couple of writers lately get bad reviews for seemingly no reason other than someone being contrary, it's annoying and I don't think it's fair play. Human nature being what it is we do tend to lean towards the dark side more easily. Anyway, I don't know these writers, by the way, so there's no personal connection, in case someone was wondering.

So, here is another soapbox moment of mine. If anyone's out there, feel free to comment, bitch slap me, or add some extra info of your own.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Knockout, Leora Stark

Who would have thought I would REALLY like a boxing themed story? A M/M with characters that are so bloody nice.

- Review by Kazza K

Tyler Morris catches a bus from NY to LA in the hope that Jamie Lewis, gym owner and boxing kingmaker, will take him on as a boxer. He has little money but sets about making Jamie see his potential, including giving him a heartfelt speech about how much boxing means to him. Tyler is 22, spent some time with Jamie when he was 15 at a boxing camp for youth identified as at risk; and never forgot what he learned there.

Jamie is a 36 year old boxing mentor. He takes on those he think can make a go of boxing, as they don't pay for their training he takes a percentage of their future earnings; so they have to show potential. He finds Jamie attractive, passionate about the sport, but he's seen it all before, besides his personal philosophy is one of a separation of work and sex. He thinks Jamie's speech is nice, but he makes him go a few rounds in the ring before deciding on whether or not he's worth investing in.

Reading the official blurb on Knockout makes it sound a little darker/ heavier than it really is.

What it actually is, is a sweet read, with endearing leads that happens to centre itself around a boxing trainer, and an up and coming heavyweight boxer. There's a little 'drama' mid book but it's really nothing. Both men fall for each other and their relationship is genuinely nice, and I couldn't help but really like them both. As a plus the sex is terrific, and there's lot of it - no complaints.

Yes, Tyler's father was an angry, drunk man, but very little is explored here, you just read bits and pieces of his past. There's no great angst associated with it in general. However, there is a nice message about coming from a life of hard knocks and liking yourself, laying the blame at the right feet.

I'm not really a boxing fan and, to be honest, there's not much about it in the book, but there is some and it's just enough for me. I thought the ratio of character development, boxing and sex was pretty good.

There were some minor problems with the book, the chapters jumped a day, a few days, 2 weeks, taking chunks out that I would have liked more of. It wasn't long enough to pull out the backstory on Tyler, that the blurb actually had you think might be there, but in the end I liked the guys so much I didn't actually care. Tyler and Jamie won out.

I bought Knockout for something a little different, and for a shorter read. It filled the criteria above, with the bonus of giving me really nice characters that I cared about, an interesting, sweet story, and a happy ending. Can't ask for much more.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

In From the Cold, Mercy Celeste

A great read with angst, tension, pain, and hurt.

- Review by Kazza K

There’s a lot of pain behind the words in this book, behind the characters. It’s a strong, intense read.

In From the Cold is primarily about two men, Nathan Truman and Quinn Anders; who were childhood best friends, youthful, quasi-lovers, who have let time, denial and self destructive behaviours distance them.

Nathan left home after graduation and enlisted. Now he's the deputy sheriff in his home town, and the Sheriff, Theo, Quinn's father has been shot. Nathan is the typical small town, in denial, 'marry a woman have a family' kind of character. It hasn't worked, and he's fractured as a person. Having to contact Quinn sets up all kinds of feelings and conflict.

Quinn was hurt when Nathan left after graduation. After a night of emotional significance to him. He's living a life many would love, but in reality it's a lie, and without the right person there, he's been self destructivee and hit rock bottom. When he gets the phone call about his father from Nathan he's been sober for approximately 3 years. Quinn is also conflicted about seeing Nathan again as well as the circumstances in which he's going to see him.

When Quinn comes home, he and Nathan are thrown together, there is a murder to be solved, a murderer on the loose, and feelings are running high. Plus, sexual tensions reappear and cravings for substances and sex dog both during a stressful time. In amongst this you get to meet Nathan's family, who you know are wealthy, but they're portrayed as pretty average, caring, family oriented people. They are like family for Quinn as well, and pick up the same role now that he's back in town, as if he's never been away.

In From the Cold is interestingly written in a style best described as clipped, a quick back and forth between character’s POV’s. The dialogue, scenes and timelines move at a fairly frenetic pace. It was good and it suited the content, by and large, but there were a few areas that were positively ADD, without meds.

Both MC’s narratives were pained, but they were different in their delivery. Quinn lacked a filter between his brain and his mouth, Nathan had too much of a filter - 'Nate's voice was rough, distant, almost angry. Controlled. He had control down to a science.' Quinn had little biological parent interaction growing up. His career can best be described as a hedonistic, Peter Pan lifestyle. It swallowed him up. Nathan had a rock solid career, family that supported him, in more ways than even he knew; but he had experienced denial, living in a war zone and divorce, all of which scares the shit out of a person and tightens actions and behaviours right up.

The MC’s were both flawed and damaged. I like flawed and damaged. Although I can’t say I loved either of them - both were selfish, difficult and aggravating – they were, however, interesting and mesmerising. When they were in-sync they worked, but it was hard for them to get in-sync. Sexually they were raw, angry and made sense. I usually have to love at least one MC in a book to rate it 4 stars and above. Mercy Celeste seems to have immolated this pretty concrete parameter of mine.

**If you haven't read the book don't read anymore if you don't want spoilers**

I know people feel that this book was dark, and, yes, I suppose it was, but I could have taken more. I wanted more; post event flashbacks would have been fine with me. Nathan was ambushed, held hostage and raped. I felt the rape either should have happened earlier in the book, to draw out more post rape emotions and reactions, and have it unfold within a more realistic timeframe. It was too rushed, given what happened, it did the book a disservice. Or, because I enjoyed the rest of the book, what I guess I’m actually saying is that the book should have been longer, to incorporate more post trauma development. Things progressed too quickly - three weeks after a major physical and psychological attack, - to be handling Quinn, love and sex, it's too soon. Not to mention Nathan was slashed up very badly, internally abused, and he was on a cocktail of antiretrovirals. That's a lot to process and deal with. There is no way emotionally Nathan could have recovered so quickly. It takes a lot of work with people who have suffered rape, let alone someone deeply closeted and normally so in control. His control was ripped from him in the most brutal of ways. I had a problem with this aspect of the book, but I'm picky about this, because of what I do.

I thought long and hard about the rating here. I enjoyed the book, their journey, Mercy Celeste writes a (dark) book with passion. It's worth 4.5 stars, but I can't give half stars ratings. The reason it's not 5 stars is that the last quarter isn't strong enough from a psychological standpoint for me, it could have been, it toyed so close, but it was rushed. Post rape didn't have enough substance or time to develop like it should have. The writing is strong, but Beyond Complicated set the bar for me, so 4 stars it has to be.

PS: I will definitely read a sequel if it comes along, however, I'm happy where it ended. I got enough out of the ending and epilogue to satisfy me. It was a complete book in my mind.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Double Coverage, Mercy Celeste

Terrific, really sexy menage with good writing and substance.

- Review by Kazza K

Personally, I don't get the need for high school reunions. I don't give a shit about the past, nor do I care about people I knew from school. I'm also not into jocks, so I don't much care for jock related stories either. So why would I buy this when the basic premise didn't fit me? Well, it's by Mercy Celeste and I do like her writing, so I thought - why not.

This book has a bitter undercurrent for the first half. What-ifs ruled. What if I fit in more and had more fun at school? What if I took a chance and climbed in the straight A's student window, having my wicked way with her?

I liked Kailey, liked that she was well educated, was at the school reunion to see what happened, have a bitch, feel superior (hello, well educated) and I liked her bitter, bitchy observations. Kailey's all grown up now, looking sexy, and it's time for her to use that sexiness for bedding men. I liked that she managed to get laid by not just one but two hot guys - a Kailey sandwich. I also liked that she wanted sex and didn't need strings attached. She's been hurt by her ex, you know the type, gets you to work your arse off to buy them an education, then does the dirty. Happened to a friend of mine, so that rang true for me.

Trig lived near Kailey when growing up; at that time she had braids, braces, was smart as a whip and gangly. She played ball with the guys on the block and learned how to throw a mean football. He liked her for her tenacity and the fact she was smart, she showed up a math teacher that had been giving him hell all year. Trig played football, injured himself then went  to college, now he's a doctor. He's also at the reunion.

Bullet is a pro football player with a touch of douchebag to him, a big touch actually. He's currently contracted for $6 million, he's good looking, has plenty of females after him, and says the most smarmy things. I found him hard to like; he’s not my kind of man, but he suited the book and the story to a T. I can handle a painful MC if the writing is strong, if the other MC’s are good, if it fits the story, which it did completely. Oh, and I did like his dirty mouth, he added an extra dimension to their triad.

Double Coverage is not a long read, but it is satisfying. I want to say - frigging hell! Mercy Celeste can write a sex scene or 10, she is unbelievably gifted in the literary sexual stakes. I liked the double penetration here, and I don't mean one up the pussy, one up the arse either. I have a few authors on auto buy, so to speak, that write the best sex, they never get it wrong. Mercy Celeste has joined that club.

All her books are different, and yet all good in their own right. The mark of a good writer. I thought Double Coverage had substance as well as erotic content. The writing started off snarky, bitchy, bitter (loved it), then developed into emotional connections, a secret love or two, and a nice happy ending, loved that too. I totally recommend it for anyone wanting a super hot, well written ménage with interesting characters.

Laurel Heights, Lisa Worrall

A really good M/M read with mystery and likeable leads.

- Review by Kazza K

I didn't really know what to expect going into this book. I like a cops/mystery/ M/M, but Lisa Worrall was a new author, to me, so it can be hit and miss. Glad to say it was a hit.

Basically, Scott and Will are detectives sent undercover as a gay couple into Laurel Heights, a (very small) gated gay community after suspicions about a murder/suicide. I'm not sure that the police would ever allow two supposedly straight men go undercover this way, but the premise was sexy nonetheless so I was in. I like whodunnits plus police in M/M, and this book was a good one. The two MC's, Scott and Will, were witty, sexy and well written characters in general. While Will is (sort of) out in the open (not at work though) Scott is well and truly in. Will is nore conservative about his partners, not having had many, Scott likes the smorgasbord that the gay nightlife can offer a good looking, well built bloke.

I always enjoy a book so much more when I like both oI the main characters, I really liked both Scott and Will. Their banter was good, and I liked their constantly everchanging, inner, pet monikers for one another. Admittedly the monikers were a mouthful but I found them clever, endearing and funny. The guys were good together, even though it did take a while for them to really get down and dirty. The sex was pretty well written and, if you don't like too much sex, you will probably like this book. I can do with my sex a bit raunchier, but I liked the story so much that I felt satisfied with the ratio of sex to storyline here. Plus the mystery was well written. The He of who had killed two men in the community and who was abusing another was well concealed by Lisa Worrall, making it intriguing until the reveal.

The ending was good but I would like to think that a sequel is in the offing as it would be 1)welcome and 2)necessary to conclusively settle the 'who' (yes, it's cryptic but I don't want to spoil it). I would like some more on the other characters as well, including Grace and Julie as they were great work partners for Scott and Will. In fact all the characters, primary and secondary were interesting, including the antagonist. Definitely a good read if you are looking for one.

Books, Porn and Sex Therapy

Books, Porn and Sex Therapy .

- By Kazza K

Erotica is the main meal on my personal book menu these days. I know some people get quite snobbish about romance and/or erotica and feel they're not literary, or they look down their noses at
them. I saw a review recently for what is an excellent period piece, with strong erotic undertones, which the reviewer enjoyed but then proceeded to 'mock' erotica, seemingly astonished that they could, in fact, enjoy this book that had erotic components. There were comments left underneath by friends/people supporting the fact that erotic writing is, basically, for lesser beings (not in those exact words, but that was the gist) - snobs. Pffft, I know what I love, I love good writing and there are some wonderful authors in this genre who could write rings around some of the so called literary giants. There are some shockers too, and some inbetweeners, the same as everything else out there. Also romance and erotica have great therapeutic value. I guess these reviewers/commenters didn't think that through too much.

Apart from my own reading enjoyment, I use the books I read as a resource in sex therapy. Every couple who does relationship counselling with me does sex therapy, because where there are relationship problems there are fractures in the bedroom. Knowing the market and the books out there enables me to discuss in depth what they might personally enjoy. Romance and erotica can be a marital aid, like sex toys, porn, and visual erotica. Women, in particular, are not always as open to watching porn as a marital aid, and if they are, they generally prefer a story to get them in the mood. Most porn studios don't really do stories, as their primary demographic is male, and men want action. Plus, there is often girl on girl action in porn and, unless the women I'm seeing are bi, this doesn't always go down well. If they are lesbian then the extra male bits are generally not welcome. So that leaves us with books that are romantic, for the more romantically inclined client, to erotica, for the client wishing for a bit more zing. With Romance the emphasis is on sexual tension and passion that may or may not be fully explored, there is often a strong hero and a female, or potential mate, that is perhaps a little submissive or sometimes they are kick-arse, strong and capable, all are available. Kissing and kinder sex is the order of the day in romance and there are many books that cater from the lighter romantic through to the more stimulating. Within erotica you have spicier sexual encounters there for the offing. From BDSM light, BDSM ramped up, uber-alpha males, sex captives, dangerous or thrilling encounters, menages with two men for every woman, women on women, men on men - you name it, erotic books have got you covered. I have helped many a client buy a book because I know them, what they like, and we work together re: what will work best for them. I can honestly say that a couple of books, in particular, have been recommended 100's of times to couples. Obviously, this is not the only therapy that I use for sex therapy, but it's one of the many resources that are available to me, and I'm a good therapist if I actually know what the hell I'm talking about.

Bottom line? Romantic, erotic books are a great tool for therapists to utilise, to rcommend, they're wonderful for couples. Once a day for an hour, or a couple of times a week, a couple can cuddle up in bed together and one can read out loud, either the whole book or just the 'interesting' bits, and the other can enjoy whatever parts they're interested in. It's nice couple bonding time, beats sitting in front of the television ignoring one another, using the ads as 'time to talk' - no! - or not communicating at all, which is very, very bad.

I tell all my clients that pleasurable thoughts and feelings about sex are crucial to fan the flames of desire. If you feel that sex is a waste of time then nothing will change for the better. I also say that you need to make a concerted effort to think pro-sex and that engaging in positive activities or fantasies about sex will increase your motivation to be sexual. Often, the most exciting fantasies are the taboo ones –fantasies about sex with someone of the same gender, someone famous, threatening,  powerful, or even paranormal are not uncommon. Reading books that set the mood definitely helps. Something romantic and erotic helps to stimulate you in a positive way.

So there it is, my blog on books, porn and sex therapy. You see it all ties in, it's practical, and besides, I like to think of my reading as luxurious research.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ads that will never be seen again.

What can one say.

I love the Sydney City Roosters

By Kazza K

I have supported the Sydney City Roosters for over 40 years, through the good and the bad. This year the not so good, but I live in hope. I become a passionate maniac when we play, as does my daughter, and if we lose, my son, husband and my daughter's partner all retreat for a while, until we pull in our horns.

We are the glamour side of the NRL and much maligned at times because of it, people love to hate us. In the second picture is the fabulous Anthony Minichiello, my favourite player and, so far, a lifer for us. He is supporting breast cancer awareness with the pink on our jersey. A very worthy casue and I'm happy the boys get behind it. Also, looking at the Jersey, I always find myself laughing at the Roosters major sponsor, Steggles, its business is the sale of chicken meat. Hmmm, not so good given the way the guys are playing this year.

Go the mighty red white and blue Roosters.

Continental Divide, Lisa Worrall, Laura Harner

Good mystery, good pairing, good mix of British and American. Waiting for the sequel.

- Review by kazza K

This book was just what I was looking for - M/M, more than a novella or short story, engaging characters, hot sex, crime, and something to make me emotionally invested and involved.
I know this is a co-write between Lisa Worrall and Laura Harner and, I must say, it was seamless. I have read Lisa Worrall before and I truly enjoy her writing style and I loved Continental Divide.
The two MC's are hot independently and smoking together. Their combined chemistry had my Kindle melting. This, for me, is a big plus.

James (Jamie) Mainwaring is an Earl, 87th in line to the throne, and while he enjoys the finer things in life, like plush hotels and fine dining, he is not a snob. Much to his mother's chagrin, he is a police officer, and gay, who has worked his way up to Inspector. He now has several baffling case files on young boys that have completely disappeared in London. Jamie is a fabulous character - sexy, worldy, comfortable with who he is, kind, communicative and professional.

Detective Remington is from Arizona - you don't actually know whether Remington is his first or last name for some time thoughout the book. Jamie comes up with some....inventive names for him throughout. Remy has been investigating the disappearance of local boys in and around Phoenix. He believes police or other officials may be involved and does not like, what he perceives as, the uncaring or incompetent behaviour of his peers/superiors. Remy does a check on the internet, bypassing his captain, to look into other similar cases on a global scale, thus attracting the attention of Interpol. Remy is gruff, painfully uncommunicative, sexy, has baggage and is slow to let people in but is loyal once they are.

Needless to say Detective Remington and Inspector Mainwaring are thrown together to investigate the missing boys. It seems there are more than those in their respective jurisdictions and they have been recruited to investigate further, as partners. I felt for Jamie when he had to develop a cover to join Interpol's human trafficking team.  In effect it isolates him from his mother because of his 'scandalous' public, gay, behaviour to make his, soon to be, undercover persona believable. Remy also has his own (private) demons to fight that the case digs up.

I liked the humour in this book, it was subtle, just right for the style/subject matter of the book. I liked the British-isms and the American-isms. They were appropriate for who was speaking, where they were and who they were with at the time. The fact that Jamie is an Earl gives him access to things that others could only dream of when required for the investigation, that was pitch perfect for the plot. I liked the subject matter, young boys disappearing, patterns emerging of disenfranchised youths whom no-one cared about, just gone. The fact that the characters took the investigation seriously, that it wasn't just a vague plot to throw a lot of romance and sex around, was well done. Also, sadly, that human trafficking is a timely topic making the novel feel real and contemporary. I liked the (psychologically appropriate) misunderstandings between the MC's, primarily because of Remy and his 'secretive' past. Plus, a few little jealousies came to the fore by way of both characters deepening feelings for one another. I had no problems with knowing, approximately half way through, who was involved in the disappearances. It was interesting watching how Jamie and Remy went about the case, whilst enjoying their burgeoning relationship and trying to get a handle on the enigmatic Remy. Plus, it was hot being a voyeur to Jamie and Remy's sexual interplay. There were really interesting secondary characters galore, Miggy comes to mind first and foremost and let's not forget quirky little Yardly.

I know some readers get peeved when there is no HEA. So.....please beware, this book does not end in a HEA, nor in a HFN. Not everything is left in limbo though. The case wraps up, the characters debrief and Jamie and Remy, sadly but necessarily, go their separate ways. Personally, I liked the way it ended it fit the book. Remy has a backstory that was, I'm gathering, purposely not fleshed out in this book and, I'm assuming, will continue into the next one. I hope so, because I will be righteously pissed if there is not a continuation of these wonderful characters. I want, nay must know more. Does Jamie sort out his family upheaval? Who is Remy talking to? What happens with Miggy and his case? For God's my men get their HEA?

I very much recommend reading Continental Divide, it is well written, smart, timely and enjoyable from beginning to end. Although, I'm begging....please give me more.

Beauty (A Faery Story # 3), Sophie Oak

The best of this series. It's Sophie Oak so....

- Review by Kazza K

Another terrific read from Sophie Oak. I'm not into Fae, at all, but I enjoyed this series because of the fun, the symbiotic twins (books 1 & 3) and their relatives and friends; but especially for the kick-arse women. This was the best book of the series for me.

This book brings A Faery Story full circle - there is closure for Meg, who came from the Earth Plane and ended up as the consort of exiled Kings-in-waiting of the Seelie, Cian and Beck Finn. Also, for the despot, Torin, who plotted and took the crown from the rightful members of the Finn family.

Beauty is about Bronwyn Finn and her time trapped on the Seelie plane with Gillian, the sister of Lach and Shim McIver, royal heirs of the Unseelie Plane. Both women were away from their respective families and didn't know how they were, if they were alive. It is also about Lach and Shim, symbiotic twins, who had bonded with Bronwyn Finn when it was thought she died during Torin's coup. Bronwyn had an incredibly strong connection with Lach and Shim, from when she was 5 years of age on, even though they were on different planes; and as the matured, they grew to love one another from afar. Bronwyn thought the Dark Ones, as she called them, were figments of her imagination and dreams, so did every one around her. The twins knew she was real. This book is theirs and they have a great bond and love together, which has to weather much. I have to say the women were out in force in this book - Kaja was loyal and strong, Bronwyn developed incredible powers and strength from within. She then rallied the Seelie Plane to move towards liberty.

Beauty is well written with primary appearances by Dante and Kaja, plus Gillian and Roan. There really is a cast of many, including cameos from the alternate town of Bliss, or Aoibhneas on this plane.

There is plenty of fun and Sophie Oak humour, such as when Lach tried to pull a caveman moment with Bronwyn -

"You're with your mates. Is there a reason you're hiding those breasts? They belong to me, and I want to see them." And her dream men were suddenly unreasonable pricks.

And when sex was on the agenda, Bronwyn was overwhelmed by male anatomy -

There was something about Gillian she needed to remember, but she couldn't quite catch it, and she kept getting distracted by man parts. They were everywhere, and neither man seemed willing to do a thing about it. "Shouldn't you cover those things up?"...Shim smiled..."I don't want to cover it up. I'd really rather use it on you, love."

This book is hard to review without giving too much away, but the writing is ambitious and strong on lore characters and themes. I also want to say that I personally liked one of the messages I picked up on in this story - of others getting along no matter where they're from, who they are, or what they look like.

Finally, just know it's Sophie Oak, so it's well written and interesting, it's romantic but erotic, there is a small BDSM component to it, and there are some sad and sweet moments as well. Pretty hard combination to get right across the board, but in Beauty it is very right and very satisfying.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Delaneys And Me (The Delaneys # 1), Anne Brooke

Small but refreshing and intriguing.

- Review by Kazza K

Quick, witty, sexy (who doesn't like a captive sex scenario). Sometimes size doesn't matter. Really. This may be short but it's all quality.

Anne Brooke has the most delightful turn of phrase and it's a pleasure to read something so well written and edited. Mark and Johnny - well, they're like (sexy) Kray twins.

Loved it, now on to the next installment.

Entertaining The Delaneys (The Delaneys # 2), Anne Brooke

Witty, charming. I love 'my' boys.

- Review by Kazza K

Hard to write this review eloquently as my brain is short-circuiting. It's due in equal parts to the delicious dialogue and the fabulous sexual dynamic between Liam and, possibly, my favourite twins, Mark and Johnny.

Entertaining the Delaneys takes over from The Delaneys And Me beautifully. The lads 'relationship' is developing interestingly and it's very, very intriguing and hot.

I could go on but I won't, it's all been said by others, and it is a short read after all. I just want to say if you like menage, BDSM, Master-slave components to a book, as well as exhibitionism and voyeurism, then jump on board because it's all here. And it's so darn witty as well. When Liam is asked by Mark whether he could entertain Mark, Johnny and a business associate Liam replied -

"Well, I was no Jude Law but I could probably out-drama-queen Graham Norton on a good day."

Along with Liam trying to appease Mark after a unsolicited comment that feulled Marks...tempermental side, Liam pointed out quickly -

"I mean look at you: you're seriously hot. And you're twins, too. God it's like gay heaven."
Thank you Liam, I couldn't have said it better.

The Art of The Delaneys (The Delaneys # 3), Anne Brooke

The Delaneys are developing.

- Review by Kazza K

Dodgy art dealings, Liam tied to a desk, and liking it, Johnny being the conduit between the twins and Liam, and Mark's ever sexy kisses.

The Art of the Delaneys is, yet again, witty, entertaining and the characters are slowly developing, amongst the sex, hey, no complaints from me.

I love that everyone in Liam's life is dominant, including, Melissa, his boss. He doesn't mind, he is pretty good at being submissive; his mother always told him to blend, so he's being an obedient boy, really.

Another good read. On to Dating The Delaneys now.

Dating The Delaneys (The Delaneys #4), Anne Brooke

It gets better and better with The Delaneys and Liam.

- Review by Kazza K

I swear I will never look at Four Weddings and a Funeral the same again. I've heard of making out in the back row but, bloody hell, the Delaney twins, and Liam, take it to a whole new level. Nothing like having sex in a movie theatre and taking an armrest off a chair to make sure your menage is accomodated - 'I smiled up at the Delaneys. Sod the film. This might just be my best date ever'. I agree Liam.

The twins are attempting to date Liam, Johnny has to keep reminding Mark "we're on a date". As of the end of The Art Of The Delaneys we know a six week dating trial period's been tabled; to see how things work out. The Delaneys "don't do love" so this is their way of reaching out, caring. I love the subtle, yet unique, little personality traits of Mark and Johnny - Johnny more tactful, Mark more blunt, Johnny more responsive, Mark more reactive and high maintenance in a minimalist way. I do love them. Liam works hard, but he gets his rewards - 'Sexual punishment versus a date with the twins followed by sexual punishment. As Melissa liked to say, it was a win-win situation.'

Dating the Delaneys got me back into a pet love - exhibitionism - God bless you boys (and Anne Brooke). BDSM was at the fore, as well as some good old, mind blowing, M/M sex. The fourth installment continued to be witty, sexy, charming, wicked and nothing if not very interesting. Please let there be more of my lads, I love them. Goodness knows what will happen at tea with mum.

PS: Saved it until the fourth book was read - I loved the covers on every installment, clever, fabulous.

The Delaneys at Home (The Delaneys # 5), Anne Brooke

My love affair continues.

- Review by Kazza K 

I seriously love this series, and I am in total and utter lust with Liam and his (OK, mine as I like to think of them), mischevious, dark twins, Mark and Johnny Delaney.

This time, with Liam having just moved in with Mark and Johnny, he's trying to find out where he sleeps, with whom, and establish the etiquette required by the Delaney's in their home. Johnny and Mark have 'researched' their lover, Liam, and discovered he has been less than truthful about his artistic leanings, so they invite his boss, Melissa, over to see how she can help them 'persuade' Liam to become more actively involved in painting. I'm growing rather attached to Melissa. I loved her 'okay, right, the boys are having oral in the back of a car I'm travelling in, where's the brandy' attitude.
Where else but this series could you have delicious dialogue such as -

“'Look at us, Liam". Mark demanded, and my eyes snapped up. Still, I couldn’t really focus and my gaze shifted from twin to twin, back and forth as if I were at a tennis match. Maybe what they said about cock-abuse and eyesight was true.'


‘Johnny’s tongue could have won Olympic gold if there’d been a competition for Best British Blowjob...’

All mixed in with a wonderfully British attitude, references to Casablanca AND Macbeth, combined with BDSM for good measure. What more could one ask for? Really!

A writer always runs the risk with this sort of series, using the same main characters, of them losing their appeal, or their personalities either devolving or becoming somewhat lobotomised. Never, ever does this occur in The Delaneys. Every book gives the reader just a little bit more of the respective characters personalities and needs, making you really keen on their individual nuances.

I always say the same about this series and the writing - it is witty, charming, clever and sexy. So much is covered in so few words. That's talent. The editing and grammar are perfect, you never have to double take anything.

Please keep writing about my lads, Anne Brooke, because I will follow them to the very end, and then some if necessary.

Siren in Bloom, Sophie Oak

I love Sophie Oak's books. I love Texas Sirens. One of the best writers in the game.

- Review by Kazza K

What can I say to do this book justice? Well, this is Texas Sirens 6, and it’s the best yet and that’s a big call because this series is already fabulous. Texas Sirens is one of the best series out there, irrespective of genre. I love ‘Nights in Bliss, Colorado’ but I adore Texas Sirens.

This time the Meyer brothers, Leo and Wolf, get the 'girl', Shelley McNamara, Trev's sister, and it's been a while coming, especially for Leo.

Shelley is still being dogged by her deceased husband’s criminal legacy. She is also missing contact with Leo, who she grew close to when Trev was working through substance abuse problems. Leo couldn’t stand Shelley’s scumlord husband, Bryce, and offered to take her away, Shelley declined. This book lets us in on exactly what went down, why Leo picked up his bat and ball and went home hurt and has remained distant. In the meantime, Wolf has been getting to know Shelley, at Julian Lodge’s evil, meddling behest, through emails, and is raring to meet her and be her Dom, unaware that his brother has a ‘history’ with Shelley.

Leo and Wolf have not been close for a while and getting them together and sharing the woman they both love, who is in danger, is the main premise. Of course, because the two brothers are not on the best of terms, there are misunderstandings, there is a bad guy, there’s appropriate drama and obligatory SO shootings. Plus there is a butthead politician, sexy guys in the background, aka Ben and Chase, and Logan with his problems from his time as Deputy Sheriff in Bliss. Not to mention the fabulously kooky, pain slut, Kitten, who speaks in third person, loved her.

Siren in Bloom has a more ambitious style, in that there are quite a few storylines/characters being addressed or brought more to the fore, and it's done beautifully. The MC's are never overrun by the other characters, they're perfectly complimented.

Julian Lodge is a stand out in this book, for mine, his lines are clever, witty and impeccably written. After Leo/Wolf/Shelley's 'punishment scene' didn't quite work out in The Club, and Julian was none too happy, particularly when Leo told him not to pitch a fit, Julian replied -

"Fit? Fit, Leo? You were supposed to publicly punish your submissive who created complete chaos with her disobedience. You were not supposed to allow her to turn into the BDSM version of Spartacus".

I’m not a quote junkie but between Julian, Leo and Logan, alone, I could have littered this review with lots of them, but I refrained.

I am, however, a character and characterization fanatic/obsessive. I want characters to be well written and psychologically appropriate. I laud any writer who can write a book let alone a series and keep their characters en pointe. I would implore aspiring writers to read Sophie Oak for her brilliant characterizations, not to mention her character-appropriate comedic writing. Her characters never devolve, they either stay true or slowly develop into what you know at heart is who they should be. Take Leo and Wolf, they are pitch perfect here, Leo as his Dom, psychotherapist self, Wolf as his crazy big hearted alpha but flexible, softy persona. Also, Ben and Chase, they have popped up previously, but in SiB more is revealed and it is just right. Their in-sync, twin bond is still there, Chase’s snarky, paranoid, stay off the grid mentality is ramped up just enough, and a little more is revealed of Ben’s past that makes his always potentially sensitive-self peak out. Then there’s Logan, he is perfect as the young guy who doesn’t want therapy but he’s appropriate to character - not rude about it - but is always trying to say it’s not necessary and does everything he can to ‘prove’ he’s a guy and he’s OK. That’s what happens in real life more often than not.

I must not leave without mentioning the love of my life, Jack Barnes. He makes a few appearances here and the speech he made to Leo about not giving up on someone you love had me so happy *sighs*.

If you love Sophie Oak you truly need to add this to your must read list, if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading one of her books, give it a go. You can read the books out of order, and there is certainly enough information in the book to catch you up but, seriously, read the whole series it’s a joy.

Rough, Raw, and Ready, Lorelei James

I just had to include this one by Lorelei James. I like her cowboys and this was a 5 star read for me.

- Review by Kazza K

So many books, so little time. Slowly getting through the Rough Riders series. My favourite, up until now, had been Cowgirl Up and Ride. I loved A J and Cord but Rough, Raw, and Ready surpassed that book for me. Just some thoughts.

I enjoyed Trevor and Edgard, somewhat, in Long Hard Ride, I didn't like Trevor letting Edgard go but it seemed inevitable at the time. I wasn't sure whether Lorelei James would revisit them, glad she did because their story needed closure. Just for the record, this book comes with a clear statement that there is menage as well as man on man sex. There is M/F, M/M, M/M/F and M/F/M. If anything apart from M/F bothers you, then either think about whether you should skip this one or be open to something different and, hopefully, pleasantly surprised.


Liked the 3 MC's - Chassie, Trevor and Edgard, with particular love for/of Chassie. The sex was hot as, and all aspects were well written, including the M/M and M/M/F scenes, they were smokin'. I enjoyed, yet again, the family dynamic (McKay, West, Glanzer), it's pretty real - there's flaws and infighting, expectations, moments of sorrow and disappointments, plus dysfuction. I loved the fact that Trevor grew up, and that Chassie was a conduit for love and their different relationship. Chassie loved being adored by two strong, virile men. To her it was a vindication of all her difficulties growing up, feeling looked down upon and never good enough. Trevor and then Edgard made her feel special and loved. It helped her realise just how important they all were to each other, she didn't care what others thought anymore.

Don't let anyone else sway you if you want to try this style of romance (M/M, M/M/F) it was beautifully done. Not everyone fits into a twosome or vanilla relationship; and Ms James did the series justice in portraying that here. Nobody cheated on anyone else and no-one was blackmailed into anything, sure, there may have been a big revelation at the beginning for Chassie; but it shook everyone up in a positive way. Chassie's lack of full-blown jealousy, being open to another in her life, after careful consideration, dealing with her husband's past was not a sign of weakness. Three souls that had had a rough trot in life and had been dealt blows by their respective families found their own family. Who can sneeze at getting that chance, and for some a second chance at that.

Looking forward to Colt now, I thought his actions so poignant in the latter part of this book.

Nothing much, perhpas the GFY component withTrevor, but it was a darn good book so...

Fabulous read from the 'pen' of Lorelei James, I am glad she told this story it gave the series a real shot of reality and broadened its scope beautifully for mine.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Trudy The Terrible

- By Kazza K

This is my 12 year old Jack Russell, Trudy. I also have a Whippet, Ted, who really isn't mine he's my daughter's; but you know how it goes, you end up with their pets when they move out, which is what happened with Ted. Ted is a bastard. Let me explain just a little. Ted doesn't listen to you, he looks at you with an expression that says"no, I don't like what you're saying, I'd much rather do what I want." He virtually decimated our furniture when he was a puppy and he used to love to steal things and hide them from us, thank goodness he got past that stage. He will still pinch BBQ chickens off the kitchen counter and suck them down like a Hoover if you turn your back for 2 seconds. If you leave any food near the edge of a counter, table or whatever, he considers it fair game; hang the consequences. Trudy, on the other hand, is the good one. She never takes what isn't hers, gets angry with Ted if he comes near her human's plate of food, and has been known to maul him for daring to defy her beloved family members. Ted barks like a girly screamer (think Ned Flanders and purple drapes), it's sooooo embarassing, he weighs around 18 kilos, he's a big whippet, and he sounds smaller than a Chihuahua. Trudy, on the other hand, weighs around 10 kilos and sounds like a German Shephard. I call her my braveheart, as she protects her family with a ferocity that has to be seen to be believed. She has literally chased Rottweilers down the street. Having said this, Trudy has a fetish that every now and then creeps up from the dark recesses of her terrier soul - she loves to rip pillows apart. She tries to repress this urge, but every so often out it pops, like in this photo. My son was away for a weekend, obviously she was none too happy about this, and she pilfered one of his pillows, his favourite I might add, and tore the tripe out of it. The evidence is above, Trudy was busted red handed but went for the "this is not what it looks like" attitude about it all. We tried to reprimand her for her 'naughty behaviour' but everyone kept breaking out into fits of laughter at our good girl gone bad. I have to say I love my dogs, girly screamer barks, dark, repressed urges and all. They make my life so interesting. Next time I must talk about our birds. One has a bell fetish and one believes the microwave is his leader.

Breathe, Sloan Parker

A book I read a while ago. By one of favourite writers, Sloan Parker. For me, this is her best work. An emotionally deep and beautiful piece of writing. Wonderfully psychological

- Review by Kazza K

Breathe is a beautiful, aptly named book. None of the characters in this book can breathe, not the MC's Jay and Linc, not Jay's family (the Millers), not Katie's family (the Shaws), not Linc's family (Nancy and her 3 children).

Breathe is a love story but it is also a study in abject sorrow, guilt and blinding bitterness. What those emotions can do to people, particularly if there are other cracks underneath in the first place. Cracks like trying to hide your true sexuality, a happy, middle class marriage facade, the loss of an only child, believing you're inadequate, feeling overly responsible 24/7. Death and its aftermath cannot be handled (properly) when there are other things to deal with that are important yet being neglected through denial or dysfunction.

Twelve months after his wife, Katie's, death Jay is trying to handle her loss with an emphasis on what she was - happy, kind, caring, understanding and decent. Everyone else around seems to want to drag him under the ground where she lies now. You can understand their grief, but they are not allowing Jay to deal with it in his own way. Even Jay's own mother is morbidly obsessed with her daughter-in-law's death. Jay wants to move on while still loving her and honouring her memory, no-one in the melded families can allow him to do it. It's hard to fight negativity on your own. Then Jay meets Linc at Sonny's, a local pub, and sexual sparks fly. For the first time in a year he feels like there is something other than despair. Unfortunately, because of who Linc is, their interlude quickly becomes a shock (of epic proportions) and things become immensely complicated.

Linc is incredibly guilt ridden over the death of Jay's wife Katie. It is so sad yet it is something that could happen to any person in the blink of an eye on any given day. Katies's death is nothing premeditated or callous, yet Linc feels the weight of the world over the event, as any feeling human would be inclined to do. He also feels the pressure of his sister Nancy's lousy partners and her struggle to live day to day in spite of her working two jobs and trying to raise 3 children. Linc has been to jail but still does not feel he has paid his debt. It's hard to fight guilt when you feel so lost. He, too, feels a strong connection to Jay but, upon learning who he is, finds their relationship equally complicated.

On top of two men with an intertwined, difficult past trying to work their relationship out, there is the mystery of cruel notes being sent to Linc with even crueller actions being threatened against his sister's children. Linc and Jay feel that the notes are a travesty and decide to find out who is behind them. It is never telegraphed who it is and I, for one, was left wondering who it was until the reveal.

I truly loved this book. Little things like emphasising the word breathe in relation to a feeling or a situation. How things are slowed down or noticed more, which is what happens when a significant life event occurs, things can seem more intense, there can be painful clarity. I loved the main character's, Jay and Linc, they were good, decent men, thoughtful of those around them. Both men needed/deserved to have a second chance at life, at love. Nancy and her children were such a delight, they lit up the pages for me. I loved Katie, even though she was dead, she was very much alive thanks to Jay and Linc's interactions (and some wonderful writing).

Breathe is many things. It is a hard read at times, definitely emotional, a love story brimming with life and passion in spite of the subject matter being covered. Jay and Linc have such chemistry together - sometimes angst, sometimes sexual - no matter what, passion is always there. If you like angst thrown in amongst your romance and sexual heat, then Breathe won't disappoint. Worth more than 5 stars but that's all I can give.

Quick to the Hunt, Cameron Dane

Read this ages ago but had to put this on here as Cameron Dane's books are a great love of mine. This one's so good.

- Review by Kazza K

This is the best book of the Quentin Montana/Hawkins Ranch series and that's saying something as, for me, they have all been a good read. It deserves every bit of the 5 star rating, it's terrific. I always knew there was a dark writer inside of Cameron Dane and Quick to the Hunt is proof positive of that.

First of all, in order to get the most out of this book, you need to like/be comfortable reading M/M, dark psychological content and some fierce/angry sex scenes. Over 80% of this book is not spent in a comfortable or happy place.

Hunter Tennison is Sarah's brother (she's an MC in Becoming Three), he has come back after several tours of Iraq/Afghanistan. He has been stateside for approximately a year but has hidden this fact from his sister. Hunter is a very disturbed man who is self harming to deal with the pain of loss and enduring what humans aren't meant to - the atrocities that go hand in hand with being in a war - killing, friends being killed and bodies permanently maimed. Hunter is a good man who has been through the emotional wringer. He is now trying to adjust to being in his home town, working, endeavouring to fit back into everday, civillian life, but he is not coping. You can't help but feel for him and his plight.

Alex Quick was also made familiar as a secondary character in Becoming Three. He is the head of a multi-million dollar empire of real estate and other business ventures, he's in Quentin to develop land into housing. Alex had a rough childhood, however, a steady constant in his life has been Mack. Mack is ill during Alex's time in Quentin but he is a tough guy and slogs through his illnesswith his usual 'I'll be fine' manner. Alex goes back and forth between Mack and Quentin but eventually Mack dies, leaving Alex to deal with losing an important part of his life. I just want to say that I truly love Alex Quick, he is a wonderful character, he may not be your stereotypical alpha male, but he is all man. Someone who will stand by a partner in their darkest hour and love them unconditionally encapsulates a real man to me.

Alex and Hunter develop an attraction towards one another despite their best efforts not to act on it. Hunter, because he is not of sound mind, and Alex because he's not sure he wants the desolate man that he sees in Hunter. Basically, while they do get together sexually, it is not pretty. Hunter cannot handle love or being loved, it triggers all sorts of self-loathing and panicked reactions, whether that be about Alex and himself or his sister and his best friend. Sarah and her partners, especially Jace, who has been Hunters' best friend, are worried about this 'new' Hunter. Alex develops feelings of love for Hunter which are reciprocated with angry, violent sexual and physical encounters. Hunter will not go and see therapists that Sarah and Jace have organised for him and now believes self harm is the best way to keep him from feeling, but all he is doing is pushing himself further into a dark mire.

I have to say, even though it is violent in nature, one of the hottest sex scenes I've ever read is in this book, in the farmhouse being renovated, bloody hell! is all I can say. Cameron Dane surpasses herself in the writing of the erotic content in this book, it is desperate, but it is scorching. I love Cameron Dane as a writer, she creates and develops her characters with such love and layers, and this shines bright in Quick to the Hunt. Lord she must have had some bleak times writing this, but she shirks nothing and does the topic and characters justice. I love the fact that the book takes place over a year, that the chapters through to the epilogue are headed up by a month. It gives readers a timeline of how Hunter's mental health issues take time to be worked on, they just don't just suddenly, magically go away.

One of the reasons I love M/M books is the writers have the ability to be sexier, grittier and more aggressive than standard romantica (if they so choose) and I for one do gravitate to that type of book. So, if you are like me and enjoy M/M erotica with a sting, then do yourself a favour and pick up Quick to the Hunt for a great, emotional read. I hope that this is not the last in this series because that would just be a travesty.

The Cool Part of His Pillow, Rodney Ross

A realistic, poignant story about lost love, hope and family.

- Review by Kazza K

I went into Dreamspinner, saw the title, and the trailer (which I never usually look at), and I bought this book. I thought it sounded interesting, intense. I wasn’t wrong on both counts. I don’t know how to categorise it, it’s not my usual read. I also don’t quite know its demographic, other than people who love a good piece of writing, and, by the same token, aren’t afraid of (this is code for offended by) LGBT books. Yes, I suppose it does come under LGBT literature, but first and foremost, it’s a story about a person (like you, like me) dealing with life, particularly the aftermath of the death of a partner; it just happens to have a gay male at the centre of the storytelling. Don’t shy away from this book because of that, give it a go, as this book is written by a talented writer - it is clever, gut wrenchingly sad, laugh out loud funny, real and deserves as big a market as it can get.

How does one review this book? Not very well I suspect, so I’ll just ramble.

Basically, this is Barry Grooms’ story. The POV is Barry’s. He is a businessman who owns and runs an upmarket, yet accessible marketplace style business called Great Rooms! He and his partner, Andy, a bank executive are 23 years happily in love. They’re faithful, successful, have good friends and family that either love them, Barry’s side, or tolerate them, Andy’s side. Barry has just turned 45, it is literally his birthday when disaster strikes – losing his partner, Andy, and their beloved dogs, Gertie and Noel, in one fell swoop. From here the book focuses on Barry’s journey through grief and the idea of beyond from this birthday to his next.

The Cool Part of His Pillow had me locked and loaded on two emotions sad/happy, seriously I had close to constant tears in my eyes, even when laughing. So, the book evoked two powerful emotions from me at the same time. Not easy to do, I’m not sappy, but I was this time. This book has a constant ‘blue’ undertone but it does not wallow in misery, because Barry does not wallow, he is definitely able to look ahead, after initial, understandable withdrawal. You can’t move ahead though without sometimes looking back, and he has his WWAD (what would Andy do) moments. It's so hard at 45 to lose someone you've loved for a long time. Andy is actually very much a part of this book, particularly when Barry goes to Key West. Here he looks at how Andy embraced the local culture, wildlife, characters and it was nice to hear about him. Barry goes there to get a breather from all the questions that come someone’s way when a loved one dies and people either don’t know they’ve died or just want to see how you’re doing. Barry doesn’t want to get bogged down describing Andy’s death over and over and over, it’s like constantly re-opening a wound. At Key West Barry discovers that their friends also ask, they don’t know what has happened, and expect Barry and Andy to be together; as they usually are when there. So, Barry decides he needs a fresh start and it's to be New York. There, he knows no-one.

This review could easily span 10 pages if I put everything down I felt was important, so I’ll skim. Barry is an interesting character, at times I see him as superficial and on other occasions he is just so caring –

I would pile high every one of my material comforts for just one hour with Andy! I would surrender every cent I will ever have to bury my face into the neck of one of my dogs! I also know my wishes can’t come true.”

I fell in love with Andy at the caterpillar story (read the book). Their friends are quirky, funny, delightful, interesting and make this book so much better. The best parts are in the dialogue between Barry and his mother - “Your charm came from your mom, not your dad. Where your sister got her outlook, who knows? The collected works of Edgar Allan Poe, maybe”- his aunt, sister and (interestingly named) good friends – LezbyAnn, Potsy, Dee, Gregsquared (two Greg’s in a relationship). I want to give a shout out to au naturel, laid back, Captain Reg and his Wessie – think penis, named after the Loch Ness Monster/Key West combo.

Things to note

This is not your standard M/M book. It is romantic in a wistful, and, at times, almost Shakesperean way. There are some short glimpses of Barry and Andy at the very beginning, then through the eyes of a lover dealing with grief looking back at lost love. There is no actual sex in this book, it is implied, that is it. There is a loose relationship during the 12 month period after Andy’s death. There is no HEA or HFN in the traditional sense. If you are primarily looking for those things be warned.

I would also like to note that this book is very American – geopolitically - ‘Rod Blagojevich had nothing on the literal skulduggery of Key West politics’- notoriety, celebrity and product wise.' Obviously you don’t need to be an American to enjoy it, but if you live in America, particularly New York or Key West, it should resonate easier. It also helps if you have a love of books, theatre, movies, musicals and television, with an emphasis on retro. And, of course, some pop-culture is universally understood - Youtube and other people’s tragedies, internet dating disasters.

There is no doubt this book is a labour of love, Rodney Ross infuses his characters with plenty of chutzpah, depth and emotions. Each chapter had headings and they always reflected the words held within, even the books’ title was addressed, nothing was ambiguous. I have very little to say that would be negative, probably the movie references and analogies could have been toned down and more dialogue with others could have ramped up, maybe it was too American, the lack of decent therapy, but, who cares, the writing was beautiful.

So, bottom line? I loved it and look forward to more of Rodney Ross’s writing and recommend it to people who want an intelligent, witty and real feel to a book.

Uneven, Anah Crow

A rivetting, emotional, edgeplay book. A must for those that like it rougher.

- Review by Kazza K

An excellent read that pushes readers to, hopefully, expand and challenge some embedded social mores regarding (different) sexual behaviours and varied inter-personal relationships.

The two MC’s are incredibly interesting from many aspects – tastes, desires, psychology, behaviours - I was wholeheartedly along for the ride with them both. I thoroughly enjoyed being a voyeur, a fly on the wall of their relationship, so to speak.

On the surface Rase Illium is a big player in the business world, he’s a wealthy man, from a wealthy family, married to his second (socially suitable) wife at the behest of his father, prior to his death. However, underneath the business persona, Rase is incredibly insular, repressed, mired in sorrow, attempting to keep a lid firmly on his deep seated desires, feelings, sexual orientation and needs; until an unusual encounter with a stock-boy from his own company opens up his own Pandora’s Box of emotions. This ‘encounter’ sets Rase on a new and difficult course; one that he definitely needs to take to see whether it can bring him back to life and hopefully make him a more functional person. Even in his 40’s Rase has never been his own man, struggling to come out from the shadow of his father’s expectations and all-encompassing domination. Rase’s father had pathologized his son, his desires from a young age – being gay, with submissive, masochistic predilections - compounding Rases’ continued self-loathing, that he can never do enough, be good enough, try hard enough, be straight enough for his father. Whilst not liking his father and his ways, Rase has found himself somewhat channelling him now in the way he is behaving, with particular reference to his own son.

Gabriel the other MC is more enigmatic, particularly given that this book is strictly from Rase’s viewpoint. You get a marginal picture drawn of a 24 year old man that appears to be from a blue collar background, has studied to better himself, but has seemingly found himself victimised and back at his roots. He appears outwardly aloof in his demeanor and is sexually dominant with a partner that is a professional dynamo, his boss, which, I perceive, scares him; on top of the fact that he is somewhat on an emotional knife-edge about his own proclivities for reasons that are alluded to but not fully fleshed out.

Things that really worked for me –
This book started out with a detached, bleak outlook from Rase’s perspective, the writing beautifully stark, his thoughts were those of someone who was skating precariously on emotionally thin ice, with clear fissures.

(Rase was) 'carrying on the family tradition of being someone who merited such things as assassination attempts. It had begun with his father, of course, and Rase hardly blamed anyone for that. Himself, he did his best to do better than his father, while keeping the shareholders happy, but the cruelties of the economy left no one happy some days, and he was an easy target. He should have minded, but he sometimes had trouble mustering up a great deal of concern over whether he lived or died.’

'Morning came every time with an inevitability that weighed Rase down and made him feel that a year had passed for each night he made it through.’

Through to a more realistic and positive outlook –

‘All he could do was wait; he had no control over anything anymore, it seemed. He could live with it, though, because he felt like he was slowly emerging into the real world from behind the façade he’d put on in order to survive all the years before.’

‘He might have been making life more complicated, but he thought he also might be happier than he’d been in years.’

All the secondary characters, bar the trophy wife, are really 3 dimensional and form an integral part of the story. I really liked Rase’s secretary, Allen, he is a great character in general; a good employee and someone who genuinely cares about Rase, more than just someone doing a job for an employer. Allen helps Rase in many ways, most importantly not judging him, just assisting. His relationship with his first wife, Maggie, and his son, Tarkis, were being re-explored by Rase in a positive and healthy way. He came out to his son first, then Maggie, both supported him and it fit their respective characters, they were decent and caring, they behaved like family should.

Edgeplay is to the fore in Uneven, as opposed to a lot of erotic books’ lighter, more romantically themed BDSM – there is blood play, the use of cuffs, for more than restraint, aggressive use of a belt, including on the genitals, the use of furniture to harm, erotic asphyxiation, plus degradation and humiliation. While the first time Rase and Gabriel interact is powerful, the first ‘scene’, at Gabriel’s, is painfully graphic and intense, particularly given their non-existent personal knowledge of one another, and therefore their lack of emotional attachment and what they do. Their play does inch back slightly after that, but it still pushes the boundaries throughout. It is dangerous, kinky, erotic, brutal and paradoxically touching and loving. These are two conflicted men - a younger dominant who is somewhat unsure of exactly what he is doing, fuelled by strong past emotions, and an older, more powerful, yet submissive man filled with self-loathing; making both men somewhat unstable. They do make it work and by book’s end they’re finding a place for themselves and their relationship.

My only complaints -

Uneven was not long enough, this book would have benefitted from extra pages with more backstory on both of the MC’s, particularly Gabriel. I felt Gabriel’s missing POV was unfortunate because his need to inflict pain, his first encounter with Rase and, in particular, his second were borne out of so much hurt and anger that missed essential exploration. Rase tells us Gabriel ‘loathes people’ like him, but we’re not shown the why of it; there was a very small picture painted near the end but not enough to qualify the intensity of his feelings or proclivities. Likewise, I get Rase had a detached, critical and clinical father, but not enough was given. For example, plenty of people/characters fit into his situation without the need for base humiliation, angry domination and the inability to control a submissive, masochistic nature to the point of dangerously not knowing when to say no; ending up in surgery (previously) for a scene gone too far.

I just wish the book had been edited more tightly in regard to typos. There were more than a few and I felt it did the strong writing a disservice.

Well, this was my first Anah Crow read and it was a beauty, a real page turner, one where I felt emotionally invested in both the MC’s. Given the subject, it's interesting how well others have embraced the characters, which speaks volumes for the writing. If you can be open, endure the harder edge of BDSM, with an emphasis on sado-masochistic tendencies, and you like a strong, emotional, character driven story, then Uneven is definitely well worth picking up and reading.

How the message on this T-shirt makes me feel.

- By Kazza K

Just recently this photo hit my FB page on two separate occasions. The first time I saw it I had an immediate dislike at a visceral or gut-feel level, the actual person posting it thought it was very clever. I didn't comment, I thought  "why rain on someone else's parade" and, basically, I get it -Brokeback Mountain, seminal, mainstream, LGBT  movie, let's have a bit of fun. Then it popped up again this week, through a gay social media site on my FB page, and I experienced the same reaction - I didn't like it, but most comments were positive, people thought it was "funny, cool, awesome, I love Jake Gyllenhaal even more now" and so on. I really wanted to have my say when I noticed a young lady by the name of Terese posted the following - "I might be taking this too personally but I really don't like what that shirt is implying... my own mother thinks that I'm only gay because it is 'cool'. Not a fan of this picture :/" I 'liked' her comment, I really got her POV.

It actually reminded me of a fairly recent interview of Chelsea Handler with Adam Lambert. I watched it because, truth be known, I love his voice, and she stated – “So your gay” which he acknowledged, and that he has a partner now etc. and then she proceeded to say “it’s cool being gay now, right?” I can't remember all of it but she reiterated the fact that it's "cool being gay" again. Adam Lambert let out an uncomfortable half- laugh, was diplomatic but adopted a kind of awkward body language and a ‘you’re kidding me’ look for just a split second,  he didn’t answer the question, she moved on after a moment, but it was a stupid, uncomfortable and flippant question. Let me answer. Yes, Chelsea, it’s always "cool" to be a minority. One that has to be mindful of being bashed when out, has limited legal partner rights, finds it difficult to adopt, has to deal with gay panic laws, has to be in the closet in certain professions, and is currently copping heaps of pressure from right wing bigots in opposition to having the ‘audacity’ to ask for marriage equality. I know there have been some inroads made, but, still it's 2012 and in some parts of the world being gay is a death sentence. "Cool?!"

Which takes me into therapist mode. I've counselled more than a few gay, lesbian and bi clients in my practice over the years, and amongst those 'few' are teenagers. Being a teenager is hard at the best of times, raging hormones, half way between being a child and an adult, expectations, you get my drift. LGBT teens can have some other things to deal with 1) there are the parents who think that their child is going through a "phase" or, more recently, they're trying to be "cool" (as Terese pointed out in her comment) because it's like being emo or eating pizza, they see it as a choice, that their child is somehow trying to fit in, or they're 'seeking attention', that one gets thrown out there a lot. Plus 2) there is often a ton of crap coming your way from peers, family and school, let alone realising you are not what mum, dad, other family members and society says you should be - thinking about/dating boys, if you're a girl, thinking about/dating girls, if you're a boy. I'm not going to speak for everyone, but many within the LGBT community go through a period of self-loathing and confusion for not fitting into society's "norm." If they're lucky they have a decent family to support them through it, or, perhaps, if necessary, good counselling and/or groups where they can meet other LGBT members and feel comfortable and safe.

Anyway, back to the photo, which I believe is well and truly photo-shopped, by the way, but, no matter, the point remains the same from my perspective, I'm with Terese, I don't like it. I believe it sends out the '"cool" or "lifestyle choice" message and I don't and won't ever support that. Am I being narky? I'm sure it's meant to be fun, but it hit a raw nerve with me.

Feel free to add your honest thoughts if you wish, but keep it reasoned and sensible.