Wednesday, 13 November 2013

  1. On Top Down Under Book Reviews has officially moved! As of August 2013 On Top Down Under Book Reviews is at a new site listed below under "Links." Please come join us at the new visually dynamic site.

There will be no more reviews posted on this site.

As of August 9th, 2013, On Top Down Under Book Reviews has moved to a new WordPress book review blog. Cindi and Kazza K are still the primary reviewers. The new look is modern and allows for much more detailed information on each review - such as page number of the book, publisher, genre of the book, rating, buy links, reviewer break down, author break down, and more. Our home page is a cover fetishist dream, with large covers of the books reviewed - front and centre - on our home page. Simply hover over a cover for the abbreviated information or click on the cover to enter the full review. There is a link to our Facebook page, and for those who like it a bit raunchier, our tumblr page.
To Join Our New Site:

If you look at the bottom right of screen on the new site you will see a "Follow" pop-up. If you would like to follow us, and we hope you will, please add your email address there and confirm with the email that follows it up. It is discreet, your name is not displayed anywhere, and you will receive a condensed digest of the books reviewed all in one email.
Also, On Top Down Under Book Reviews will be celebrating our one year anniversary on October 6, 2013. We are very proud of this milestone. More on that will be posted as we move closer to that date.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, email us at the address below or click our pictures on the right of this post and send us an individual Goodreads message or contact us  at . Any and all email addresses given will remain confidential. We go to great lengths to keep our own personal information private and respect the need for privacy and anonymity.

We are excited to see what is in store for On Top Down Under Book Reviews in the coming years. We look forward to sharing that growth with you, our members. Thank you for your support of this blog and we hope it continues to the new one.

Cindi and Kazza K

Friday, 9 August 2013

On Top Down Under Has Moved.


  On Top Down Under Book Reviews has officially moved!

There will be no more reviews posted on this site.

As of August 9th, 2013, On Top Down Under Book Reviews has moved to a new WordPress book review blog. Cindi and Kazza K are still the primary reviewers. The new look is modern and allows for much more detailed information on each review - such as page number of the book, publisher, genre of the book, rating, buy links, reviewer break down, author break down, and more. Our home page is a cover fetishist dream, with large covers of the books reviewed - front and centre - on our home page. Simply hover over a cover for the abbreviated information or click on the cover to enter the full review. There is a link to our Facebook page, and for those who like it a bit raunchier, our tumblr page.
To Join Our New Site:

If you look at the bottom right of screen on the new site you will see a "Follow" pop-up. If you would like to follow us, and we hope you will, please add your email address there and confirm with the email that follows it up. It is discreet, your name is not displayed anywhere, and you will receive a condensed digest of the books reviewed all in one email.
Also, On Top Down Under Book Reviews will be celebrating our one year anniversary on October 6, 2013. We are very proud of this milestone. More on that will be posted as we move closer to that date.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, email us at the address below or click our pictures on the right of this post and send us an individual Goodreads message or contact us  at . Any and all email addresses given will remain confidential. We go to great lengths to keep our own personal information private and respect the need for privacy and anonymity.

We are excited to see what is in store for On Top Down Under Book Reviews in the coming years. We look forward to sharing that growth with you, our members. Thank you for your support of this blog and we hope it continues to the new one.

Cindi and Kazza K

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Love Comes in Darkness (Senses #2) by Andrew Grey

"You're not funny, Uncle Howard. You're special, like Daddy Patrick. He doesn't talk, but he uses his hands to speak. You're blind, but you use your hands to see." - Hanna

- Review by Cindi

5 out of 5 stars

Love Comes in Darkness
Howard Justinian is blind and has always had to fight for his independence. It started with his parents (most notably his mother) then went on to his sister and then others. Sure, he's blind but he didn't want to have to depend on other people for the rest of his life so he went to college, graduated, moved to his own place, started a very lucrative business and lived his life according to Howard, not anyone else. He has great friends, Ken and Patrick (and their little girl), and he doesn't want for anything. He admits to needing help on occasion but he doesn't need to be coddled. Just let him live his life according to Howard and he'll be just fine.  

Howard has been in a relationship with Cedric, a neighbor, for a few months. Cedric has always been all about control and has spent the entire relationship trying to control every aspect of Howard's life from day-to-day things to what goes on in the bedroom. While on the way to a party at Ken and Patrick's house there is an argument between the two men (once again about Cedric's control issues) and in a fit of anger, Cedric pulls the car over and leaves Howard on the side of the road completely helpless.  

"You think you're so independent and don't need me, then you can find your own way to the party. Now open the damn door and get the hell out."
"Are you serious?" Howard asked, scared.
"Get the fuck out!" Cedric screamed, and suddenly Howard was more afraid of Cedric than anything else.

Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, Gordon Jarrett (Gordy), he is kept safe until Ken and Patrick arrive. It turns out that the party had been rescheduled and that Cedric knew this. He left Howard helpless as an act to finally get him to see things his way. Thankfully, Cedric had already shown his true colors before this incident so the relationship had already ended, at least in Howard's eyes.

The next day Howard gets the chance to see Gordy again and this starts the slow build of a new relationship. Gordy has his own issues from his past but he still moves forward in order to build something with Howard. There is a bit of stubbornness on both men's parts (Howard's especially) but after a misunderstanding and facing a few fears the two begin dating, which leads to a sexual relationship. Howard is still fiercely independent but yet he allows Gordy to help when he can. The introduction of service dog, Token, makes his life even easier. 

The reader is introduced to Howard's sister Lizzy and her six-year-old little girl, Sophia. Sophia is a treat immediately. She adores her "Uncle Howie" and his blindness means nothing to the little girl. Lizzy, on the other hand, is the typical protective sister who only wants what is best for her brother and sometimes her tone comes across as mean but the reader can easily see that it is all out of love.

As Howard and Gordy are working on building their relationship, tragedy happens and Howard loses his sister. He is listed in her will as the guardian for Sophia which terrifies him, with good reason. He is blind. He can barely take care of himself. How can he take care of a six-year-old little girl? And what about Gordy? His dependence on Gordy is bad enough but what happens to their relationship when a little girl is brought into the mix?  They haven't been together long enough for the "L" word to even be spoken so Howard is convinced that Gordy will disappear because of Howard's added responsibilities. During a couple of pages there I could see where Howard was coming from because of Gordy's actions. But this is Andrew Grey and we know he will give us the happily-ever-after even if it takes a little while for the two men to get their act together.  With everything, one thing the reader knows is that Howard and Gordy love each other deeply and that they want to be together for the long haul. It takes some time to get to that point but when they do it is well-earned. I fell in love with Gordy immediately.  Howard as well though I wanted to bop him in the head a few times because of his stubbornness. Token is the perfect service dog and companion. Sophia is written as a typical six-year-old little girl and I simply adored her.

Your heart will break over the loss of Lizzy. Not only is Howard forced to mourn his sister but he is forced to do so while taking on the responsibility of a little girl who has just lost her mother. This is all written very well; the fears, the tears, Sophia's reactions, all of it. You feel what Howard is feeling and you cry for the little girl who is only six and does not yet understand what death means and that her mommy will not be coming home.

"Sophia," he said softly, and she came over. Howard lifted her back onto his lap.
"Where's Mommy?" Sophia asked.
"That's what I need to talk to you about." God, how do I do this?  How do I tell a little girl that her mommy's gone and never coming back?

"I'm sorry, Soph, but she's not coming back. That's why I'm here.  Because your mommy is gone and she's not coming back...." Howard could barely get the words out, and he could hardly believe he was actually telling Sophia that her mother... his sister... was dead. This wasn't fucking fair.
"But she has to," Sophia said, and then the tears started. "Mommy has to come back." Howard held her tight as tears came from both of them.  This time he made no effort to stop them. "She has to," Sophia gasped between her tears.

One of the first reviews I ever did for On Top Down Under Book Reviews was for Love Comes Silently, the first Senses story by Andrew Grey. You can find my review here. I remember ending that book thinking that Andrew Grey had seriously outdone himself with that story. You are introduced to Ken and his six-year-old daughter, Hanna, who had just been diagnosed with cancer. You were also introduced to their neighbor Patrick who had been on the verge of taking the world by storm when he was involved in a horrible accident that left him unable to speak. I fell in love with all three characters but mostly I fell in love with the way the story was written.  While it was a love story, the center was really Hanna. I smiled a lot but I also shed a lot of tears. When I found out that the author was writing another story with the same characters, I was eager to read it as soon as I could get my hands on it.  Love Comes in Darkness centers on other main characters but I was thrilled to know that I would see my favorite little girl again and I was not disappointed. Hanna is in this book quite a bit and it was a pleasure to see her farther down the road after Love Comes Silently. It was also wonderful to see her two daddies again, Ken and Patrick.

I shed quite a few tears reading Love Comes In Darkness. Howard has a lot thrown at him and he must find a way to overcome it all before he can move forward and do what's right for his niece. Gordy is there every step of the way, though he has understandable fears.

Overall, this is an outstanding book. I smiled at the antics of Sophia and Hanna and Token. I love how the author wrote Howard's story in a real way where the reader can feel what he is feeling in regards to his blindness. I like how Cedric was written and Gordy's angry reaction to him. I loved revisiting the characters from the first book and once again being able to see how Hanna is doing down the road.  All in all, I simply loved this book. While you do not have to read Love Comes Silently to get a feel for the characters as it is a great stand-alone, I do recommend it because it is simply an amazing story. Love Comes in Darkness is the perfect addition to the series. 

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Friday, 2 August 2013

A Marrying Man (Sequel to A Betting Man), Sandrine Gasq-Dion

*** This review contains slight spoilers. ***

- Review by Cindi

3.5 out of 5 stars

Spencer and Blaine are introduced in A Betting Man. You can find my review of that one here. Blaine had made a bet with his business partner Kent that he could not make the next person (male or female) fall in love with him.  The next person Kent sees is a bicycle messenger, Terry. Kent and Terry's relationship is based on deception from the start (by both) but it all ends with one big happily-ever-after. Blaine was the perfect bastard. He was obnoxious, snobby, pretentious. A character a reader loves to hate. But he did have chemistry with Terry's boss Spencer so I was expecting to see their story soon and that's what we have in A Marrying Man. The Blaine in A Marrying Man is nowhere near the one in A Betting Man. It's like the author wrote about two totally different people. I will come back to that.

A Marrying Man
Kent and Terry have been together for almost a year and Kent gets with Blaine and Spencer behind Terry's back and asks them to plan a wedding for him and Terry. Blaine is Kent's best friend and business partner and Spencer is Terry's. Kent has not proposed to Terry yet but it's pretty much a given that he will say yes. The "behind Terry's back" thing threw me. Wouldn't he want to plan his own wedding?  In A Betting Man Terry helped plan someone else's wedding so I admit to being at a loss on that but then again, there wouldn't be a story without Spencer and Blaine doing it together.

Blaine and Spencer don't seem to like each other much. Spencer makes it his mission to embarrass Blaine and Blaine gets tongue-tied every time Spencer is around. Throwing the two together to plan a wedding does not seem like the smartest thing to do but they agree to do it because they love their friends. The normally strong and confident Blaine turns to mush every time Spencer is around. In reality they want each other... bad.  Blaine knows that Spencer had been married (to a woman) in the past so he is convinced that he's straight. When the two are caught together in the middle of the day by Terry (when they should never be together), Spencer makes a move to throw Terry off and this confuses Blaine who has been holding onto a crush since the first time he saw Spencer many, many years earlier. One kiss is all it takes for that crush to slap Blaine in the face.

There is a lot of back and forth with this book once Terry accepts the proposal and the planning gets going behind his back. Spencer keeps touching or kissing Blaine.  At first, it's to keep Terry from finding out why they are together but then Spencer continues to do it and this leaves Blaine confused. Only later does Spencer confess that he is bisexual and is interested in more than a ruse to throw Terry off. They begin a tentative relationship with Blaine insecure because he doesn't believe that Spencer really wants him.

There is a nice group of secondary characters.  Some I fell in love with, some not. Spencer has an eight-year-old daughter that even Terry didn't know about, Valerie. I adored this child immediately. His ex wife Vanessa is the perfect bitch and the author wrote her well.... until the end. Without giving it away I will say that I didn't even come close to buying what happened with Vanessa at the end and that completely took away from the story for me. The same thing occurred with Porsche, a former girlfriend of Blaine's (and Kent's too, if I'm recalling correctly). In my opinion, the author should have left both females as they were and not tried to change their characters. It was extremely unrealistic and again, I don't buy it with either of them. 

I love all sets of parents with the exception of Blaine's. Unrealistic again and there is one scene in the book that went a bit beyond what I needed to see. I adored Spencer's, Terry's and once again we got to see Kent's hilarious southern parents. My huge gratitude to the author for leaving out the southern-speak in this one as compared to A Betting Man. That had been my biggest issue with that particular book and thankfully, it is kept to a minimum this go 'round (I was actually called out... nicely and privately... by other fans over my comments in regards to southern-speak in my review of A Betting Man. I still, months later, stand by what I said). There is a bit of joking back and forth between them and Terry's British parents but I found that to be charming. Spencer's brother Slater is an absolute blast as are Casper (Blaine's assistant) and Drakon (Spencer's). Slater and Casper have chemistry so no doubt they will have their book soon. I'm also holding out hope for Drakon and Blaine and Kent's boss. I am looking forward to both, especially Slater and Casper's. Slater is annoying but you seriously can't help but love him.

The story is told in first person with each chapter alternating between Blaine and Spencer. There are issues with Vanessa and Spencer (and the custody of Valerie) that added to the story though (going back to what I said about Vanessa above) I am not a fan of how that played out. It all came together a bit too nicely. The same applies to a couple of other things in the book but I won't elaborate as it would be too telling. There is also a major overuse of exclamation points that I found distracting.

Overall, it was a a good story. Much better than A Betting Man in my opinion, though if you read that one you will not believe by reading A Marrying Man that Blaine is even the same person. Had I read A Marrying Man as a stand-alone my rating would most likely be higher because I actually liked Blaine in this one and I was prepared to hate him, for at least a little bit. I wanted to hate him because of his actions in the previous book. I understand him changing after his guilt over the bet but I don't get him going in a completely different direction. I wanted to see the obnoxious snob from before. I didn't want to see him going from being a pretentious prick to quickly being a quiet "pretty boy" who doesn't have the confidence to speak up and turns into a blushing schoolgirl every time Spencer is around.  I liked his pretentious personality. Granted, I wanted to see him redeem himself but I wanted to see him work for it. Because his change occurred off page in between books I feel that I, the reader, missed a lot of the story. The ending was nice and I enjoyed revisiting the characters from the first book.

I love the cover.

This book was provided by Wilde City Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Worlds Apart, Barbara Elsborg


"I ask nothing of you," Niall said. He'd said that before. What did he mean?

-Review by Kazza K

**Contains Spoilers**

At the beginning of World's Apart, Taylor's parents have moved to Spain. They are selling their family property in Leeds, Sutton Hall, and have asked Taylor to move in while it is on the market and they are living elsewhere. It needs a bit of upkeep and to be cleaned up. Taylor is in a very loose 'relationship' in Yorkshire, but after his parents ask him to come back he wants to help them out, and besides he can run his private investigation business from anywhere. Taylor had no problems leaving his latest squeeze. He has a philosophy of not getting attached anyway -

He didn't do involved, he didn't do emotion. It made life simpler.

So Taylor heads back to Sutton Hall. There is much sadness around the property as Taylor's ten year old sister disappeared from there one day, never to be seen again. Obviously it is something none of them have ever recovered from, her room is left the same as it was before she disappeared.

Taylor loved and hated Sutton Hall in equal measure. He'd lived here for fourteen happy years and then four hellish ones. He never thought he'd call this place home again.

Before Taylor heads back, his parents let him know that a man by the name of Niall is also living at Sutton Hall. He tends the garden in return for free board and has been doing so for about six months. Taylor isn't sure about sharing with someone he doesn't know but soon enough he finds Niall good company - he cooks, bakes, is all around quite domestic, and is easy to get along with.

Niall is one of the nicest characters you will ever find in a book. He is utterly in love with Taylor. Has been from when they were young. Only Taylor doesn't know or remember this. Niall is someone who believes wholeheartedly in love and is very kind and self-sacrificing. I loved him from the beginning and my affection only grew as the book progressed and his feelings and his secrets came out. He cannot ever tell Taylor that he cares or what he wants. He has a year for Taylor to fall in love with him without initiating anything, no matter how hard he wants to. If he doesn't succeed he dies. He doesn't have to be here and in this position but he chooses to be where Taylor is and his chance at being loved in return.

But first things first. Taylor needs to hire a new administrative assistant for his PI business, enter Roo. Roo is short for Roosevelt, her parents weren't exactly the kindest people around. But Roo is feisty and quirky and kind. When she feels down or like she can't do something she thinks of Roosevelt quotes to help her through. I really fell for Roo from the outset.  She is talked into going for the job at the PI agency and has to go straight from her shitty casual job to the interview. Both Taylor and Niall are looking at the lack of decent candidates, people with no initiative, when Roo turns up -

Five more minutes before Taylor heard Niall exhale in frustration, and then the door of the living room flew open and a chicken burst in. "What he fuck?" Taylor gasped.
"Hi, everyone," the chicken said in a perky voice. "Thank goodness I'm not late. I had difficulty getting across the road." She laughed and then sighed when no one else joined in. They sat staring at her in mute shock.

From the moment Roo burst onto the scene I was hooked. She talks a mile a minute, there is often not a filter, but what she says is always funny and always interesting. Roo finds Niall absolutely delicious from the outset but someone like him can't be into her. At first Niall isn't too keen on Roo as Taylor seems interested and he loves Taylor. But pretty soon he can't help having feelings for her as well. In the mean time Taylor and Niall are getting close...and intimate. Both men like Roo but something

always happens that stops them from acting on it. She is getting mixed signals from both of the men so it is confusing. Then she even catches Taylor and Niall in the orangery one night giving each other a blowjob and she figures they are gay. But a woman can fantasise.. However, you know it isn't going to be long before all three give in to the feelings they have for one another, but is isn't all smooth sailing. Taylor seems to have an innate inability to have or show no feelings. Niall has a past and Roo has her own issues to overcome.

The contemporary aspects of Worlds Apart are all well handled and then there are the paranormal aspects of the book. Throughout you learn bit by bit that Taylor had an imaginary friend when he was young, one that disappeared at the same time as his sister. He didn't remember this and there are reasons for that. But eventually it all comes back to him. Niall is a faery and he had his reasons for disappearing. The expression faeries at the bottom of the garden certainly rings true here. The latter part of the book looks at  Faeryland and the world building is excellent. The characters get better as the book progresses and I loved the fact that love is love and that some parents never learn how to accept their children, or let go, are themes in this charming book.

I liked how this book could be termed an out for you, but no fuss is ever made about that. It happens fairly quietly. Yes, Taylor has his moments of thinking that he isn't gay and isn't sure why he is so attracted to Niall, but he fairly quickly accepts the fact that he is sexually fluid. Ms Elsborg handles it all so well - that sometimes we just love someone because they are worth loving, irrespective of gender. I also liked that all three MC's had distinct voices and complimented one another in different ways - Taylor so solid and, at times irritable, but decent. You learn more about his lack of ability to love as the book heads into the paranormal and that changes. Niall with his big heart and gentle, giving ways, and Roo with her positive outlook, self-deprecating manner, and the fact that she helps solidify their relationship. Their ménage.

One of the things I liked about Worlds Apart is that the three MC's  were all well developed and given their individual POV. There was the right amount time taken with both contemporary and paranormal elements. All loose ends were tied up and there is a HEA via a lovely epilogue.

I recommend this book for lovers of ménage, paranormal, contemporary romance, some mystery,  lovely characters and charming storytelling.

4.5 Faery Stars.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Mirror, Bell Ellis

The Mirror

- Review by Cindi

3 out of 5 stars

Vic Ledore, a bartender, is a huge antique buff. He can easily spend hours inside an antique shop. He also feels that he can somehow understand each object, that they speak to him in a sense. While checking out the newest antique shop in town, Nooks and Books, Vic discovers an old mirror that he is convinced he must own even if it costs him a weeks worth of tips. The frame itself is art, with carvings of a war scene with soldiers, horses and even angels and ghouls and gargoyles. In the almost vacant top-left corner of the frame, in the midst of parting clouds, stands a single figure, a man. Unable to make out the face clearly due to age and damage of the mahogany, Vic can tell that the figure in the wood looks alone, sad. The mirror itself is supposedly haunted, according to the sales clerk, and is known as The Montmarche Mirror. Not really believing in an actual haunting, Vic pays for the mirror and takes it to his home. Once on the wall he notices an odd thing about the mirror itself. There are gold flecks in the glass that are unlike anything he's ever seen before. Only later does he discover that the haunting mentioned in the shop is more true than he could have imagined. Inside the mirror, Vic's own reflection, is a man from the early 1800s. A man who is determined to make himself known to Vic.

Over time Vic is able to learn by speaking to his reflection that the man in the mirror is Philippe Montmarche who had killed himself in New Orleans in the 1800s when his lover, Jean, had gone off to war and did not make it back home alive. Vic and Philippe are both convinced that they are..... Vic and Philippe..... the same person as the faces in the mirror are not just similar but Philippe had looked exactly like Vic when he had been alive all those years ago.  All who had owned the mirror before Vic saw the same face... the face of Vic. I know it sounds confusing but in the story it actually made sense. 

Philippe can never find any peace and be allowed to move on until he finds Jean again. Vic has met someone, Jules Cassell, who he himself would love to have a relationship with but Vic is hesitant because he has these deep feelings for Philippe, feelings that make no sense because the two men are convinced they are the same person. How can Vic be falling in love with himself? I have to admit that particular part of the story was a bit on the 'ew' side for me but thankfully it is cleared up later. The closer Vic gets to Jules the more things start to make sense. Vic has been able to go inside the mirror and to feel what Philippe and Jean were feeling but it takes a sudden, drunken revelation for everything to come together and for Philippe to finally have his much-sought-after peace in death.

This is an odd story.  I'm not necessarily saying that in a bad way but I did find myself confused a few times. I liked Vic right off.  Philippe, not so much. I also really liked Jules though he came across (which was obviously the point) as a bit flighty and out there. I admit to having to read the last couple of pages twice before I was able to actually understand where the author was going. While I got the little twist thrown in, I had to go back and check the characteristics of all of the characters involved in order for it to make sense to me.

Overall, a nice story that would benefit from being about fifteen or so pages longer. I do not feel that the characters were given enough time for such an ambitious story though everything does come together nicely at the end. My apologies if my review is confusing but this particular story is a difficult one to explain.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Sonata, A.F. Henley

*** This review contains a lot of spoilers.  Keep that in mind before reading.  Also, my apologies for the length.***

- Review by Cindi

2.5 out of 5 stars

Ian is frustrated. He has a boring job at an investment firm.  He's a workaholic but not by choice. He is thirty-six and has no one to go home to each night so he always ends up working late into the evenings and his weekends are spent working as well.  Even after his last relationship ended as a result of infidelity on the other man's part, he still wants someone in his life, someone he can love. He goes to a bar after work one night and it goes as expected.

The three scotches meandering through his bloodstream should have been easing the tension in his shoulders, not increasing it. Yet even with his jacket off Ian could somehow still feel the constriction of the fabric, as if it were the very thing binding him into his middle-aged hole of existence.

His clothes screamed out the warning of too-old-to-be-cool and yet still too young to be the daddy replacement the rest were looking for. "Twenty-five or fifty-five, anything in between is simply viral," Ian's flamboyant ex used to always tell him.

The night is a wash and he makes a quick trip to the men's room thinking he'll be leaving soon and going back to his lonely apartment.  Only that's not exactly what happens.  While standing at the urinal he is approached by a man much younger than him and within seconds they are in a stall at the stranger's urging. What happens next shocks Ian but he eventually goes with it because he knows that men like him don't get approached for a quick fuck from strangers often, if ever. The stranger turns out to be a man named Jordan though Jordan is definitely not interested in trading info with the older man. He wants to get off and get gone. Ian, on the other hand, feels funny doing a quickie with someone he doesn't know so he tries to make it a little personal. I found the way he went about making things a little personal as needy, clingy. This set the stage for my opinion of Ian throughout the rest of the book I'm afraid. More on that later. Jordan comes across as a jerk in a sense but then again, not really. He makes it clear what he is there for and he has no desire to get chummy with Ian afterward.

"Are we done bonding now?"
He didn't wait for Ian's reply.  He reached for the jacket, dragged it off the hook and handed it to Ian.
"Let's fuck."

"Can I buy you a drink?" he'd asked, still panting from release, still trying to convince his legs that he could, in fact, remain standing.
"Nope," Jordan had said, tucking away body parts and straightening his clothes. "Now you can piss off."

Ian leaves the bar convinced he'll never see Jordan again but life has a funny way of changing things. First, he runs into Jordan at a mall while he's out with his best gal pal Aubrey. At this time, Ian also meets Jordan's 'son' Cole who is screaming in the middle of the mall. That meeting also goes as expected for Ian as Jordan makes it clear that he is not interested. Later, Ian runs into a female friend of Jordan's in a grocery store (who he had also seen at the mall) and ends up at Jordan's apartment building helping the woman, which then turns into Ian being pushed to take something up to Jordan's apartment. When the latter happens is when I seriously began to have major issues with this story. 

Jordan's 'son' is Cole and he is eight-years-old. Cole is not like all other children his age and when Ian knocks on the apartment door the child begins screaming. Ian, who doesn't know this child from Adam, immediately takes charge to quiet Cole down. The way this is done worked to quiet Cole but it also angered me. I am a parent and had someone, a total stranger, grabbed my screaming child and done what Ian did I would be doing more than having a meltdown. Ian would be on the ground and I assure you that Ian would be getting no "thank you" from me for getting my child to be quiet. 

This visit begins a relationship of sorts though I had a difficult time buying it. Jordan is twenty-two and takes care of Cole. There is major secrecy surrounding both and Ian doesn't just try to get to know Jordan and Cole, he comes across as a clingy stalker who thinks it's his duty in life to control Jordan and Cole. I also found Ian to be the type of man who is so desperate for someone, anyone that he would latch onto the first male who looked in his direction.  Jordan does not need a man in his life. He doesn't want a man in his life. He only wanted to scratch an itch at the bar that first night, not pick up a clingy older man who later searches his apartment looking for signs of neglect (in regards to Cole of course).

After all, should things be too severe, as much as Ian would hate to do it, he wouldn't be above a call to protective services. Jordan might be pretty, he might have a nice body and suck a good cock, but there wasn't a circumstance listed that would have Ian tolerating neglect.

Good point and I applaud people for wanting to do what's right for a child. However, Ian had been inside Jordan's home for all of five minutes and had seen Cole exactly twice. He knew exactly nothing about either of them at this point but yet he immediately latched on to "neglect" because the cabinets and refrigerator were not overflowing and because there was a little dust on some surfaces.

"What is it with you people? Like just because I'm not rich or old that somehow means that I can't take care of Cole?"

At this point, Jordan's absolute devotion to Cole had been obvious. Jordan had very little money and he had very little as far as material things but he did everything in his power to care for Cole. 

The relationship between Ian and Jordan is an odd one at best. For Jordan, it seems to be only about sex and this is made known early on, though he does eventually profess his love for Ian. Ian immediately jumps into the relationship with feelings and not just the sexual kind. Ian also has a very bad habit of discussing personal things in regards to Jordan and Cole with his best friend, Aubrey. This over sharing comes back to not only haunt Ian but Jordan and Cole as well.

Aubrey is the token bitchy female friend found commonly in M/M books. Only she takes her bitchiness to a new level and almost destroys everything that Jordan has worked for with Cole. What came later not only made me angry with Aubrey but with Ian as well. Jordan's secrets are forced into the light and instead of standing up for his man and the child he's grown to love, Ian takes a complete step back.  Granted, Ian has a health scare as a result but what about later? When he's better? He had promised to be there for Jordan and Cole but when it counted he was nowhere to be found.  The story then jumps several months in advance and concludes with what I consider to be a very rushed ending where I felt that nothing was resolved except a quickie between Ian and Jordan after they reunite after months and months of zero contact. 

Cole has Asperger's Syndrome. While I could never claim to be an expert, I am very close to someone who knows Asperger's well. I understand that Sonata is fiction and I credit the author for getting specific symptoms of Cole's condition correct. There were quite a few, however, that are not that close to what I learned from my friend who has a vast amount of knowledge on the subject. Because of this, I have to say that the lack of realism in some scenes in this story strongly took away from the story for me. Had I never heard of Asperger's or even known a little about autism, those particular parts of the story (with the exception of a major instance at the end that would not be realistic for a child with or without Asperger's or autism) would have most likely been a non-issue for me.  But as I know some about the subject, they weren't. 

What I liked:

- Jordan. Jordan, while young, did what he felt was right in regards to Cole. The decision may not have been the correct one but it was done completely out of love. He would go to the end of the earth for the child and this shines through brightly.

- Cole, though my heart broke for him.  

- The large age difference between the main characters.  Ian is thirty-six and Jordan is twenty-two. 

- The cover is beautiful.

What did not work for me:

- Cole's Asperger's and the way it is described. As mentioned above, some things are described accurately but some aren't. He is yanked out of his parent's home and forced to go on the run for four years. This means four years without the proper care needed. At eight he has not gone to school nor even learned how to spell his name. He has zero routine. He rarely speaks. The only people he comes in contact with are Jordan, a female neighbor and her child and later, Ian. The way that Cole is described is as a child with a severe case of Asperger's or as a child with severe autism as both seemed to be intertwined in his case. If it is severe then he would not be able to function as he did in this story without proper care and he most definitely would not have had what I would consider to be a 'miraculous' recovery later on... in a span of a few months... by learning how to spell, write, play piano, do a piano recital in front of a loud crowd, or handle noises or situations that he could not handle months earlier.  In other words, Cole goes from being almost 100% unresponsive to suddenly being able to do all the things he was unable to do during the first eight years of his life.

- Aubrey.   

- Ian. The best way to describe Ian is needy, clingy, obsessive, stalkerish... among others. Not only does he immediately try to have a relationship with a trick but he acts whiny when he is told "no". He pushes and pushes and comes across as weak.  Then later he tries to appear as if he's the strong one who should be in complete control of Jordan and Cole. The word 'neglect' is tossed around often in regards to Cole's care when he knows absolutely nothing about Cole or the situation. He physically grabs a screaming child (who is unable to be touched) and locks himself in the bathroom with him, locking Jordan out I must add, in order to run water in the tub to calm Cole down. I touched on this above. Had anyone grabbed my child the way Ian did Cole, he would be picking himself up off the ground and I would most likely be arrested for assault.  Especially with him being a total stranger who has seen the child exactly two times. I will say again that what Ian did to quiet down Cole did work but this mom here has a difficult time getting past the fact that he grabbed the child in the first place.

- There is a lot of jumping ahead in this book. Early on, Jordan goes from refusing to be kissed to suddenly being in a relationship with Ian. The biggest jump in time is when this reviewer needed more detail, at the end. There is so much build-up in the story with Jordan, Ian and even Cole but then something major happens and suddenly the story is jumping ahead weeks and then months with very little detail to explain that time. The detail that is there?  All about Ian. I would have preferred to see what happened to Jordan and Cole during the few months as they were the center of the story for me. By reading what Ian went through during that time did not endear his character to me in any way, shape or form. He walked away when he should have been there for Jordan and Cole.  Never is it explained why he did not do a little research to find out what happened to Jordan and Cole after Ian's friend, Aubrey, brought everything crashing down on them. He just went on with his life and that was that.  Only when he receives something in the mail from Cole does he decide to man up and do something.

- Jordan and Cole's parents. Because of the time jump mentioned above, I had a difficult time buying into their sudden change in regards to their children. Had the author come back with their father being out of the picture, perhaps I could accept it.  That was not the case. He miraculously changed his ways. It must be noted that Jordan/Justin had kidnapped Cole when Jordan/Justin was eighteen and Cole was four, four years prior. I find it difficult to believe that after that, they would all be one big happy family a few months later.

- The ending.  It did nothing for me other than prove that Ian and Jordan's relationship is based solely on sex. When they should have been discussing all that had occurred in the previous months, they were having a quickie in the parking lot. And then it ended. What happened next? Did Jordan and Ian go on to live happily-ever-after? What about Cole?

- The Jordan/Justin thing. I totally understand it and I get where the author was coming from but I could not go from reading Jordan Jordan Jordan to suddenly Ian calling him Justin without hesitation.  Ian met him as Jordan, not Justin. One would expect Ian to slip up once the real name comes out.  Nope, that did not happen even one time once Jordan's real identity was made known.

I want to stress that I went into this book with an open mind once I got to the part of the book about Cole having Asperger's Syndrome. I am aware that this is a fictional story but it is written about a very real condition. While Cole may have still shown some signs at the end, I find that by changing him almost completely over a span of a few months to be extremely unrealistic and inconsistent with what I know about the subject. Someone I care about has Asperger's and I know for a fact that one must do more than Cole did in order to get where he did at the end of this book. I am aware that each case is different but Cole's quick behavior-change seemed to me to be a bit much.

Overall, I enjoyed the story though I was not a fan of Ian from the onset. This, in turn, jaded the rest of the book for me, on top of the other things mentioned above.  I fell in love with Jordan/Justin and Cole immediately. Had the book focused more on them instead of Ian perhaps my opinion would be much different.

This book was provided by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

On Top Down Under Book Reviews is Moving

When On Top Down Under Book Reviews was created in October 2012, never would we have dreamed that it would grow as quickly as it has. Two total strangers, from two different hemispheres, came together over the shared love of books.  A friendship between these two strangers happened first, of course, otherwise there would be no collaboration.  Not only has the friendship grown but so has the reviewing site.

Soon On Top Down Under Book Reviews will be switching over to a new-look WordPress site. The look of On Top Down Under may change but the books will still be reviewed the same, by the same two people with some guest reviewers thrown into the mix, and there will still be current and personal posts as well. Our name will remain the same. Our little reading hobby has taken on a life of its own and we, both Kazza K and Cindi, feel that it's in the best interest of the blog to move to a site with more flexibility and another server, one that is more accepting of the types of books we review and our occasional NSFW photo or GIF. Okay, sometimes more than occasional.

As changes occur they will be noted with additional blog posts.  We hope that our members will continue to follow us once the transfer is complete and that all will continue to support us as we continue to grow. We are aiming for September 1st as our transfer date as our resident computer guru has been working diligently to make everything happen quickly. 

What will change?  On top of having a more professional and inviting look, the site will be easier to navigate as each post will be properly categorized. Purchase links will be in place for ease of use as well as other dynamic more user-friendly functions. Our Facebook page will be accessible with the click of a mouse as will our Tumblr account. Our contact information and submission policies will also be easier to find. The only major thing (other than appearance and navigation) that will change is that each current member must rejoin the site. Once this is done, emails will be sent to members advising all of new reviews, contests, interviews and other posts. Choosing to follow our new-look site allows subscribers anonymity and access to reviews as soon as they are posted via email, if desired. 

We hate to ask our members to rejoin as all of you have been very supportive of our endeavor. However, this is the only way for us to move forward with the new server. Once we are up and running you will see why we felt that it was necessary to make these changes.  

Also, On Top Down Under Book Reviews will be celebrating our one year anniversary on October 6, 2013. We are very proud of this milestone. More on that will be posted as we move closer to that date.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, email us at the address below or click our pictures on the right of this post and send us an individual Goodreads message. If you are interested in receiving an email reminder when the time for the transfer comes, contact us at or click here and one will be sent to you. Any and all email addresses shared will remain confidential. We go to great lengths to keep our own personal information private and respect the need for privacy and anonymity.

We are excited to see what is in store for On Top Down Under Book Reviews in the coming years. We look forward to sharing that growth with you, our members.

Cindi and Kazza K

Friday, 26 July 2013

Deep In The Count (Love Has No Boundaries), Madison Parker

- Review by Cindi

5 out of 5 stars

Deep in the Count
My luck with YA/NA books with jocks and nerds hasn't always been that great. For some reason when I pick one up they are always the same story: The jock is in the closet and falls in love with the nerd. The nerd is either hesitant to date the jock or is too clingy. The jock ends up hurting the nerd because someone discovered the jock's love for men and his reputation is on the verge of being in tatters.

Deep In the Count?  Not even close to the others I've read. 

Brandon is a star baseball player at Virginia Tech University. He's openly gay and has no problem with people knowing.  He is a popular pitcher and never lacks for friends. Brandon is out and he's totally not ashamed of who he is or the fact that he is attracted to men. The girls want to date him anyway. The guys want to be him or at least spend time with him. His jock boy reputation is just fine, thank you very much, gay or no.

His best friend Jack is very straight but accepts him for who he is.  Jack is the stereotypical jock. His roommate, Corey, is the complete opposite of him and the dorm room proves this. Jack's side is a disaster. Corey's is perfectly organized with nothing out of place. During a visit to Jack's room Brandon discovers that Jack's roommate is gay. Corey isn't there at the time but that gets Brandon thinking. Corey is a nerd and Brandon has always had a thing for the smarter guys. 

"Is he cute?"
"Really? You're asking me if he's cute? This conversation is getting way too gay."
"Well, he ain't Zac Efron.  He wears glasses.  And he's always playing with one of those Rubik's cubes.  He's like, off-the-charts not cool."
"I bet he's really smart, though."
"He's a freaking brainiac, and I'm sure he thinks we're a couple of dumbass jocks. Guys like him don't hang out with guys like us."
.. Brandon sighed. "Yeah. You're probably right."

A few days later Brandon is having problems in a math class so he goes to the tutoring center. If he didn't pass his math class, he'd be at risk of being placed on academic probation, which could cost him his scholarship.  Without baseball, what the hell was he going to do with himself? There he finally gets to meet the elusive Corey. It doesn't take long before Brandon is letting Corey know that he's interested in more than just tutoring but Corey is hesitant. Corey has his entire life planned out and he has no desire... or time... to get involved in any type of relationship much less with a jock who has yet to decide what he wants to do in the future. This kind of starts a back and forth that turned sexy quick. Corey's way of 'teaching' Brandon the math he needs is cute and it's sexy though Corey doesn't so much as allow a kiss. But Brandon has a plan that will speak to Corey's nerd side and I have to say it was one of the most unique ways of 'wooing' someone I've ever read.

I fell in love with these guys immediately. It is refreshing to see a jock written in a book that is not trying to hide who he is. Brandon knew what (and who) he wanted and he set out to win the man of his dreams. Corey is not your stereotypical nerd either.  Oh sure, he's a smart guy and he focuses a lot on his studies but he knows (eventually) that he wants Brandon and when Brandon starts trying to win him with something dear to his heart he knows he's sunk.

I'm a total baseball freak so this short was right up my alley. Not only is it about baseball but the author uses baseball terms to help Brandon with his tutoring. There's even a glossary of baseball terms at the end of the book.  And here I thought I knew all there was to know about baseball. I just learned new terms that I didn't even know existed.  I won't dare say which ones were new to me as I'd never hear the end of it from my baseball-lovin' sons. Ah, but not all is great. Brandon is a Boston Red Sox fan (this reviewer is a huge New York Yankees fan, as in obsessed New York Yankees fan.  For those who follow MLB you know the two most definitely do not go together).  I was able to overlook that as it was only mentioned once. :D

There is a great set of secondary characters from Jack to Corey's bestie, Samantha (who lives 1,000 miles away and communicates with Corey via text or Skype). 

The way that Brandon gets Corey to rethink his 'anti-dating' stance is via messages left for him in code.  Corey is studying cryptology so this is the perfect way to be won over. The last message is left for the reader to decipher. The author gives hints and even a website to go to for help or to just solve the code. I'm ADHD so I admit to cheating and using the site to decipher the final message though looking at it now I could have easily figured it out without any help. This is yet another unique part of this story.

I fell in love with this author's writing style when I read another short of hers a few months back. I quickly became a fan and have since read her others. I would have a difficult time picking a favorite but Deep in the Count is up there.  It's funny.  It's sexy. It's really, really cute.  Highly recommended.

Overall, a great short. I loved all the characters and I found the story to be unique. I love how the author made each character 'out' so the story focused on getting the men together, not the trials of being in a relationship with one or both in the closet.  Another great read by Madison Parker.

This was written as a part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group's "Love Has No Boundaries" event.  The free download link can be found here.

This short story was reviewed for this blog at the request of the author.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Wolf at the Door, K Drew.

To say the property was welcoming would be to compare a viper's grip to a mother's hug. The house possessed a furious quality, a silent anger that was impossible to ignore. If a home could speak, this one told me to get into my car and drive away, but in spite of this I stayed.
- Review by Kazza K

Wolf at the Door
A glorious cover.
I love paranormal. It's my biggest reading shelf. I'm also a huge fan of Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, just the tip of the iceberg really. I do love that brooding, atmospheric, gothic romance style. So when I read the official blurb for Wolf at the Door I thought  - stately house + mysterious inhabitants + brooding character + disappearing men + paranormal = Kazza.

When Wolf at the Door starts Nicholas Ashbee is in an interrogation room at a New York police station. He is a suspect in the death of Lilith Blackwood...and he has seen better days. The detectives are spouting cliché lines at him to get him to confess to the brutal murder of his charge. From the  interrogation room the reader very cleverly gets transported back, you get to know Nicholas Ashbee and those he crosses the path of. And you get to see the last month spent at the Blackwood house. It is never written in jarring flashbacks it is always a trigger or some other smooth transition from present to past. The story builds from the focal point at the beginning to the end which is just past the beginning.

Nicholas grows up in the uninspiring town of Constance, Illinois. He lives in a trailer park that is full of dysfunction. This starts with his mother, Cheryl, who has alcohol and other substance abuse issues. He nurses his grandmother who has diabetes and stomach cancer until she dies, and he is gay in a town where "his tribe" is not many. Life is not a great joy to Nicholas and those around him. He has some gay encounters in a tunnel in the local park and he has trouble sleeping as spouses abuse the local hooker at the trailer next door or someone works on their bike, loudly, at early hours of the morning. They exist, and Nicholas wants to do enough to get out of his much despised poverty 

Nothing much was spared from ruin at Singer Trailer Park. Things had a way of breaking down here, not only the property, but also the people. I saw my fate spelled out on the worn faces of the residents each day.

But Nicholas decides that if he works hard enough at school it can be his ticket out -

After my eighteenth birthday, I decided to focus on school and try to drag myself up out of the gutter within which I had gestated.
I was driven to become more than just an extension of my parents' ravaged lives and pitiful mistakes, and for a time I succeeded. Perhaps I was a little too successful in my attempt to erase any trace of where I came from. I may have overcompensated.

He nursed his grandmother - he looked after himself from a young age - so he has a pragmatic career path -

Nursing is what you aspire to when you grow up in a dilapidated trailer park in Constance, Illinois, where dreams of rock star fame and teenage revolt are replaced with far more practical goals.

Nicholas attains a small scholarship into a New York college, Desentia, which specialises in medicine, and specifically nursing. By the end of the year he had done well enough to be awarded the coveted Blackwood Internship. Past recipients have apparently gone on to exclusive, private hospitals and great things, so they are told. So gaining this internship appears to be the right step in Nicholas' career. Nicolas is sick of poverty, sick of being at the bottom of the socio-economic rung -

That's the real difference between being rich and poor. If the poor make a mistake, they pay for it for the rest of their lives, and the world never forgets...or forgives.

Pretty soon Nicholas discovers that the Blackwood Internship may not be as thrilling as it first seems.
While Lilith is nothing if not interesting, Sebastian, her incredibly sexy, and seemingly much younger husband is cold and uses Nicholas to do many things around the house -  prepare breakfast, dress animals killed on the estate, clean, garden, prepare a banquet for Lilith's upcoming birthday festivities, serve at the party, all on top of nursing duties.

Nicholas notices things that are unusual but sometimes so much so that you wouldn't think anything more than you have imagined it. From the time he arrives at Blackwood he feels like he is being watched. Loki, Sebastian's dog, is almost like a wolf with uncanny closeness to his master and aggression towards Nicholas until his master's attitude changes. Lilith is incredibly old yet has moments of lucidity and activity followed by periods of being almost catatonic and seemingly at deaths door. When he visits the woods an occurrence is so surreal he questions it ever happened. Nicholas vacillates between leaving the estate and feeling compelled to stay for Lilith and for his odd and growing attraction to Sebastian. I can't say a whole lot more without giving away major plot and the ending. So I will break down what I liked and what didn't work so well for me.

Things that worked -

It definitely fulfilled my desire for a gothic romance with a paranormal slant.

There is a beautiful turn of phrase and lovely prose in this book. K Drew has quite the style -

Something compelled me to venture into the woods and discover more about Blackwood, a history as twisted as the branches of the dead foliage which bore its name.

My grandmother had always taught me that dreams were a means of entering an alternate world. A domain uninhibited by social formality, where the truths we don't wish to acknowledge exist. As I would later learn, she was absolutely correct, and this series of images that my mind had conjured was no silly daydream, but a premonition of dangers to come.

Interesting characters. Nicholas Ashbee really has a darkly resigned perspective very much skewed by the desire to earn a living, break the cycle of poverty --

"You have an impressive grasp of Victorian literature," Sebastian said reverently.
"I considered becoming an English major before going into nursing," I stammered.
'What prompted you to give up the rewards of literature?"
I suddenly turned serious and told him, "I gave up beauty for practicality a long time ago."
"One should never have to choose between the two."
"You have to when you're poor."

I appreciated the name of the nearby town, Drekton, that was visited for a bar pick-up-fix if so desired. Clever.

I'm a people/character observer so the descriptions of the residents of the Singer Trailer Park were incredibly well drawn. Life in Constance was starkly observational and real. Nicholas' mother could not be mistaken for mother of the year material.

Once the paranormal aspects were written in they were well done. There was a true gothic build. The latter part of the book had some good world building and action. I wanted to know what would  happen.

The ending. I wasn't sure where it was heading and I thought I may have to throw my Kindle, but no such thing was needed. My Kindle and I were both left intact! I really enjoyed the ending and I'm glad it is not cookie-cutter, but it was the most optimistic part of the book and I liked Nicholas' thoughts. K Drew did a great job with the end in my opinion.

I enjoyed the way this book subtly compared the life of those with wealth against those without. It was a good study in human nature and perceptions. It parallels life and behaviour of people in Constance, in the lower socio-economic demographic, against those of the rich in the Blackwood's world.

Even though there is only one sex scene in this book it has definite erotic undertones throughout, which worked well given the style of the book.

There were some rather gruesome and graphic parts to this book. Not often, but when they occur they fit with the story and style.

What didn't work for me -

Whilst I loved the background on Nicholas' hometown of Constance and the trailer park's inhabitants I could have done without other minute details. I believe I read at the end that the writer draws or paints and I would say that the writing at times is done with an artists eye to detail but not so much from the author's eye for multi-layered character development. For example, Detective Anderson, who has a bit part in the book - he is in it twice for a few moments - has everything described from the colour of his clothes, to stains on said clothes, to moustache etc. Clive, who disappears, the same thing. I was more interested in getting to know Sebastian more and I felt that time spent on him would have been a better investment from the writer.

So, having said the above, there was not enough emotional development of Sebastian. This book is purely Nicholas Ashbees' narration, so Sebastian needed some stronger development to shine through. What there was given was good and intriguing, but I wanted more. Towards the end I was all over Sebastian. I am really hoping there is another book to follow this up.

I needed to know some more about Loki, the lake, the woods.

The narrative was, at times, too sophisticated for the MC. Nicholas could look at something and compare it to this artist or that artist, and had more than a basic or working knowledge of art history.  At his age, his level of education, his lack of a parent, or family who would show him these things, take him to art galleries, travel the world,  it seemed a stretch. Example, he knew to compare a guest and his mask at Lilith's party to that of the horny devil from the commedia dell'arte, which suited his personality like a glove. Hell, Nicholas kicked my arse in art appreciation and intricacies.

Overall -

Wolf at the Door is very much written in a true noir, gothic romance style. It is heavy on details, and while I may not have liked all of the detail I appreciated the intricacies and the writing. The thing is, the characterisations did suffer somewhat because of it. BUT...I liked the book so much, and as I reviewed it I appreciated it even more - if you write reviews as often as I do you will possibly appreciate that last comment. Do not go into Wolf at the Door thinking this is a werewolf novel, or that it will be driven at a rip-roaring pace, because you may be disappointed. Go into it thinking very descriptive writing, moody feel, enigmatic characters - bar the narrator, Nicholas. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am looking forward to more from a talented and incredibly promising author, K Drew.
4 Noir Stars
This book was supplied to me by the publisher, Dreamspinner Press, in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Billy's Bones, Jamie Fessenden

This book contains scenes that some readers may find disturbing and that could be considered triggers for abuse survivors. The author handles these scenes with sensitivity but a few are quite graphic in nature. Keep that in mind before choosing this book as your next read.

- Review by Cindi

5 out of 5 stars

Kyrie eleison down the road that I must 
Kyrie eleison through
the darkness of the 

The first time Kevin Deroacher meets Tom Langois he is thirty-two, newly married and has a baby on the way. He has also recently tried to hang himself and has been referred to Tom, a psychologist, by another doctor after Kevin's release from the hospital after the suicide attempt. After the initial consult, Tom is convinced he will never see Kevin again as a patient and that prediction turns out to be correct.  

When Tom shook his hand and looked into those sleepy, soft hazel eyes for the first time, he was struck not by the pain he often saw in his client's eyes, but by the confusion he saw there, as if Kevin had no idea why any of this was happening.

Fast forward three years.
Billy's Bones

Tom has bought a home that has an outdoor hot tub in need of repair. He is given the name of a local contractor, a "Mr. Fix-It" if you will, to call about the repairs. The name of the contractor is Kevin Deroacher, a name that Tom recognizes immediately as the lost man who had come into his office three years earlier. 

Tom debated whether he should call Kevin, feeling he might be violating the professional relationship between a therapist and his client. But Kevin had seen him only once, three years ago. And it was just to get the goddamned hot tub fixed. So he gave in and dialed the number.

There is no recognition of Tom's name but when the two men come face-to-face Kevin remembers Tom well because of his soothing voice during their one and only meeting prior. Kevin is now divorced. It doesn't take long for Tom and Kevin to become friends (not therapist and patient), though it is more than obvious to Tom that Kevin never dealt with the issues that caused him to attempt suicide three years earlier. There are nightmares and panic attacks and Kevin does things that he would not do had he properly been treated years earlier instead of abandoning it all. 

Kevin doesn't remember much from his childhood.  Kevin doesn't want to remember much from his childhood.  He knows that something horrific occurred when he was a child but he has blocked it all out and has no desire to remember any of it.  However, there are triggers.... a song on the radio, the forest, among many other things that most would consider minor.  To Kevin, they force him to panic and to run. As much as Kevin doesn't want to remember he knows that he has to or he will never be able to live a normal life. He is a loner with few friends because he's never been able to get too close to anyone. That caused the demise of his marriage and has kept him distanced from others. He remains friends with his ex, Tracy, but even she knows very little about his life before she came into it years before.  Meeting Tom again not only triggers things for Kevin but it makes him want to have a relationship with someone, a man, for really the first time ever.  Unfortunately, the time spent with Tom pushes Kevin in a direction that he would prefer to not go. After a few panic attacks (one violent), Tom encourages Kevin to see his friend and fellow psychologist Sue for therapy. Seeing Sue is a long time coming but the more his feelings for Tom grow the more he knows that he can't keep going as he is. The two have quickly fallen in love but their relationship is not normal in any way.

Kevin can't be touched.  Kevin can't be kissed. There can be no sexual contact at all. Certain smells trigger attacks. A specific song triggers attacks. 

"We have this fucked-up relationship that feels almost romantic one moment and like we're just friends the next. You don't want to have sex with me, but you like being naked with me and sleeping in the same bed with me. I don't know what to make of it."

"I can't think of any way to ask this," Tom said, "without sounding like I think you're five years old.  So forgive me.  But... you can tell the difference between platonic love and romantic love, can't you?"

"Then are you saying you want to be my boyfriend?"
"If you can handle a boyfriend who can't kiss or have sex..."

This is a hard book to read. Don't get me wrong, it's written brilliantly and it is very obvious that the author did a lot of research in order to get Kevin's problems down accurately. This is by no means a typical M/M love story. What Kevin went through as a child is so horrific that I literally had a hard time turning the pages on my Kindle Fire because I knew what was coming next. When Kevin's memories start coming back I admit to getting teary more than once. One set of memories came back and I got emotional, as expected. Another set of memories returned and I had a hard time continuing because my heart broke in so many places not just for Kevin and what he was forced to endure but the other party involved. I'm not going to give it away but this particular scene is why I posted a bright red warning at the top of this review. You can't read that without getting angry, disgusted, sad. You want to reach inside the book and protect two innocents and kill the one who dared harm them. I'm an emotional reader.  I am also a mother of three sons. Reading this really affected me as I'm sure it has other readers.

There is no miracle fix for Kevin in this book. It is a very long road for him to get where he needs to be and even after everything comes back, he still has a long way to go before he is able to get beyond his childhood.  His mother is horrible and I found myself cussing her on more than one occasion. I mention above that this is not your typical M/M love story and I really need to stress that point again. This is no happy and roses story. Kevin and Tom do find their happily-ever-after but Kevin's past life will always be there and Kevin will always be forced to deal with the ramifications of it. I applaud the author for writing this story real. Sure it's fiction but I know that there are cases such as Kevin's in the real world. Anyone who can read this book and not be affected is much stronger than me. I finished this book hours before typing this review and I am still strongly affected by it. 

There is an interesting set of secondary characters from Kevin's ex wife and her new man to Sue, Kevin's new therapist. His mother plays a large part as does his late father. My favorite secondary character, however, is Shadow the dog, who Tom adopts at Kevin's urging. Sometimes Shadow seemed to understand Kevin more than any humans could.

As Tom and Kevin's relationship begins to grow, Tom wants to jump in and try to fix Kevin but at the same time he is scared of what will come out if he keeps pushing. As a psychologist, Tom is able to surmise early on what Kevin went through as a child because of some of Kevin's odd behaviors as an adult.  This causes friction between the two men because Kevin wants a boyfriend, a partner, not a therapist. 

"No! You aren't trying to help me. You're trying to fix me so you can have a normal boyfriend. One who likes to suck your cock and take your dick up his ass! And if I can't be fixed, then fuck me! You'll go find somebody else."

"I do want to fix everybody.  That's why I became a therapist. Most of the time, I'd argue that's a good thing, but... well, I guess you're right about me trying to fix you so you can be my boyfriend. Part of me was probably thinking that if I helped you figure out why you had such an aversion to sex, then we could have sex."

There is an issue with Sue, Tom's friend and fellow therapist. Sue, understandably, feels that Tom should stay far away from Kevin as he was once one of his patients, even if they only met one time.

"You really shouldn't be seeing a guy you've treated."

"In any event," Sue said, "you shouldn't be friends with somebody you've treated either."

"I saw him once, three years ago.  I think we're well past him thinking of me as an authority figure."

"Besides," Tom added, "neither of us sought each other out.  Destiny just threw us together again."

There is much more I could say in this review but I am choosing not to. I do not wish to type any type of spoilers as anything else I say would take away from the story for others. I will say that this is my first book by Jamie Fessenden and if Billy's Bones is anything to go by, he has definitely gained a new fan. Rarely do I find an author who can write a story like Billy's Bones. It's honest. It's brutally real. It made me want to grab every book the author has released to date. 

All is not serious as there are quite a few humorous moments as well. Kevin has a warped sense of humor and it shines through brightly. Even after all Kevin has been through, he is still able to throw out a funny line or two here and there. He is also quite blunt in describing certain things with an example being how many times he masturbates and how he goes about doing it. Tom feels that by shocking others Kevin is able to take the attention off of his real problems. Tom also finds some of these shocking statements to be more telling than Kevin probably wants.

Someone asked me before I started typing this if the door is left open for a sequel.  I will say yes but I want to stress that there is a HEA. Any future book would (I assume) deal with the relationship as Kevin continues to heal. I would gladly read any future books about Tom and Kevin on the day of release.

Overall, I have to say that this is an outstanding book.  I told someone today that it is definitely one of my favorites of 2013. Thinking back I now have to say that it's one of my favorites of all-time. There are no words to express my total love for this story and the author's writing. This was an easy 5 stars for me.

Note that there are warnings posted by the author before you get to Chapter One. I suggest reading those as well as everything else written before the story begins. Kevin's suicide attempt (that led him to his initial meeting with Tom) is described later, along with the feelings involved at the time. Kevin's childhood memories are described in detail and the reader is not only given a glimpse of what Kevin endured but is forced to feel things along with him as well.  These memories are not pretty nor are they glossed over.  Keep that in mind before reading. There is also an issue that some might find disturbing in regards to Kevin and Tom's relationship as the first meeting was as patient and therapist.

This book was provided by Dreamspinner Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.