Torquere Press


Touching Evil
Rob Knight
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Greg has a special talent he’d give anything to be rid of. After an accident many years ago that left him in a coma, Greg woke up to find that he could touch things and know what had happened to them. Too bad he can’t control the talent enough to keep it from overwhelming him.

The only good thing his gift has brought him is Artie, an overprotective cop with a psychotic cat and a great bedside manner. When a sociopath targets Greg as his new victim will Artie’s protection be enough? And can they stop the killer before he ruins their lives forever?

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Reading Touching Evil was kind of like watching a very thrilling movie on a tv with bad reception. There were so many things I liked about this book. I cared very much about the main characters. There were moments when I flapped my hands and squealed “Eeeeek!” There was humor, horror, and hotness. There’s a cat. There’s food – lots of it, in fact. The villain was truly, madly, deeply villainous. I am extremely appreciative of authors who are willing to go that far to make the monsters that scary, that… well, monstrous.

In particular, I was quite impressed with Greg. I’ve read books where the main character might as well be a girl in a het romance, and I’ve read books where there’s nothing girlish about him, but I’ve never seen anyone as unique as Greg. For instance, he’s the first main character I’ve seen with his body-type: very tall and very thin. I’ve seen this body type a few times on the street, but never in a romance… not in a man, at least. Also, Greg is far from perfect in his personality. He does extremely stupid things, he has difficulty coping, he flips out into hysteria – nothing that’s really too ridiculously over-the-top, just more extreme than usual. A lot of this is the result of being a psychic, but a lot of this is just Greg’s personality; I got the distinct impression that he was high-maintenance even before he became psychic.

To only a very slightly-lesser extent, I was also impressed with Artie, another atypical character. The most extraordinary thing about both of these men is how ordinary they seem to be. There’s nothing particularly eye-catching about them, they’re not “OMG hot!” You could probably find an Artie in any precinct in the country, you could probably have found a pre-psychic Greg at almost any elite cocktail party. You wouldn’t likely find a post-psychic Greg anywhere, that’s how well Rob Knight managed to convey how excluding and scary and horrible it must be, to be that sensitive.

I loved Duke. Absolutely and totally. Partly because he is as unique as the humans. Partly because I was impressed with how well Rob Knight caught the perplexed/amused/infatuated spirit of a cat-lover in Artie. Every cat-owned person in the world would easily identify with the relationship between Artie and Duke, and it adds yet another facet to the realism of the characters.

The villain? He’s revealed in increments to the reader, although we see more of him than Greg and Artie do. He’s truly creepy, crazy, frightening, and bloody. Like everyone else, he’s utterly, recognizably human. He’s evil in the way that only real people can be evil.
The food thing was mildly distracting, but I didn’t really notice it as much as LdDurham did. Same with the sex. Probably because I’m totally willing to skip entire pages if necessary.

And yet, despite how impressed I was with the story and the characters, I had a great deal of trouble reading this book. I almost concluded that I didn’t like it. I almost don’t like it. The narrative style that Rob Knight used in writing this book is a turn-off. It’s confusing, distracting, and clumsy. This is why I compare it to the TV with bad reception: who really wants to work that hard to get through the fuzz and static just to watch a movie? And who wants to wade through confusing prose in order to find a good story? I didn’t appreciate it at all.

I do recommend this book, simply because I thought the story was worth it. But I add a very strong warning: if you’re not the kind of reader who is willing to invest yourself in order to find the story, then you’re not going to like it.

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This book should have been named “Touching Dinner” because the star of this story was definitely the food. I think in nearly every scene without the psycho killer, there was eating of, discussion of, or the making of food. It wouldn’t have been so bad if they had been all over the salad and turkey. But no, these guys were all about the deliciously bad for you stuff. If you are on a diet, I strongly suggest you don’t read this book. I know it pissed me off more than once when I was left with a craving for big ol’ biscuits with honey and butter, or fried chicken, or home-baked bread.

Let me tell you, this book is very hard to review. This is my first brush with Knight so I can’t say whether this was an experimental piece for the author or not.

The characters were definitely engaging enough. Greg’s “gift” is played pretty realistically, except for one major flaw. One of those “the story couldn’t have been told if we took care of it” type flaws: Greg could have just worn gloves to avoid a lot of fallout. But then, you know, there wouldn’t be a story, so we’ll just leave that under the rug.

Both Artie and Greg are extremely likable characters. And they fit really well together right from the get-go. The growth of their relationship was really well done, very realistically portrayed, and emotionally satisfying for this reader.

Now here is where I try to explain what went… off. I can’t say it was wrong, because it wasn’t quite that. The book opens with Greg having touched something and seeing something really bad. Like, “It puts the lotion on its skin” feeling bad. It immediately caught my attention, had me immediately in the moment. It was written in a stream of consciousness style that was really engrossing because it kept you off-balance and guessing.

The problem was that this style of writing never stopped. There was no break from it. The entire book is written from either Greg’s, Artie’s, or briefly, the killer’s point of view. Not just their point of view, so much as we are in their heads. It’s at its worse when we are in Greg’s head because Greg is also in Artie’s head. I was never quite sure who was thinking what or feeling what. Add to this a distressing lack of the word “said”. There were nearly zero dialogue indicators. In short bursts of dialogue this is fine. But an entire book? A four-page conversation with actions in between? I spent most of my time counting back lines of dialogue to figure out whose turn it was to be speaking.

Reading this book was a chore. I have never seen a greater collection of fragmented sentences in my life. I am sure it was done for effect, but it got old and tiresome very, very quickly.

The murder mystery aspect to it was exciting in that it was pretty freaking creepy. Unfortunately, the author didn’t showcase this to its best because the reader only got flashes of the exciting creepiness in between dinners, breakfasts, snacks, and sex. They had sex nearly as much as they ate. It would have been great if I could have figured out who was feeling what, who was doing what, or who was saying what.

The climax was very exciting from Artie’s point of view. When it came to the final confrontation with Mr. Psycho, I felt like the author chickened out and we only get the very fragmented view from Greg, which was damn near nothing. It was exciting, but I really wish Knight would have pulled back a bit, let me out of Greg’s head, and allowed me to see what the hell was going on.

The conclusion, though, was very well put together, very realistic, and very believable. And yes, it ended with them eating.

So, do I recommend this book? I think I do. The story was good. It just got lost in the fragmented writing style. But it was there. I think someone who is perhaps more accustomed to, or who enjoys, more experimental writing would enjoy this book. Heck, maybe a lot more people would enjoy this book. Maybe I’m just bitter because I still haven’t had the sushi it left me hungry for. Oh, or the fried chicken and biscuits. Or omelets. Mmmm… jambalaya…

Scarlett & the White Wolf
Kirby Crow
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Scarlet of Lysia is an honest peddler, a young merchant traveling the wild, undefended roads to support his aging parents. Liall, called the Wolf of Omara, is the handsome, world-weary chieftain of a tribe of bandits blocking a mountain road that Scarlet needs to cross. When Liall jokingly demands a carnal toll for the privilege, Scarlet refuses and an inventive battle of wills ensues, with disastrous results.

Scarlet is convinced that Liall is a worthless, immoral rogue, but when the hostile countryside explodes into violence and Liall unexpectedly fights to save the lives of Scarlet’s family, Scarlet is forced to admit that the Wolf is not the worst ally he could have, but what price will proud Scarlet ultimately have to pay for Liall’s friendship?

Mariner’s Luck
Kirby Crow
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In this second book of the Scarlet and the White Wolf trilogy, Scarlet the pedlar and Liall the bandit find themselves among hostile company aboard a Rshani brigantine headed north through icy waters. Liall has been summoned home to Rshan na Ostre by way of a cryptic message.

Scarlet, after a near-fatal encounter with bounty-hunters seeking Liall’s head, recklessly follows Liall into danger. Now the unlikely pair -a slight, honorable Hilurin and a giant northern rogue- are relentlessly pursued over rough seas on a perilous journey for Liall to reclaim his past, but what new dangers will await them in the fabled Land of Night?

The Land of Night
Kirby Crow
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Struggling to come to terms with his new life in Rshan na Ostre, young Scarlet is trying to find his place in a decadent, foreign society that bears an ancient hatred for all Hilurin. As Liall is pulled away from Scarlet and into the jaded intrigues of a royal court, the young pedlar wonders if they’ve made a terrible mistake in journeying to Rshan.

Each passing day, Liall seems more like a stranger, more like one of the haughty Rshani nobility and less like the bandit leader Scarlet knew in Byzantur. As Liall contends with the aristocracy to uphold his fourteen-year-old brother’s claim to the throne, an infinitely more dangerous enemy draws nearer, determined to part the lovers forever.

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Holy cow!

To say that I enjoyed Scarlet and the White Wolf would be an understatement. I was sucked in immediately; I stayed up all night reading until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, then woke up the next morning to continue reading in every spare moment. The main characters were gorgeous, the setting was lush with detail, the romance was sweet and the story surrounding the romance was thrilling. I was practically humming with happiness as I read it. This trilogy (and the quality of this author) is precisely what I was hoping to find when I entered the world of M/M.

I wouldn’t call this a romance, per se; Scarlet is sheer fantasy, where both of the main characters happen to be male, and they happen to fall in love. I actually don’t mind having foreign words and weird names scattered through the narrative; it serves to remind me that the people I’m reading about are not the English-speaking people of my own universe, and sinks me deeper into the universe of the author’s creation. This is precisely what Kirby Crow does, picks up her readers and immediately drops us into the middle of her universe, one that is completely fresh and unique. Little by little, the context of that universe is unfurled until the reader is absorbed into these foreign cultures.

Had the trilogy been stitched together into one ultra-long novel, the pieces would fit almost seamlessly. What marks them as being three books is mainly the settings. Scarlet and the White Wolf is set in Scarlet’s homeland, where everything is familiar to Scarlet while Liall is obviously the exile. Mariner’s Luck takes us to the ocean and foreign ports, where both Scarlet and Liall find themselves in hostile surroundings and neither of them are at home. The Land of Night brings the exiled Liall back home, and now it is Scarlet who is the foreigner.

There is a lot I could discuss about these books, and that is entirely due to how much is happening in the story. I am blown away by how much intrigue and plot twists, humor, angst, excitement, and action that Crow was able to pack into this story. Every single character, no matter how brief their appearance in the story, is fully-formed and recognizable as a human being (even the non-human-beings). There are several moments where the reader’s mouth will drop, where the events or concepts described are sheer fantasy, but Crow never crosses the line between “fantastic” and “ridiculous.” There is no smut, and little erotica; every bit of the erotica serves to either further the plot or is a welcome moment of quiet and tenderness in the story. The ending was a little abrupt, a little bewildering, but that just allowed me to continue savoring the excitement.

Kirby Crow started out with an ambitious story, and carried it through with stunning success. Do I recommend this trilogy? Oh, hell yeah! Without any hesitation whatsoever!

P.S. Torquere Press is a pain in the ass to navigate, is difficult to casually browse, and caused me no end of frustration when trying to find and purchase these books. I actually had to contact their customer service in order to figure out where to get my downloads. Nevertheless, the customer service was helpful, and I can’t recall ever reading a book through this publisher that was low-quality. I’d have to say that Torquere is definitely one of the publishers that T&B readers should frequent. Let us know if you find something we overlooked.

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This book was recommended by one of our long-time readers. She has recommended other books to me that I had already read and enjoyed, so when she mentioned this series, I wasted no time in reading it.

I have to admit, as I began reading I was disappointed. I could see the characters’ and story’s potential, I just couldn’t seem to get to it through all the excessive information. Histories on why a certain race of people wore a particular color is interesting if it has some bearing on the story. Explaining that a well is called Second Well because there is another well down the road in the center of town in the main courtyard called First Well is only important if we need to later get to one of these wells. A character just stopping to get a drink does not warrant the history/geography lesson. It just slows things down and throws me, the reader, into confusion as I try to figure out if that was something I’d need to know later on. It wasn’t.

The first thirty pages of the first book should have been trimmed considerably. It was stuffed with information that should have just stayed in the author’s notebook for her own reference. Giving me pages of histories of peoples and places I have never heard of is boring. I am not emotionally connected yet to want to bother knowing this stuff. And in addition, giving me pages of dry information is pretty much guaranteed to have me forget all the carefully crafted references.

On top of the excess information, the author also peppered the text with foreign words. I know this is a fantasy story and I expect made up words. They can be really cool. But these words just seemed to be made up words for English words that really didn’t need to be changed. And coupled with the unnecessary information, it became boring and had me huffing and rolling my eyes.

With all that being said, I really enjoyed these books!

The world in which the story is set is very solid and interesting. The different races of people, and the politics between them, were crafted very well. It didn’t need all the cultural and historical info that was given to make it so, the author just did a great job in rendering it very realistically.

The characters were fantastic. From Scaja, Scarlet’s stolid father, to Cestimir the Crown Prince. They all sprang to life and really fleshed out the story.

Scarlet was the kind of character I truly enjoy. He was strong-willed and willing to fight for what he wanted. He had fears and weakness, but he also had loyalty and determination. Scarlet is truly who moves this story. I rooted for him and was impressed with him and laughed with him and grieved with him.

Liall was an impressive man, as well. As the leader of a gang of bandits, he really rocked. There is depth in him that makes you want to know more and more about him. There is more to him than just being a big hunk of blond hotness. As his story develops, we are given glimpses into what shaped him and what haunts him. Crow never quite reveals his secrets until it is absolutely necessary, which is always the perfect time.

The setting for these epics is great. Crow’s time and care shows in how well each place is crafted. From busy towns to ships to the icy shores of Liall’s home, it is all drawn well and believably. Never did I catch Crow missing a detail that would have yanked me out of the story saying, “Wait a minute! What about…!” Crow definitely had a handle on her world and it was magnificent.

I would also like to point out the lovely cover art by Analisa. Truly stunning. The art is absolutely perfect. Scarlet is clearly a man, which I really enjoy seeing! (Thank you, Elisa, for giving me the artist’s name!)

I recommend these books to anyone who enjoys fantasy stories. The adventure is there, the magic is there, the prophetic dreams and fortune telling are there. For the romance lover, this is right up your alley too. Scarlet and Liall are slowly and dramatically pulled together, demonstrating their love and care for each other over and over, even while they, as Scarlet would say, keep misunderstanding each other. Once you get past the first thirty pages, the rest of the story won’t let you go.

Dark Lord Seeks Friendship, Maybe More
Elisa Viperas
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Velenth is a Dark Lord, full of dirty tricks and dark intrigue. He’s not exactly the kind of ruler his people might have wanted, but he’s helped them out a lot, improving the economy and the sewer system.

He’s even creating a new fashion statement with his dark and dipped in black ways. So why is he so lonely? Velenth knows just what he needs, so he decides to put out a personal ad. For friendship, maybe more. Can he find what he needs in this hilarious fantastical romp?

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For a book that’s supposed to be comedy, the laughs in this story come with a snap of sharp teeth.

I have no problem admitting that in the past I’ve done or said things that make me squirm and slap myself on the forehead whenever I think about them now, years after the fact. In this, I highly doubt I’m very different from the rest of humanity. Elisa Viperas has a pure genius for digging around for exactly those kinds of awkward situations for her characters, and holding up these less-than-shining moments to be slyly mocked. That’s why this book is so incredibly funny – because the situations are so instantly recognizable. Haven’t we all been enamored of ugly shoes at some point in our lives, and haven’t we all made at least one Huge Mistake when it comes to romance? And don’t we all hate unicorns in some dark corner of our hearts, just the tiniest bit?
Dark Lord Seeking is not just 113 pages of one-liners and slapstick, though. The humor in the story is sometimes quite subtle. For instance, Reynard, the long-suffering advisor (who also happens to be an elf), reminds me very strongly of those second-generation hippies who leave their parents’ communes as soon as they legally can, change their names from things like “Freedom Spring Moon” to “Ralph,” and succeed at a young age in careers such as law enforment and accounting, to their parents’ ever-lasting shame and confusion.
For anyone thinking of fan-girling the elf, you should be warned: just like every other character in the story, Reynard proves Viperas’ point that one can’t afford to stubbornly cling to one’s expectations when it comes to dealing with other human beings (or human-like beings).
I find that I actually have very little to say about this story that isn’t a spoilery of some kind. And given the fact that this book is a comedy, spoilers would be akin to screwing up the punchline of a joke – I don’t think anyone would appreciate me for that. Certainly Viperas gives me nothing to criticize. Her characterization is sublime, the plot is fast-paced and hilariously funny, the details are rich, the writing is excellent. Every possible layer to this story is satisfying, and there’s nothing I would have wanted her to change. I strongly recommend this book to other readers. For one thing, Viperas deserved the monetary reward for writing this novel, in the form of royalties. For another thing, readers themselves deserve to finally discover this shining diamond, especially if anyone else out there has been reading through as much muck lately as LdDurham and I have been.
And for the people who find themselves looking for more from Viperas, she has at least two other books in eBook form, that can be also be found here. If anyone else finds something I haven’t seen yet, please drop us a note. I’d like to know.

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Okay, this one is not pure craziness, but it sure is just as fun. We have our Dark and Evil Prince, Velenth, who really just wants a little regular nooky with a lovin’ feeling. His closest employees realize that their prince is, gasp, lonely. So, they begin a search for a likely candidate to be a dark lord’s companion.

And even when you are a dark and evil prince, dating still really sucks.

Every character in this book is just fantastic. Each one has a purpose and each of their voices is unique and perfect. Even the prospective companions are perfectly rendered. Velenth in his “sexy boots” with spikes all over them; The long-suffering advisor who just wants to be able to cuddle his ledgers in peace; The Bodyguard who can kill with barely a sound and yet enjoys a particular way of dressing on her days off. These characters are ones that just leap off the page and become very real.

As you can guess from just the title alone, humor drives this book. From the first page, this book had me giggling out loud. At points, I teared up in mirth. The search, the dates gone terribly wrong, the aftermath, it was all hilarious. It was the kind of humor that always gets me: dry and witty and full of references to real life situations and pop culture.

There is an actual story under all the snappy comebacks, silliness, and painfully funny dating. And it has a brilliant resolution.

I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone who just wants a good laugh with your gay romance. If you enjoy the humor prevalent in the T.V. show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I think you’ll enjoy this book. I know I’m very happy to have seen this on Elisa Rolle’s journal! A total treat!