Crossing the Line
Stephanie Vaughan
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Jamie MacPherson knows that looks aren’t everything — money counts for a lot, too. And that’s a good thing, since he’s got none of one and plenty of the other. Money may not buy happiness, but it’ll sure buy you the kind of misery you like best.

Ryan Van Alstyn knows that looks don’t mean a thing when your life falls apart and money can’t bring a loved one back.

When Jamie walks into Ryan’s restaurant one night, Ryan looks better than anything on the menu. Attraction leads to sex. It could be more, but Ryan can’t be bought and Jamie thinks he has nothing to offer but his money.

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I can’t quite decide if I liked this one or not.

For one thing, there were a few months in between my first reading and this review, and at some point in the interim, I forgot the story. How does one simply forget a story? Nevertheless, I had to go back to Crossing the Line, since I discovered that I remembered almost nothing about it. As I did so, a lot of the details that I had either liked or not liked in the first reading immediately jumped back into focus.

Jamie and Ryan are not a sterotypical yaoi couple – they’re easily identifiable as just men, in all their flaws and virtues. I don’t think I particularly liked Jamie, but that might have been because I was floundering a bit. The face he presents to the world doesn’t look the same as the man he percieves himself to be, and neither image is how he is seen by others outside himself. He’s a bundle of nerves and insecurities and contradictions. The further into the story I went, and the more the POV shifted from Jamie to Ryan and back again, the more confused I became as to how I, the reader, was supposed to see him. This made Jamie seem less like a fully-realized character to me, and more like an unstable one. I never did manage to sort him out in my head as a whole person instead of a collection of bits and pieces.

Ryan, however, I adored. Ryan was the one thing about the story I did manage to remember, and the best thing about the second read. I don’t want to use the word “angsty” to describe him, because it seems like such a shallow word to use regarding the real, heart-breaking emotional problems this poor man has gone through. I think I’d rather use the word “sorrowful.” Vaughn gave Ryan the kind of backstory that I can easily imagine a real person having, that common sort of tragedy that no one ever really wants to talk about, and no one ever really wants to listen to, anyway… unless you fall in love with him, that is. Ryan is that guy you see on the bus, or in the elevator, and he greets you with a smile and a cheery word about the weather, and you never realize that he’s trying his best just to get on with life.

Loved the cat. Hated the step-son. Was bemused by Ryan’s mother.

On the surface, Stephanie Vaughn is a competent, capable writer. Under the surface, though, Vaughn slipped some choice moments of sheer beauty into this story, not so much in the words she used, but in the concepts underneath the words. Things like Ryan’s refrigerator full of take-away boxes, or Jamie’s celebrity-watching at the Lakers’ game. The cars rushing down Pacific Coast Highway. The mini-characters that drift in and out of the restaurant where Ryan works. It’s like the very small daubs of paint an artist uses to bring light and shading to a large-scale landscape; Vaughn used ordinary things to make an extraordinary impact.

Recommending this book reminds me of recommending Here Be Dragons, but in complete reverse. I was fully aware that there were almost no redeeming qualities to Dragons, but I had fun reading it anyway. There are a lot of redeeming qualities in Crossing the Line… but while I certainly appreciate all the fine things about it, I don’t think I can say that I had much fun reading it. I think this might be another case when no one should take my word for it.

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I cannot express in words my complete and utter satisfaction with this book. I really can’t. But as I am charged with reviewing it, I will have to make an attempt.

Crossing the Line was so perfectly natural in the way it unfolded, I felt as if I were reading a biography rather than a fictional romance. Jamie and Ryan were so very real. At first I was a bit put off by the O.C. mechanic thing, feeling as if it was just going to be a fan fiction of one of those reality shows. Oh, boy, was I wrong. Jamie is such a wonderful character: gruff, honest, reliable, competent, and a bit stunted in the emotional department. He goes after other men who are pretty young things and discovers how to “buy” them. Not in a sugar daddy way, but in an attempt to keep them with him. It was heartbreakingly clueless and sweet at the same time.

Ryan, on the other hand, is much more savvy in the relationship area but is still hurting over his previous lover. But Jamie’s straightforward and earnest attention begins to thaw Ryan out, much to his consternation. I thoroughly enjoyed Ryan’s blossoming, through each hiccough and panicky halt.

What was really wonderful about Vaughan’s writing was that she slowly revealed the facts, letting me get closer and closer to the characters a bit at a time. Not only did it make me want to know more, but it made me really care about and sympathize with them. I could feel Jamie’s frustration at not knowing how to handle the situation and not wanting to “play games”. I could understand Ryan’s reticence, more and more as his history was revealed.

The sex scenes were truly hot and involving as only ones rendered with emotion can be. It’s a slowly building fire, but magnificent once it flares. I enjoyed every scene and could feel them using sex as another means to truly discover each other. Their personalities were so clear and yet so different even in sex: Ryan’s openness and willingness, Jamie’s need to get it on and wanting more, but unsure how to get it or if he deserves it.

And that was another thing that I appreciated. For once, it was the more “manly” man who had self-doubt and self-esteem issues. The rich man who believes he can only get what he can buy because he’s not good enough to catch someone on looks and personality alone. I liked that part of Jamie, again, making him real and solid as a character.

Not only was it a great story with amazing characters without all the tired over-emotionalism, but as a bonus, I found no technical errors in the writing.

I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who wants to read a good story about a couple of guys with plenty of baggage but without the need to open up and examine every suitcase and weep and angst over it. Two guys who fall into love and struggle to really understand it and keep it. Excellent book!


**Note: Crossing the Line is being moved from Loose Id to Torquere Press. Unfortunately, we must have scored our copy just before Loose Id lost it. When it becomes available again (with a possible name change) we will update the info here ASAP! We sincerely apologize for being book teases. is being re-released on May 28, 2008 by Torquere Press. For more info, please see the author’s website Stephanie Vaughan

Male of the Species
Kate Steele
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Devin Grant is an alpha on a mission.

Rejected by his pack for refusing to believe that one man loving another is wrong, Devin finds himself alone and directionless until a chance meeting with fellow outcast Quinn Alexander starts him on the path to forming his own pack. With Quinn’s experience and his own needs guiding him, Devin fights to make their pack dream a reality. Along the way, he makes an enemy—the unscrupulous leader of a black arts coven—and unexpectedly finds his mate, human Ryan Mitchell.

With strength and courage, Devin works to win his mate and build his pack—until a stunning betrayal threatens to cost Devin not only his mate…but his humanity.

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I think that I didn’t really want to write a review for Male of the Species. It’s not that it’s a bad book – I just struggled to find something to say about it. It reminds me of Without Reservations, in that it could have been better, but as it is, it’s a nice, safe, comfy type of book to either take to the beach or snuggle up with in front of a fireplace with a hot cup of tea and a cat on your lap… the kind of book you read when you don’t want to think hard or worry much.

I love monsters in romances, especially werewolves. However, I like the monsters to be at least as scary as they are sexy. Devin and his pack are definitely not scary. Even the Evil Villain isn’t particularly scary – actually, he’s rather pathetic, and I almost felt sorry for him for being such a loser. As LdD notes in her review, this book lacks a certain primal aspect. There was also no balance, no lows to match the highs, no uncertainty as to how the characters will overcome the obstacles, no flaws to match the characters’ perfections. The only character who even has any serious flaw is Owen, and I had the strong impression that Owen is more of a plot device than a fully-realized character. At no point while reading this book was I in any doubt that Devin would save the day.

Despite the lack of heart-pounding excitement, I can’t say I disliked the book. Devin and Ryan are the main lovers in the story; I liked the slow build-up to their relationship. Before finding out that Devin is a werewolf, Ryan shows us a glimpse of Devin in the light of an attractive human man, with that certain flair of masculine sex appeal that makes for a very traditional romance hero. Ryan himself is romantically appealing. It’s a nice pairing. This is fortunate, since I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the other characters, not even Owen.

It should be pointed out that there is a great deal of sex in this book, in different pairings and different situations. Still, I could have lived with less sex if it meant more excitement.

Do I recommend this book? Sure. The werewolves in the story may have been less than thrilling, everything was a little too perfect and presented to the reader with a neatly-tied bow, and I certainly would have wished that Steele had written out the slumber party in her edits. Nevertheless, the romance is sweet, the sex is plentiful, and there’s nothing majorly wrong with the story. It’s not like I’m about to toss it into the Recycle Bin, myself. I’m sure that readers who don’t share my (and LdD’s) enthusiasm for creature kink will probably enjoy the book far more than we did.

Bottom:
Male of the Species wasn’t a bad book. But I can’t say it was all that wonderful, either. There were minor typos throughout, but nothing terrible. The characters were all… there. The setting was… pleasant. The story was easy to follow.

In short: It was a story about werewolves that wasn’t bad.

The thing that made it a not great book for me was that it was, well, tame. Look at that cover! Isn’t that a primal cover? I stared at the cover for about a full minute, no joke. And as I stared, I hoped that the story inside could match it. Alas, for me, it didn’t.

The book starts off with a bit of the primal element. It was good. It got my attention. Dev has been cast out of his pack for daring to love other men. That’s good stuff there. He meets up with another like him and they shack up for a bit. And this is when things start to get… fluffy.

Dev is made out to be perfection itself. I mean, there is no other creature on this plane of existence that could be a better werewolf than Devin. He is strong, a leader, gorgeous, intuitive, brilliant, moral, empathetic, and suave. The only thing he doesn’t have is money or a home. Well, he happens to hook up with another gay wolf who happens to be a bazillionaire with a huge house and a town not far away that seems to be where other cast-out gay werewolves end up who need a leader for them. And Dev is that leader. So they all come together in this big house and it becomes a slumber party for wolves. A lot of playing and teasing and goofing off and sex. (Okay, my slumber parties didn’t have sex. Curses!) Everyone is immediately BFFs for life.

Weaved throughout this is a sinister evil person who is made out to be a devil worshipper. I never figured out if he had an agenda other than Being Evil. Later on he has plans of taking down the werewolf pack. Unfortunately, he never quite pulls off being scary or even threatening.

The book was made up of an ensemble cast. We got snippets of each of the pack members’ lives and all of it having to do with their mates or the finding of their mates. It was fairly predictable who was going to end up with whom, but the author successfully paired everyone up happily. Unfortunately, these side characters’ scenes didn’t really add much to the story as a whole. Only one character, the story’s “Judas,” was necessary, and even then he was a bit weak. But definitely the most entertaining character for me (but you all know I have a weakness for the bitchy, plucky characters). By the end of the book, I understood why all these characters were introduced, since it seemed to set up a sequel. But for this book, they were distracting and slowed down the story.

As far as the writing itself, I would say it was technically fine. The narrative was just too flowery for me, though. Dialogue seemed excessive in amount, both in information given and in pet names. The words coming out of characters’ mouths seemed, at times, unnatural.

The thing is, is that all of it could and was explained away, thereby making it acceptable. I think overall the story was just too watered down for me. I feel bogged down by several adjectives in a sentence to describe one thing. I call a hole a hole, not a “velvet-skinned sheath”, you know what I mean? I like harsher edges in werewolf stories. Flowery words have their place, no doubt about it, but I thought they were a bit over the top for a bunch of supposed primal werewolves out in the woods. But, again, it could be deemed perfectly acceptable because this was definitely written in the “romance novel” style. Because of this, I think the cover was misleading and instead should have showed a wolf couple lying on a rug in front of a fireplace. That would sum up the story much better, in my opinion.

I recommend this for anyone looking for a soft and light read. It has its moments of sad angst. It has moments of light comedy and family togetherness. If you like your werewolves fluffy, this is the book for you.

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!

After DarkL.M. Prieto
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Years before, Andrew lost the man he loved under mysterious circumstances. He’s not about to lose another, even if his returned from the dead brother is determined to kill him and his werewolf lover.

After MidnightL.M. Prieto
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Devon’s a werewolf with no control over his change. Unless he wants to eat a human. Andrew, his lover, has begun using dark magics. The lovers have the power to protect one another. That power might also tear them apart.

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Awesome.
I accidentally grabbed After Midnight first, suckered in as usual by the promise of werewolves. It didn’t take long before I realized that there just had to be a story that came before, so I immediately hunted down After Dark. Readers, be aware: It is entirely possible to read and enjoy the second book without reading the first, but you’ll get a better experience if you read them both, in order. You won’t be sorry. Trust me.

In general, it’s the “bottom” in a book that immediately catches my
attention, that I suffer for and fall just a little in love with. And of course I immediately fell a little in love with Devon… what surprised me was that I wasn’t immune to Andrew’s charms. Maybe it was because the two of them are already in an established relationship. Maybe it was simply the equality in the relationship between the two men.

Devon may be gentle, considerate, supportive, with a certain sweetness in his character, but he’s definitely no weak, simple-minded dude-in-distress. He’s a strong, intelligent man in his own right, someone with interests and abilities and a history that are independant of his lover. Oh, and did I mention he’s pretty, has a slight British accent, and is a werewolf? Any of these facets of his character would have made him seem endearing and sexy to me, but with the grace, passion, and tenderness that is shown in Devon’s love for Andrew, it’s a lethal combination that I was powerless to resist.

It would have been so easy for Prieto to cast Andrew as a stupidly macho and infuriating hero. Certainly he’s a strong-and-silent type, someone who’s first instinct is to protect his loved ones even at enormous cost to himself. With the addition of a phenomenal magic power, it would have been easy for Prieto to let Andrew “take care” of everything, solve all the puzzles, defeat all the bogeymen. But, no – Andrew is an incredibly, awesomely human hero – a bit of a geek, even. He has weaknesses, he makes mistakes, he gruesomely murders a villain or two, but even at his darkest point, loving Devon is the thing that drives him forward. How do you get more romantic than that?
Prieto managed to make me slow down and cherish the moments of tenderness. It’s not often I’ll sit still for the characters’ “I love yous,” but in both of these books, I lingered over the gentler scenes with a misty, goofy smile on my face.

These two books aren’t just romantic. They’re also creepy, scary, and
exciting. I was often bouncing in my desk chair, shrieking things such as “Eeeek!” or “Devon, watch out!” or “NO, Andrew, BAD MAGE!!!” Mildly annoying for my household, maybe, but tremendously enjoyable for me.

Considering that these two books are packed with vampires, werewolves,
villains, and an astonishing amount of blood, Prieto managed to create a very unique story with these two books. She stinted at nothing – action, adventure, romance, mystery, monsters, and a masterful characterization and attention to detail. I was blown away.
There’s a kind of elegance to this author’s style that is instantly
attractive to me, a balance between rich detail and exciting pace, and an assumption on the author’s part that challenges the reader to use their brain instead of slowing everyone down just to let a few stragglers keep up.
Luisa Prieto joins Lanyon and Bryce on my list of most-beloved-authors, and I’m eagerly awaiting her next release. After Dark and After Midnight are two stories that I absolutely recommend as the next must-have items to go into your shopping cart.

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After Dark:
After Dark is by no means for the faint of heart. I would categorize this as a Gay Horror novel. I have never read anything like it. The closest, in my experience, would be to say it gives the same feeling as the early Anita Blake novels by Laurell K. Hamilton. The warning for violence should be taken seriously. There is gore to go along with it, as well.

This is an intense book. I was immediately thrown into the story and had to figure out which way was up. I was slowly fed facts along with back histories to both main characters. I wasn’t given clues before hand and couldn’t quite figure out what was coming next.

I love this style of story weaving!

Prieto assumes that the reader is smart enough to catch up. I appreciate that. The writing is done in a clean way with no extraneous information or explanations thrown in. The way the story unfolds is with necessary trips back and forth through time and yet at no time was I left confused. Actually, I take that back. There were moments in which I couldn’t figure out what had just happened but that was because the character hadn’t figured out yet what had happened. This is not only an engaging form of writing, but an exciting one. It left me dying to know more, salivating to scroll down to read the next bit, and it definitely had my brain buzzing with possibilities as I tried connecting the dots along with the characters.

Devon and Andrew were two great characters. It was nice to see slow and loving sex in a book. There were no quickies in public or cries for “Harder”, as nice as those are. Theirs is a quiet and comfortable love and relationship, and I think this is what really adds to the story and makes it seem like a romantic horror. These two really love each other in a solid, long-lasting way and rely on each other even as questions and doubts creep in. It was a wonderful feeling having these two characters lead the way in the story.

There were a few typos, but nothing that was particularly distracting. I wish that the editor had been a bit more considerate, but that seems to be an ongoing longing with this publisher.

This book ends with an abruptness that made me very happy CarvedWood had already made sure we bought both books first. It wasn’t a bad abruptness, but it definitely leaves you craving more.

After Midnight:
After Midnight picks up five months after After Dark. Andrew and Devon are now trying to come to terms with the aftermath and their new identities.

This story is told with a clever emphasis on their love while at the same time pretty sick things are being done in the name of that love. Powers are being gained and denied and Prieto really shows how very confusing it all is, without leaving the reader confused. There were no good or bad actions, per se, as Andrew and Devon struggle to understand their places in the new world they find themselves in. Devon is desperate to hold onto every shred of his humanity while Andrew finds more and more reasons to get stronger… and darker. I felt for both of them and couldn’t make a judgment on what was the right course. Their relationship begins to change and the sweetness begins to get edgier. The fact that Prieto changes their sex scenes is poignant and demonstrates these changes. They aren’t bad changes, but you can see the relationship changing and shifting, as it has to do. If Devon and Andrew didn’t begin to change, then the story wouldn’t be as real or as emotionally investing.

Again, Prieto expects the reader to keep up. After Midnight wasn’t as disorienting as After Dark because I now had a grasp on back stories and characters, but I couldn’t just lay back and expect to be fed every detail. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy that style of writing? It just sweeps you right into the story.
The world of mages and vampires and werewolves is revealed bit by bit and made me more and more curious to figure it all out.

This book ends on a definite cliffhanger. A “Oh man! I can’t believe he just… Crap! Where’s the next book? Quick, I have to go tell someone all about this book right now to relieve the tension over the cliffhanger” kind of cliffhanger. The major plotline in After Midnight has been resolved, but there is still more to the tale and the ending is merely a door just being opened. Literally. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate any announcement as to when we can expect the next book. But I just know it’s coming, just have to be patient.

I recommend these books to anyone who craves action, intensity, and writing that expects you to pay attention and keep up. Even as horrific as this tale is in places, it’s still a fun and exciting ride!

Catching a Buzz
Ally Blue
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Adam Holderman isn’t your typical twenty-something college boy. He prefers jazz to Goth, shuns body piercings and street-waif clothing, and despises the lack of vocabulary among his peers. Some call him uptight, but Adam doesn’t see it that way. Just because he prefers his men articulate and well-groomed doesn’t make him a stick-in-the-mud. He simply has standards, unlike most guys his age.
The new employee at Wild Waters Park, where Adam works, single-handedly throws a monkey wrench into Adam’s orderly world view. Buzz Stiles wears eyeliner and black clothes, listens to emo bands, and talks like a teenage skate punk. He’s the polar opposite of Adam’s avowed “type”. So why can’t Adam get him out of his head?
When Adam finally agrees to go out with Buzz, he finds there’s much more to Buzz than a hot body, a sharp wit, and a Goth fashion sense. Buzz is someone Adam can see himself being with for the long haul. But you need more than mind-melting sex to make a relationship last. Can they keep their hands off each other long enough to find out if they have what it takes?

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I was angry when I finished Catching A Buzz.
First, the cover. It’s a gorgeous cover, there’s no doubt about it. It’s the kind of cover art that belongs on some beautiful, romantic tale, something with a few laughs, a few tears, a few life lessons, and the hope for a happy future. And hotness, too. The cover makes me want to read the book, want to like it, finish it with a smile and keep it forever. That’s what good cover art is supposed to do, and the artist, Anne Cain, succeeded in this admirably. It’s too bad that the story itself fell far short of the promise inherent in the art.

Apart from the false advertisement of the cover, I disliked this book for the complete waste of my time. I got nothing out of it: I didn’t learn anything from it, I didn’t react emotionally to any part of it, and I didn’t care one whit for any of the characters. I don’t think college boys are cute and I certainly don’t think they’re interesting. I don’t think that Goth boys are beautiful or alluring, I think they’re just boys in makeup and ugly clothing. I don’t happen to believe that a glass beer bottle is a thrilling or a safe substitute for a decent dildo. I’m not impressed by flashy cars. The nod to twincest left me cold, as did the club scene. Yes, it’s graphic, but I can get higher-quality erotica for free from any number of fandom sites where I actually like the characters. Every potential real-life issue for gay men that was raised in the story, as well as the resolution of the story itself, ended in a manner disgustingly reminiscent of a premature ejaculation.

Catching A Buzz is nothing but the recounting of a date between a pair of equally-insipid boys, and since no one in their right mind could possibly have expected me to be interested in this story if it had been a het pairing, the idea that the author expected me to be interested for no better reason than because it’s M/M… That’s simply insulting. Not just to me as a reader, but to the genre as a whole.

The book is technically well-written, I’ll give credit to Ally Blue for that. If there were any typos or major inconsistencies in the story, I can’t say I noticed them. I think the author has the ability to create stories that would be worth reading. I think that if a reader wants to waste their time and money on what’s basically a PWP, then there’s no reason not to buy this book. But do I personally recommend this story?
Absolutely, most certainly not.

Bottom:
Catching a Buzz was, I think, a half-hearted attempt. Or, if giving the author a lot more credit, it was a good attempt at giving an edgier romance story in short form. Either way, it didn’t quite work out.

The first thing the prospective purchaser should know is that although you buy ninety-one pages, you are only getting sixty-two pages relating to Catching a Buzz. The other twenty-eight pages are advertisements for other books. This, of course, is not the author’s fault. But I had no idea I was coming to the end of the story until it ended quite abruptly. Prior to that, I was happy to keep reading because I assumed I had another thirty pages or so for the resolution and whatnot. So when I was suddenly seeing “The End” not only was I surprised, but a bit disgruntled. I think given the other twenty-pages, the author could have pulled off a satisfying story.

Given the subject matter Ally Blue chose to use, I don’t think she gave herself adequate enough space to pull it off. The story seems to be a sweet little summer romance story. And that is how it starts. But when the two boys go off on their first date, they end up at a sex shop buying D/S paraphernalia. This wasn’t just a lark to one of them, this was something much more. During the night, Adam, wanting to please his kinky date, decides he wants to shove a beer bottle inside Buzz. Buzz wants the wide end. This scene isn’t extraordinary, but Adam is as vanilla as you can get, so this scenario screamed unsafe to me. But hey, it’s a romance story, right? Fiction. No prob. When Buzz wanted a swizzle stick from Adam’s drink shoved in his cock, I began to definitely question the characters’ abilities to have a lasting relationship or even a safe one. Urethral Play isn’t a sexual practice that you can just pick up and dabble in. We are talking about a very delicate piece of anatomy here. Not that it was technically handled poorly, but it still didn’t seem to be a very natural thing for these two boys to do on their very first date on top of the beer bottle thing.

Buzz came off as either a pain/adrenaline junky or an excited novice in BDSM, which is a complete turn-around from the laid back guy we meet in the beginning of the story. Adam was a conservative and narrow-minded type individual, an ‘aged beyond his years” type. But then he begins to want to do these BDSM escapades. Okay. I could accept that. But then, the next morning, the story is done. I was left wondering if they could actually pull off anything more than a one-night stand even though they had decided to become boyfriends. It just didn’t sit well with me. Instead I was left with the distinct impression that the author had bitten off more than she could chew in sixty-one pages.

And for some reason, Adam had the voice of Scarlett in his head. Again, I think Blue tried to shove a bit too much into a short story. The voice was cute, but did sound more like Mammy on a few occasions rather than Scarlett.

The scene with the mother was horribly anti-climatic and happened just before the abrupt ending, adding to the sour taste left in my mouth.

This wasn’t a bad book, just a… not-quite-there book. A story that could have done much better if it had been allowed to flesh out a bit more. I recommend it for anyone who wants a quick and dirty read.

Here Be DragonsT.A. Chase
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Herpetologist, Kael Hammerson is hiding in Ireland working at a research lab. While Ireland may seem a strange place for someone in his field, it was the furthest away he could get from his abusive ex-partner. Now, a year later, his heart is ready to heal.

Kael’s boss, Hugh Price, is very interested in Kael, but is afraid to cross the line from employer to lover. When a strange sea creature is brought into the lab, Hugh and Kael are swept into a fight for their lives and the lives of mankind.

Dragons have returned and the men must decide if their own love can survive the interference of a goddess.

Top:
When I first saw this book, the beautiful cover in addition to the promise of dragons made me think “Oooh, shiny,” and I jumped to buy it. The cover art is undeniably gorgeous. And there are definitely dragons, it’s not just a cruel trick on the author’s part by including them in the title but not delivering them in the story.

Have you ever seen the face of a man who, when you consider his features separately, would seem to have nothing attractive about him, but then you take the whole of his face and add in his personal charm of character, and you realize that he’s one of the most handsome men you’ve ever met? That’s how I reacted to this book.

There would seem to be no redeeming qualities in this story, if I focused on the details. For instance, I hate elves with a rather bloody-minded passion, and not only is one of the nasty creatures featured prominently in this book, but there are more in the background. I like consistency in characters, and the main character, Kael, wavered between full-blown panic attacks to jumping on a horse and charging a dragon armed with nothing but a stick. To make matters worse, the love-interest, Hugh, went from cold, aloof boss-type figure to caring, concerned lover with almost no reason for doing so. The attitudes of the scientists in the book were wholly alien considering any scientist’s attitude that I have any real-life experience with, especially in combination with the military, and that was annoying. The point of view shifted constantly between the characters, I personally don’t like foursomes, and I hated the cat almost as much as I hated the elf. Absolutely everything was ridiculously unbelievable.

But I just didn’t care.

So what made me like it so much? I can’t really explain it even to myself, since there’s nothing I can point my finger at and say “This is why,” so I have to chalk it up to pure charm. I think what allowed me to enjoy this book must have been the very thing that prevented LdDurham from enjoying it: the author’s writing style. I responded well to Chase’s “voice” as an author, which allowed me to kick back, suspend my disbelief to the point of throwing it out the window, and throw myself whole-heartedly into the sheer improbability of it all. Inadequate explanation for the one-eighty in Hugh’s attitude to Kael? Not a problem. Kael’s own inconsistencies? That’s ok, I like needy-but-brave bottoms. Dragonslayers on motorcycles? I loved them. Elves?

… alright, I still had a problem with the elf.

The point is, Here Be Dragons was sound in theory, was completely over-the-top in execution, and yet was absolutely fun to read. I’m rubbing my hands with glee over the implied promise of a sequel (it has to have a sequel, it would be criminal not to have a sequel). I would very much recommend this story to others – with the caveat that if you’re expecting to be able to take anything in this story seriously, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Bottom:
My part of the review, unfortunately, isn’t very informative as far as the entire book is concerned. I have to admit defeat on this one and confess that I was unable to finish Here Be Dragons. I feel quite unprofessional, but there was just nothing else I could do. I spent a week and a half attempting to read this book and was unable to get past page 73. And as many of you have noticed, CW and I are pretty fast with our reviews. But Here Be Dragons got me.

When I first saw this book, I had expected to love it. It seemed right up my alley. But when I read the excerpt, the writing style rubbed me the wrong way. Regardless, a month later I still got the book at CarvedWood’s urging and started to read.

Nearly immediately the writing style began to irritate me. For me, I enjoy being led down the path in a story. I like the surprise of revelation, the smile at an evasion blocked, or the shock when someone steps out of the room that I didn’t know was there. Here Be Dragons didn’t allow me those moments because it tipped its hand several times, thereby nullifying any emotional response to the news or revelation, and taking the wind out of the sails of the story. For instance, when a man thinks to himself, “Oh no, I hope I’m alone in here and that no one is behind me,” it completely steals the gasp away from the next moment when, lo and behold, the man was not alone. Here Be Dragons did that too often for me. It’s like sitting next to a friend who’s already watched the movie and whispers, “Watch this next part,” whenever something is about to happen.

The story was also highly unbelievable. I know, I know. It’s a story about dragons, for crying out loud. But, unfortunately, this book did not suspend my sense of disbelief. In fact, it reinforced it several times. I can believe dragons are coming back to earth. I can believe that an elf visits a man in his dreams. I can’t believe that a man of science doesn’t know that there are such things as Polyurethane condoms. Kael has a latex allergy and supposedly relies completely on STD testing to keep him safe. He also doesn’t wear any sort of gloves when doing examinations. A man with a Latex allergy would have known that there was an alternative choice. As soon as the allergy was brought up, I thought, “Hey, wait. Then what does a man do in that situation? Latex is a fairly common allergy.” I was able to Google the answer in about 60 seconds. The idea that testing gives people the free-reign to have unprotected sex is also a little far-fetched. Testing does not mean a person is safe. It means they were safe about six weeks prior to the testing. After that, you’d still have to rely on trust. Therefore, Polyurethane condoms would be needed.

In a particular scene, the author asks us to believe that as his huge ship is being attacked, the Captain and his crew will stand by and watch it happen. We are to believe that a couple of scientists know best and that the Captain and crew just waited for them to show up and call for help themselves.

Things like these will immediately make me question the story. If situations and personal details like a latex allergy yank me out of the tale and go, “Huh?” then I have a very hard time swallowing everything else the author wants me to. Therefore my ability to jump right in and enjoy the book is gone.

Kael was a bottom that I sorely wanted to kick. Hard. This is a personal preference, but I enjoy my characters with a bit of fight to them. Sure, they can be beaten and downtrodden, broken and abused. In the case of Reece from Mykles’ “Heaven Sent: Purgatory”, he was hurt and scarred. He even gave up, but he did it with class and determination. Kael was not only weak, but also a whiner. He was the Eeyore character without the wit, who continually had to mention how much everyone doesn’t like him, how unloved he was, how unlovable he was, how much of a geek he was (Hello! Scientist!). It got old really quickly. I wanted a dragon to eat Kael as fast as possible.

Because I couldn’t finish the book, please do not take my word on it. I have no idea if things got better or not. All I do know is that I felt Chase attempted to shove every fantastical element she could into this story. I think it could have been pulled off, but for me, Chase couldn’t do it.

Heaven Sent 1: Heaven
Jet Mykles
ebook
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Tyler’s a big fan of Johnnie’s band Heaven Sent. And from the first moment they meet his body acts like it wants Johnnie. Johnnie definitely wants Tyler, and everyone wants to sleep with a rock star, but…Tyler’s not gay.

Heaven Sent 2: PurgatoryJet Mykles
ebook
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Luc defines everything Reese has ever found beautiful. It’s no wonder the famous bass player stars in many a teenager’s dreams. Once, Luc rejected Reese. Now he says he wants him. Why should Reese believe him?

Heaven Sent 3: HellJet Mykles
ebook
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Brent’s attraction toward Hell is undeniable. Surprisingly, Hell wants him too. But a relationship between two members of the same band is a really bad idea. Isn’t it?

Top:
I sidled around these books for awhile before purchasing them, eyeing them suspiciously. I didn’t know what to think about rock stars as romantic interests; like cowboys and vampires, I’m not thrilled with rock stars. But the cover art was attractive, and I’d already read a book by Myckles before, and enjoyed it. Taking the chance, I bought all three.

Heaven:
I don’t share many interests with Johnnie, so a lot of his charm passed over my head, but I have to say that I was completely satisfied with the role he played – he was just as he should have been. Tyler’s charm, on the other hand, was abundant from the very beginning, and I alternated between drooling over such a piece of sweetness, and wanting to give him a hug. I’d have to say that this was my favorite pairing.

Purgatory:
I was rooting for Luc through this entire book. Sure, I felt sorry for the upheaval he was causing in Reese’s life, but Reese was due for a good world-shattering and Luc was just the man to do it.
Luc had a touch more angst and Reese a touch less sweetness than the Johnnie/Tyler pairing, but overall, they were a strong contender for my favorite pairing.

Hell:
Brent and Heller were never in the running for my favorite pair, and this was entirely due to the fact that I didn’t like Hell. I liked Brent – I liked the fact that he wasn’t perfect, that he had self-esteem issues, that he blossomed with a guitar in his hand yet wilted under public attention. He was a wonderful character, the only one in the band that really made me think I was reading about a rock star, and if he’d been paired with anyone other than the childish, whining, pouting, trouble-making Hell, it would definitely have been my favorite pairing.
I understood what Myckles was doing with this pairing – I just didn’t like it.

Overall:
I really liked Myckles’ use of minor characters to push the story along. None of the guys were living in a vacuum, relating only to each other, and I appreciated all the little extras, like Tyler’s father, Reese’s girlfriend, and Brent’s personal “babysitter.” The extra cast fleshed out the story in a satisfying way, while Myckle managed to prevent the crowd from feeling overwhelming.
While I could appreciate the drama of the characters’ developing relationships, nothing in the stories struck me as being distastefully angsty. All the problems and troubles they faced were fairly realistic ones, which kept the stories light and enjoyable instead of gut-wrenching. There are times when readers want a heartbreaking epic, and then there are times when the reader wants to sit back and enjoy a simple tale of how two lovers meet, and Myckles is very good at meeting exactly that need.
I have a very bad habit of skipping through sex scenes entirely in order to get back to the plot – which didn’t happen in these stories. Myckles is quite good at mixing character interaction in with graphic sexuality, which, considering my habit of skipping entire pages, is something I consider notable. The sex was definitely hot, the storylines were interesting, and the relationships between the main characters held my attention through every page.

There were two somewhat-odd recurring themes through all three of these books which slightly puzzled me. First, the tendency of the bottoms to believe themselves unworthy of the tops. Second, the many statements of “I’m not gay.”
… I don’t actually have anything insightful or profound to say about these themes, I just thought I’d mention them.

I know I can honestly recommend these particular novels to prospective readers. I can’t say I’ll read all of Myckles’ books, because I know for a fact that some of them have elves in them, so it’s just not going to happen. However, if you have a stronger stomach than I do and can actually tolerate the idea of an elf in a romantic capacity (ew), then browse through her other novels as well. Myckles as an author who is consistently capable of creating enjoyable romantic stories.

Bottom:
Heaven:
I really liked this one. What I thought truly stood out in this book was the overt sensuality and sexuality in it. Johnnie dripped sex. All of the sex scenes were hot. The hottest scene, by far, had to be the photo shoot. Johnnie on the prowl was amazingly sexual. I really like the way Mykles can practically draw a picture for the reader. You really do see the actions. She’s very good at using small details that bring the action alive without being boring stage directions used to just set the scene.
Johnnie was awesome as a character; not only for his up-front sexuality, but also for his fun-loving attitude and his ability to focus on the one he really wanted. Tyler was a great other-half to him and I could really feel his fear of not wanting to rock the boat by asking questions about relationships and permanency. It’s a crippling, but completely understandable, fear.
The story was good and the supporting characters were utilized well, if a tad bit predictably on a couple of occasions. The pacing was good and the editing was phenomenal for this genre.

Purgatory:
Again, pretty hot. Not as hot as Heaven, but still very good. Still kept me very interested in what was going to happen between the sheets. I really loved Reece. I mean, he just rocked. He was a real fighter, even as he was giving up, he was still fighting for what he thought he should be doing. The only issue I have is that I wanted him to be angry with Luc for casually throwing his life off course on that particular night. I can understand why Luc did it, and continued to do it, but I totally expected —and thought it was warranted— that Reece get a bit pissed off. Again, I thought their pairing was good and very realistic. I especially enjoyed Reece’s breakdown. At that point I could see the pain and destruction that Luc had inflicted that long-ago night, and I thought it was brilliantly written and very convincing. The two characters really played well off each other, and I loved their fight scenes. You could really see this couple lasting forever.
Again, damn near flawless editing, which I truly appreciated and I believe sets the bar high for other authors in this genre and ebook format.

Hell:
Now this one was the one that, while enjoyable, wasn’t great. Which is odd, because Hell was a character I would normally be all over. And I was, but I thought Brent was… Well, I think the “Oh, he can’t be interested in me. He’s too above me” theme had been played out at this point and coupled with Brent’s broken personality it didn’t work as well as the other two books had. Brent was weak and confused and seemed to me to be poorly put together as a character. I can see that he was meant to be broken, but the pieces didn’t seem to fit for me. I could understand his fears and desires; I just couldn’t quite understand all of his actions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the role reversal, but I just couldn’t quite get into it as much as I wanted to due to Brent’s whining. Tyler and Reece struggled on, while Brent just flopped. Again, what made this a book I would read again was Mykles ability to portray actions so that everything comes off very naturally. There was an intimacy to the actions and the dialog that really drew me in. The fights between everyone were very well done, I thought, and I enjoyed every moment of them.
But there was a serious problem with this book in the editing department. Maybe there was a rush due to deadline, or the editor for the previous two books was unavailable, but there is a distressing lack of periods in Hell. Other than that, I didn’t see too many other typos, but the period thing was a definite eyebrow raiser.

I have read four of Mykles’ books now and, at this point, I can say that I would read anything by her. (By the way, I do not have the same loathing of elves as my collaborator has, so I’m A-Ok with reading the Dark Elves series.) Her ability with sex scenes is awesome, if she nails the characters. Which, for me, has been a 90% success rate. Also, the theme through the four I’ve read definitely centers on the bottom feeling unfit to be with the top, which isn’t a bad thing. But I would love to read more from Mykles in the future. I think she would really excel at other ideas and themes. The only thing that I don’t particularly like is the use of the word “boner”. It just seems… middle school to me. But that’s a very personal particularity and it in no way detracts from her writing.
The fun thing about Mykles’ books, for me, is spotting the Japan reference. As a fellow Japanophile, I saw the obsession creep up in all four of the books I’ve read of hers and I smiled every time.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining series. The book covers are gorgeous, so big props to P.L. Nunn for those. The characters are lovable and make you very happy to see them pop up again in each successive book. I look forward to the fourth in this series… and hope it is M/M. I would recommend any, and most definitely all, of these books to readers who enjoy slight angst, fun characters, and hot sex.