Michael Joseph


Bangkok-based travel writer who occasionally makes a foray into fiction.

Where to find Michael Joseph online

Michael Joseph's favorite authors on Smashwords

Ann Somerville
Latest book: Many Roads Home.
Published June 16, 2017.
Beryll Brackhaus
Latest book: Malena MCD.
Published March 23, 2023. (5.00 from 1 review)
Gillibran Brown
Latest book: Revelations.
Published October 24, 2021. (4.89 from 19 reviews)

Smashwords book reviews by Michael Joseph

  • Despoiling David on Aug. 08, 2011

    Interesting story, of three men fighting to control a third - a ripe young man who is heir to a substantial estate. I thought the book would have benefited from a bit more character development. All four men come off as a bit one-dimensional, especially the title character, who seems to be little more than a sex-crazed teenager. This actually helps to make the abrupt ending even more disappointing, as time suddenly jumps 18 years into the future. I also think the author may have made a mistake trying to tell the story from three different points of view. It makes for some abrupt jumps in the story.
  • Gentle Persuasion X on Oct. 17, 2011
    (no rating)
    This collection of one-handed reads didn't really do it for me. I was expecting some BDSM stories but the collection focuses mostly on 'straights' being seduced, or in some cases doing the seduction. There's sometimes a little bit of force involved, but not at all what I was looking for.
  • Fun with Dick and Shane: Memoirs of a Houseboy on Oct. 30, 2011

    This is the biggest surprise I've had for quite some time. I was expecting a bit of light fluff, and while there's lots of humor in the author's breezy first-person account of the 'adventures' of a 24 year-old houseboy/partner of two older men, the book still manages to tackle some very serious subjects. Gillibran Brown, called Gilli by his friends, is the hero of the book, as well as in his own mind. He's domestically partnered with two older men, both of whom he calls Daddy. The emphasis here is on the 'domestic' partnership, since Gilli is responsible for the upkeep of the home while his two daddies are off working. The book is written as part daily journal of Gilli's life, interspersed with slightly longer stories of specific events. The writing style is very light, and while I don't have a lot of exposure to 20-something English lads, I'd say the author nailed the language and attitudes quite accurately. While the subtitle of the book may be "The Memoirs Of A Submissive Houseboy", Gilli is a submissive only when it comes to sex - and even then it seems he can be rather demanding. The rest of the time he's a headstrong and temperamental young man, and that's usually what gets him in trouble. At times he has the emotional maturity of a two-year old. He gets jealous of the time his two daddies spend with each other, or with friends he doesn't like. He is bullheaded about doing what his daddies tell him to do, even (perhaps especially) when it's for his own good. When Gilli gets out of line, which is often, he gets spanked. There's a lot of spanking in this book, more than is to my taste, to be honest. But there were times when even I wanted to give Gilli a smack. He seems to go out of his way to piss off the alpha daddy Shane. While there is a lot of spanking, and allusions to a bit of bondage, I didn't classify this as a BDSM book since there's very little actual sex described. This is not erotica, although there's a lot of discussion of sex, it's left mostly to the imagination. The nature of discipline and the role it plays in their relationship is one of the more serious topics tackled in the book. It's all done in the same light-hearted style of life-according-to-Gilli and isn't the least bit heavy-handed. Other serious topics addressed include the challenges of cross-generation relationships, the stigma of epilepsy and even the impermanence of life. The light writing style hooks you and reels you in while the author conveys some very useful lessons. I was very impressed by what the writer managed to pull off, and I'll be reading the sequels for sure.
  • In The Dark on Nov. 05, 2011

    In broad strokes, this is a pretty disturbing story, effectively involving kidnap and rape. You'll need to be able to get past that to read this novella - hey, it's fiction, right? We never learn the name of the kidnapper. The kidnapped is Duncan, a 19 year old straight-identified young man. Personally, I don't really get the fixation some of my gay brothers have for straight guys. I have hard enough a time getting a second look from gay guys, I don't need the added rejection of pursuing straights. Not to mention that it feeds homophobic fears about trying to 'convert' people. Anyhoo, the whole story recounts one night in a pitch black room where a restrained Duncan is alternatively coerced with pain and seduced with sexual stimulation until he begs to be penetrated. It's all recounted in great detail, as Duncan slowly convinces himself to give in to the pleasure the kidnapper gives him. Once you get past the improbability of the setup - how did the kidnapper manage to get into Duncan's room and transport him without being seen? - the story unfolds realistically. I didn't put this on my BDSM shelf because it's not consensual. The text was very badly proofed and had a lot of typos.
  • Kei's Gift (Darshian Tales #1) on Dec. 02, 2011

    The best word I can think of to describe Kei’s Gift is "epic" – in the very classical sense of the word. This is a broad tale of the clash of two cultures, set in an alternate world not far removed from Earth’s ancient antiquity. The ‘clash’ is actually an all out war, and against this background our two heroes struggle to find peace, and each other. On the one side, we have Arman, a general in the Prij army. The Prij seemed to be loosely based on the ancient romans, a militaristic society with a thirst for expansion by conquest, ruled by a capricious young monarch advised by a senate of decrepit old men. The Prij believe they are the only civilized society, and that the peoples they conquer are all barbarians. Arman is an intelligent and honorable man, whose life, especially his evil bitch of a wife, brings him no happiness. Kei is a gentle healer in a small village in Darshian. He has what the Darshianese call a ‘gift’, the ability to see into people’s souls and know what they’re feeling. People with gifts are rare and highly respected, but the gifts are not always a blessing to the person that has them. The two men are enemies, on opposite sides of a very unjust war, yet it seems like they are somehow destined to be together. But circumstances, their differences, and their honor, seems to be constantly pulling them apart. At times, it really looks like they will never find happiness. This is what I would call a very ‘dense’ book, and by that I don’t mean it’s difficult to read. It’s actually quite readable. But unlike many other books of such length, there’s no fluff of unnecessary prose, no lengthy tirades. There are plenty of tirades, against war and stupidity for the most part, but they’re short and to the point. Every word on every page is important and adds to the story. It’s a very rich tale, with sadness, humor, and some real tear-jerking moments near the end.
  • Aquamarine on April 05, 2012

    Russell Grant is a scientist, a geneticist in fact, and the son of a geneticist who helped create the ‘Aquarians’, a new human subspecies able to live in the water, almost like a fish. That’s important because the polar ice caps have melted and the world is almost completely covered in water. Russell’s lover of many years is Eric Devlin, one of the first Aquarians. Eric can ‘breath’ under water and has skin that will protect him from some of the problems normal humans experience from being in the water for long periods. Eric and Russell are devoted to each other, sharing their lives on the tiny artificial island of Pacifica. Russell and Eric are pretty happy, living and working on the tiny little artificial island of Pacifica, the brainchild of billionaire Gerald Duquesne. But trouble comes looking for the pair one day, in the form of two strangers who want to hire Russell, his submersible, and especially Eric for a little salvage job. Russell is suspicious, especially when the men won’t discuss the details of what they’re salvaging or what the conditions are, and so he turns down the job. A few days later, Eric goes missing, and Russell is pretty sure the two men are behind it. Thus the adventure begins. The resourceful Russell tracks down Eric and rides to the rescue. But getting his lover away from the bad guys is just the start of the adventure for these two, as the tiny remnants of humanity seem to be teetering on the edge of a new global conflict. It’s been a while since I read any of Mel Keegan’s work, but Aquamarine is everything I expect from him. There are two likable guys in love, action, adventure, a little sex, mystery and intrigue. This isn’t great literature, it’s more like classic pulp fiction, but Keegan is a good example of why that style of writing remains so popular. Aquamarine is quite a nice little read, despite a number typos. The only real issue I had with the story were the unanswered questions regarding the technology. The genetic alterations to make the Aquarians I just had to take a leap of faith on. The author goes into a lot of details about other technical aspects of how people are surviving – hydroponic vegetables, chickens, rabbit and fish for protein, etc. – but he leaves out things like where the fuel is coming from, or the rare earth minerals needed to keep producing computer chips. These are minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things, and some readers might not even notice them. As with most science fiction, it’s easy to poke holes in it if you try.
  • Games & Consequences (Remastering Jerna #2) on April 14, 2012

    Games & Consequences is essentially a mystery, largely told by Ria. While the reasons and people behind the frame-up are a little more obvious to the reader than they are to Ria and Sila, the police investigator on the case, there’s still enough of a mystery here to keep you reading. Even once Ria figures out that Darr is behind the plot, he still has to prove it. Along the way, as his private life gets exposed, he has to try and convince people that the BDSM sex he enjoys with Jerna is not the same as the abusive relationship that Darr had with Pavine. While it is a good read, this sequel isn’t quite as good as the first book. It didn’t really tug at me emotionally the way Remastering Jerna. A big part of that is probably that you just know that Ria is going to work it out eventually and rescue Jerna, who isn’t quite as isolated this time, like he was in the first book. Still, it is a very good mystery, so I’m giving it four stars out of five.
  • More Fun with Dick and Shane on April 24, 2012

    The houseboy is back, and he’s still in good form. Like the first book, there’s no real plot to this ‘memoir’. It’s mostly in the form of a diary with a few longer stories interspersed in. ‘Gilli’ is a 25 year-old houseboy and submissive ‘boy’ lover to two older ‘daddy’ doms, Dick and Shane. It isn’t always easy for the impulsive and headstrong young man to live up to the expectations his daddies place on him. Gilli has a hard time controlling his emotions, and sometimes jealously or resentment gets the best of him. However, in this sequel, it seems to me that Dick and Shane have mellowed a bit and are somewhat more understanding of Gilli’s feelings of insecurity, although they still don’t stand for any bad behavior and are quick with the spankings when he gets out of line. What I loved about the first book was the light-hearted style in which much of the story is delivered. In this second volume, there are again many laugh-out-loud and face-palming moments as Gilli gets into all sorts of new situations that get him into trouble. But there are also serious moments, and that’s what makes both of the books more than just a bit of fluff. In this book, Gilli has to deal with his mother’s terminal cancer, and all the pent-up resentment he has harbored towards her. The one fault I have with this sequel, and why I’m not rating it as high as the first, is that it gets a bit too introspective and pedantic at times. The author seems to feel he needs to explain the complexities of Gilli’s relationship with his daddies, and while I can certainly believe that most people have trouble understanding D/s power exchanges, not to mention menage relationships, I thought the passages of reflection and explanation were a bit too numerous and long this time around. The reflection seems to show a young man maturing, which is a good thing, but for me it was a tad over-done. Towards the end, it came off as being more defensive than anything else. Still, on the whole this is a very enjoyable read, and I’m looking forward to the next one, which is due out soon.
  • Needful (Remastering Jerna #3) on May 03, 2012

    Another year or so has passed since the events of the last book, Games & Consequences, and things are not going well for Jerna and his family. His youngest daughter is fighting cancer while the older one is facing bullying at school. Love and honor compel Jerna to spend more time with his wife and children, and less time with his lover Ria. Ria feels lonely, and although he tries to understand Jerna’s situation, he can’t help but wonder if he can ever be really happy sharing Jerna with his wife and family. It doesn’t help that Ria’s old flame Orlan has reappeared to create mischief in both Ria and Jerna’s life. For much of the first half of this book, it seems that Needful is going to be the story of the end of a relationship, as conflicting demands tear Ria and Jerna apart, but then this author excels at painting her characters into a corner from which it seems they can’t escape without giving up something dear to them. Orlan has also involved himself with Sila, the inspector who helped clear Jerna’s name in the previous book of the series. When Orlan is accused of a series of murders, as well as an attack on Sila, she, Ria and Jerna must work together to figure out what’s really going on. Like Games & Consequence this is essentially a mystery. However, it lacks some of the urgency of the previous book. Although the relationship between Ria and Jerna is strained, neither of them is under threat this time. The only one in clear physical danger is Sila. Needful is still a good story, about the extent that greed and lust can push people, as well as the importance of communication in any relationship. While Jerna and Ria have been very open and honest with each other and their loved ones, there were still some things left un-said that very nearly put an end to things. While on the whole I enjoyed this book as much as other works by the author, it did have a couple of issues that made me consider giving it three stars instead of four. The first issue is rather subjective, I admit, but for me there were too many characters. It’s a fine line in murder mysteries – you want lots of suspects, but the reader has to be able to keep track of them. In this case, there were a lot of characters involved in the murder plot, including victims, some of whom we never actually meet. I sometimes had to stop and try to remember who a particular person was when they were last mentioned several chapters ago. It became really tricky towards the end, when two men who turn out to be at the center of the plot had very similar names. The other key issue with this book is simply editing. There were a large number of typographical errors. It was mainly incorrect words or word order, the kind of mistake that’s easy to make when you’re writing and hard to catch if you try to self-proof. There were enough errors to be really noticeable, but not enough to make reading overly frustrating, as has happened to me before.
  • The Rabelais Alliance on June 19, 2012

    Curtis Marin is a hit man, although he would object strongly to that term. He would probably prefer something more along the lines of ‘avenging angel’. In the almost lawless fringes of the human colonies among the stars, where money and power lets you get away with murder (in other words, not much changes in 700 years), Marin works for a secret organization that, for a price, allows bereaved families to get justice. Marin does a lot of research, including hacking into computer systems, to ensure that the selected victim is guilty of their crime before he carries out a commission. He’s judge, jury and executioner. We first meet Marin while he’s on assignment, taking out a particularly nasty gun-runner who murdered a dozen people just because they discovered what he was doing, or might have seen something they shouldn’t have. By the time Marin pulls the trigger, the reader is convinced the man is getting exactly what’s coming to him. Neil Travers is a Sergeant aboard the Intrepid, a huge deep space carrier currently assigned to an unstable area of space commonly known as Hellgate. The ‘Fleet’, as the military is called, enforces Earth’s ever more tenuous hold over its colonies. In an entirely self-defeating manner, Fleet relies on massive numbers of conscripts from the colonies to support its mission. New inductees are put through a training program that tests them to their limits, and some of them don’t live through it. On the Intrepid, things are even worse. A sadistic training officer called Neville takes special pleasure in torturing recruits with his simulated battle scenarios. The simulations are very real, and some recruits are killed during them. Some simply screw up, and are then flogged to teach them a lesson. One of these whippings results in the death of a young man, whose rich and powerful father wants justice. The first half of the book weaves the stories of Marin and Travers together until they finally meet aboard the Intrepid. It was Travers who smuggled out the information about the true cause of the young man’s death to his father, and of course Marin is the man hired to obtain justice. When they meet, the sparks fly. In this version of the future, sexual preference is a non-issue, so the only thing standing in the way for Travers and Marin is the job Marin has been hired to do. Travers has very little compunction about helping Marin complete his assignment. He and the entire ship have been through hell at the hands of Neville, and the unseen commander Colonel Falk. But things don’t go exactly to plan, and soon the two men are struggling to save their own skins, and the lives of their friends aboard the Intrepid. Of course, this being Mel Keegan, the story isn’t really over once the bad guy is put out of the way and the boys are safe. No, that’s just the beginning. There’s still another mystery or two to unravel before we get to the conclusion. The Rabelais Alliance is classic Mel Keegan, in space. You have two hot and perfect for each other heroes, a rich supporting cast, action, adventure and mystery. It’s no wonder that the book has spawned at least four sequels. Marin and Travers both have older mentors who were also sometime-lovers. Mark Sherratt is Marin’s boss, the head of the secret organization Marin works for, and a member of an alien race thought long extinct. Traver’s friend and mentor is Richard Vaurien, the roguish captain of a band of privateers. Both of these men are interesting in their own right, and I assume they continue to play key rolls in the later books.
  • Unnatural Selection Collection on Oct. 08, 2012

    “Unnatural Selection” is told in the first person by Nick himself. It’s clear he’s made some hard, and unpopular, choices in his life, that make him doubt if he will ever find someone to accept him for who he is, policeman, vee, and all. But he’s not one to cry over having a hard life. The mystery of the serial murders is engrossing, and the revelation of the real culprit near the end is truly a surprise. Despite the tension created by the stalker, “Every Move You Make” is largely a sweet, even mushy story about two men realizing how much they mean to each other. Like the first book, this story is told in the first person by Nick. Although Nick’s status as a ‘vee’ plays a small role in this mystery, it’s much less about that and more about the relationship between he and Anton. Unlike the first two books, which were told by Nick, this last volume is all about Anton, told in the first person by him, as he marshals his friends and family to help in the search for Nick. The real reasons behind Nick’s disappearance are very sinister, but I for one figured them out long before Anton did. Still, guessing what happened doesn’t spoil the story of following Anton as he attempts to find and rescue his husband. All three novellas in this series are quite good. They lack the depth and drama I’ve come to expect from this author, which is why I’ve only given the collection three stars, but they’re quite good reads. I didn’t get as emotionally involved in the characters as I might have hoped, but the books are still entertaining. Like any speculative or science fiction, you have to suspend belief just a little, but the idea of a virus like ISH is really no more fanciful than faster-than-light travel, when you get right down to it.
  • Achilles and the Houseboy on June 02, 2013

    This further adventure of my favorite houseboy in a domestic menage with two older Doms is actually an outtake from his previous book, More Fun With Dick and Shane. With fewer digressions that the first two books, this volume squarely tackles an issue only briefly touched on in previous books, and one of the most sensitive aspects of a menage relationship: jealously. After an hilarious introduction in which the reasoning – which only this author could conjure up – behind the title is explained, the book gets pretty serious. Gili is reminded, in very graphic fashion, that his daddies Dick and Shane share a history that he will never be a part of. They were together ten years before the stroppy young houseboy came into their lives, and their bed. Jealously rears its ugly head, and can’t be easily dismissed. Dick and Shane know something is bothering their moody young pup, but they have no idea what’s causing it, since the immature Gili can’t simply open up about his feelings, which he knows, somewhere in that thick head of his, are wrong. Unfortunately, the two Doms just make things worse, giving their not-so-submissive houseboy even more cause to think he is surplus to requirements in the relationship. Of course, it all blows up eventually, and at the worst possible time for the two daddies. Of course, there’s no reason to worry, since there are at least two more books in the series, so all is not lost for our hero. While delivered in the author’s inimitable style, this is a much more somber story than the two previous books in the series, and it’s easy to see why it has been set aside as a separate work. It’s easy to identify with Gili’s feelings, and while he takes full responsibility for his immature thoughts, I think he lets his daddies off lightly. They’re a little insensitive, and their approach to things they think might upset Gili is to exclude him from any involvement in the decision, which of course only fuels his insecurity. It’s all well and good to argue for openness in such a complex relationship, but the heart isn't very logical. Taken in context with the previous book, it’s now easier to understand the previous work, and why there were such lengthy passages on the nature of Gili's complicated relationship with his two daddies. The events described in this book happened in the midst of the previous story, so if you read this soon after “More Fun With Dick and Shane” you’ll get a much better picture of what is happening.
  • Revelations on Jan. 06, 2022

    This long-time-coming sequel to Christmas at Leo's sees the repercussions from the events of that book come to fruition. Things continue to be tense between Gili and the two men he shares a relationship with, Dick and “Daddy” Shane. The young man begins to seriously question whether or not there's a future for him in the household that's become the closest thing to a home he's had. This sixth book of the series (not counting the many shorts also released) seems to be the culmination of the core story arc. It recounts events that are now more than ten years in the past, seven years since the last full book was published, and we sense a new maturity in the writer's voice, although the houseboy retains much of the cheeky attitude that has marked the books. As in the previous volume, much of the drama stems from Gili's failure to share his concerns with Shane as well as Dick. I had a bit of an epiphany about this towards the middle of this book: While the houseboy needs to bear a lot of the blame for the issues his behavior creates, it does demonstrate a lack of trust in his “Daddy” Shane, and for that, the Dom needs to shoulder at least some responsibility. I won't spoil the book by revealing whether or not Shane eventually redeems himself by the end. One of the big questions of this series has been the degree to which the story is autobiographical. It's generally been my view that, while some events may have been exaggerated for effect, there's an element of truth to the stories and characters. This idea is further enforced by the voice of the narration in this book. Gili comes across as a very authentic character. In daddy kink terms, he is definitely a “brat” but while most brats in D/s stories are just attention-seekers, there are much deeper nuances to Gili. Sure, his actions get him lots of attention, but that's not primarily why he's doing it, and there are some deep psychological reasons behind his behavior. In a similar way, Shane is far from your typical Daddy from kinky stories. He isn't all-knowing, and while he is well-to-do, he still has to work for a living running his own business. In short, he's very human, and he makes mistakes. This makes him a much more sympathetic character than he may have been in the first books.
  • Cherish on Jan. 30, 2022

    The GyrFalconi of Aires 7 have lived in relative isolation for hundreds of years; the technology that bought them across two galaxies to their new planet largely forgotten. That leaves them totally unprepared to fight off the Terrens who invade their planet to mine the rich deposits of an high energy crystal, enslaving large numbers of the GyrFalconi to work the mines. Destin is one of the people captured early in the invasion, but unlike many he doesn't give up and die when he wakes up to find his wings removed, and he even seems to have the ability to inspire others not to give up. The humans make use of his talents and keep Destin out of the mines. The Valespian Pact worlds send help to wrest control of the planet back from the Terrens, but it takes a long time. When he is finally freed, Destin and the other survivors face new trials, as the “wingless” are shunned by the rest of society. They're left to form new bonds and find new family among other survivors and the few GyrFalconi who defy the Empress' cruel wishes. “Cherish” is a significant departure from the first three books of the series. It is in effect a prequel, taking place many years before the events of the previous stories. That means you can read this book without having read the volumes that came before. Few, if any, of the characters from this story appear in the other books. Perhaps the biggest departure of this book is its exploration of such a wide range of sexuality. The GyrFalconi effectively have three genders. The male stags traditionally live apart from the others in rookeries where they may form bonds with two or three other stags. Our main character Destin is a “batore”, essentially a non-reproductive asexual male. Batore form life bonds with a female “chantelle”. When the pair want to have a chick, the chantelle will visit a rookery for some more or less anonymous sex with one or more stags, and then return to her batore. When an egg is produced, the chantelle passes it to the batore, who will incubate it in his body until it is hatched, and then take on much of the responsibility for raising the young, who are slow to mature. The war throws tradition out the window. Destin is separated from his chantelle, and ends up forming a bond with a mated pair, as well as two other batore. When the war ends, and the survivors find themselves shunned by their former mates, the five remain together and set up an unconventional roost to support each other. They take in a young fledgling and also start incubating eggs that the Terrens experimented on. It's while taking on yet another egg that Destin meets Zenon, a stag that while not wingless, is still something of an outcast. It seems that some stags aren't that happy having no involvement in the lives of the chicks they help create. Dustin's family grows into a polyamorous collection of asexual, homosexual and bisexual individuals. While the “found family” theme runs through the the entire story, it's not necessarily the main plot line. The story is also setting up the GrayFalconi and the ancient species that the wingless become intermixed with, as the universe heads towards a galactic war that was becoming imminent in the first three books.
  • The Mystery of the Spirits on Feb. 07, 2022

    Sebastian Snow has been very good about minding his own antiques business and staying out of his husband Calvin Winter's police business. That is, until Calvin's boss comes to him with a rare object from the 1850s that was found at the scene of a murder. So, once again, Sebastian is drawn into a series of bizarre crimes. Will he solve them before he becomes a victim himself? And will his marriage survive another foray into the dangers of crime? This somewhat unexpected fifth mystery in the Snow and Winter series is a rather sweet if gruesome homage to the rest of the books. It takes place a year or two after most of the other books, and you'll want to have read at least a few of the previous stories in the series to know who all the bit players are. The couple are now in a stable relationship, so while this new case raises old issues, there isn't much to question about where the relationship is heading. The mystery this time out is another puzzler typical of the series. There are lots of red herrings to distract you. This is the type of detective story that you can't possibly solve based on the clues provided, until it becomes clear to Sebastian, once again almost too late to keep him out of danger. While this really may be the last book of the series, I can easily see it going on, with our two heroes finding themselves involved in another case. The challenge would be coming up with more weird crimes involving antiques. Researching these stores must be, um, murder.
  • The Shang Zhou Shuffle on Feb. 11, 2022

    It's time for Yaden and Ivan to go on another mission. This time, they need to go undercover to the planet of Shang Zhou where the local prince has himself changed his name and appearance to take a job as a bartender near a military base. The Lotus Knight and his Squire are assigned to protect the prince, and if possible help him investigate a terrorist organization. It all seems simple enough, but of course their missions never turn out as straightforward as they appear. In some ways, this latest book in the series harks back to the very first, The Demon of Hagermarsh. As in that story, things start off at a measured pace as we get to know the culture that the team find themselves embedded in, then all hell breaks loose when danger rears, and the volume becomes a can't-put-it-down page turner. With this book, we finally begin to see how the seemingly varied threads of many of the previous volumes could be coming together. It appears that what looked like many different threats to Yaden, and the empire as a whole, may in fact be connected. It's not spelled out clearly. This is just a guess, so we'll all have to wait for the next book, at least, to see if things are going the way they I think they are. Once again the authors have created a very believable planet extrapolated from an existing Earth culture. The world building feels almost effortless as Shang Zhou is introduced quite naturally into the far-future universe of the Virasana Empire. I can see where, if you haven't read any of the other books about the Virasana Empire, and particularly the first book of this Sir Yaden series, then this imaginary human future might seem a bit ill-defined, but all the books together form a rich and very detailed tapestry.
  • Thrown to the Lions - The Complete Series on Feb. 17, 2022

    In a modern English town, there's a pride of werelions, all men and all gay. Human men from the town can volunteer to be literally thrown to the lions for a night sexual escapades. Some do it for money, some for the thrill, others are just curious about what goes on. Most of the men will return from their encounter and resume their lives, but for just a few their lives will be changed forever. This collection of four novella length stories tells the tale of four such men for whom their night with the lions is not what they expected. In Ryland's Sacrifice, Ryland is a young man studying for his PhD, but having a hard time coming up with the money to finish his degree, as you will these days. Having exhausted all other options and unable to ask his family for help, he is left to either try to get the money from a loan shark, or volunteer to be thrown to the lions. The idea of what the lions might do makes him nervous, but that's nothing compared to finding out that the professor he's had a crush on is actually the head of the pride. Professor Arslan is very happy that the young man who has sat in on his lectures has come to him, but things don't go the way he hopes. This first story in the series is a hot and sweet little romance. The story relies very little on the shifter aspect of the fantasy, which makes it a little more believable, within the already far-fetched concept of “being thrown to the lions” persisting to the present day. I wasn't quite convinced by Ryland's initial reluctance to start a relationship with Arslan, but as “subissive issues” in these stories go, it's not the most unbelievable. Marrick's Promise he makes to himself is to live his life to its fullest. Getting thrown to the lions is just another thrill to check off his list. It's not an experience he expects to repeat. What he doesn't count on is meeting not one, but two lions who rock his world much more than a whip-wielding leather dom could ever hope to. But is submitting to two lion masters something he can bring himself to do? This second episode of the series offers a bit more believable story line. Even before we get his full back story, it's not hard to understand why Merrick wouldn't want to have a relationship with even one man (or lion) who was so risk-adverse they wouldn't want him to do anything even slightly dangerous. We can also understand the lions Blaine and Luthur's point of view, although it becomes even clearer once we get the full details of their experiences. Many subs from the local leather club have volunteered to be thrown to the lions, and they say everything is okay, but some of the Doms aren't so sure, so it becomes Ellery's Duty to check things out by getting himself thrown to the pride. Ellery may be agreeing to submit to the lions for a night, but he still exudes a dominant vibe and most of the lions aren't interested. Kefir isn't like the other lions of the pride, or any other lion he knows. He's smaller and doesn't have the slightest urge to dominate anyone, human or lion, and he's fascinated by Ellery. But lions can't be submissive, especially to a human, can they? The first two stories of this series have driven home the “fact” that werelions are bigger and stronger than humans, and therefore it falls to the lion to protect “his” human. Kefir's suddenly clear feelings about what he wants from Ellery clash with everything he's been taught about how lions and their human mates should relate. Not only does the young lion have to battle his own inner conflicts, but he has to face the disapproving comments from the rest of the pride. The last story in this collection is Cameron's Pride. Cameron walked out on his old pride and they didn't come after him. Since then he's been on his own, and has been earning a living as an exotic dancer and rent boy. But while Cameron may be willing to sell his body and his time, he's not willing to sell his soul. People like Franklin think that everyone and everything has a price, and he wants Cameron no matter what the cost. He's about to get a hard lesson about the limits of his wealth and the control he buys with it. Franklin is the perfect personification of the spoiled rich man who thinks he can buy whatever, or whoever, he wants. Cameron's desire to stay in control of his own life is understandable even if he proves a bit stubborn about accepting help. The lion's attraction to a man he wants to hate is clear. I'm a tiny bit dubious about Franklin's turnaround under Cameron's attention. It's a bit of a stretch but works well enough within the confines of the story.
  • The Succubus on March 01, 2022

    Kohar is quite happy as the mage-in-residence at the remote Castle Rehm. It's a cold and forbidding place, but also relatively undemanding. That is, until several servants and guards turn up dead in “unusual” circumstances, apparently victims of a succubus. Together with the taciturn captain of the guards Nevek, Kohar needs to try and track down the person spreading death through magical runes, before the two of them become victims themselves. “The Succubus” is a rather sweet romantic fantasy. It's not too complicated and features a plot that is more or less a direct line. There aren't really any twists or turns in the plot, and it's not too much of a mystery who the miscreant is. You'll probably figure it out before Kohar and company do. The entire story is told from Kohar's point of view, and he's a quite an engaging character. He is something of a sarcastic brat, with quite a few smart remarks. In fact, the whole atmosphere of the castle seems rather relaxed in the relationship between the Duke, his mage Kohar and captain of the guard Nevek. But this is a fantasy, so who's to say what's appropriate. If that's what the author wants to write, it's enjoyable enough to sit back and enjoy the ride. This is the first book in a series, so while the initial mystery gets resolved, there are still larger questions yet to be answered. It felt a little odd that these issues weren't even mentioned at the end. It's a little like an elephant-in-the-room situation. Presumably, at least some of those loose threads will be picked up in the next book.
  • Returning Heroes on March 15, 2022

    Ales is back from his accidental trip to another galaxy, and it seems just in time, too. Things are afoot as the galactic powers move to quell unrest on several fronts, especially the attempt of Lord Viscamon to take over the Kyleri Empire. Osvai receives unexpected support to help him regain the throne he lost, while Ales is anxious to find Turo to make him free Ales from the cage he is trapped in. Meanwhile, Mahnoor is still imprisoned as a spy on the ship he once piloted. This sixth installment of the series brings together all of the main characters introduced in the previous books as everything seems to be coming to a head. There's lots of action, and it's told from multiple character's point of view. To be honest, it's a bit of a chore trying to remember characters who haven't appeared for two or three books, but there are a few reminders here and there to help you out. However, you will definitely need to have read all of the previous books in the series to have the vaguest clue what's going on in this latest volume. Ales remains at the center of things, although perhaps not as much as I thought he would be. He's a bit changed by his experiences from the last book, Altered Tides, and more determined than ever to free himself from Turo's control. Meeting Daeron again reminds the rebel leader that he's not as alone as he may have thought, and supporting Daeron when he faces a crisis gives him an even greater connection to his humanity. It's Daeron who seems to be at the center of things in this story. Like Ales, he is far from perfect, and that shows most in his relationship with Osvai. He's much like many of the characters, and indeed the whole plot of the series as it evolves. Initially, on the surface, this looked like a classic tale of good versus evil, with “good guys” and “bad guys” fighting to save the galaxy. However, as the books, and particularly this volume, progresses, it gets a little hard to tell who is entirely good, or even who is bad. At times, it even seems as though both sides are heading towards the same outcome. The next book will apparently be the last in the series, when we will presumably find out how things wind up.
  • After the Storm on April 10, 2022

    When the effects of climate change start getting severe, governments collapse and chaos ensues. To escape the dangers of the cities, a group of people take to the waters of Lake Michigan, where they're joined by more refugees and ultimately form a self-contained community called the “Michigan Fleet”. Rich Merrill is a child of the fleet, born to a “normal” father and a mother descended from genetically modified super-soldiers. But Rich isn't a soldier, he's a tech who can interface with the artificial intelligence of the ships in the fleet to help them out. Unfortunately, after training he got assigned to the worst ship in the fleet, where violence, intimidation and sexual exploitation is the norm, as is forcing Rich to do the work of three people. Fortunately, the fleet finally wakes up to what's going on and disbands the crew. Rich is retrained and reassigned to a new ship, but the hard-learned distrust of other people is hard to shake. Can Rich conquer his fears and learn to trust again? “After the Storm” paints a very believable picture of a possible future that isn't that far off, as climate change brings humanity to the brink. We see it all through Rich's eyes, and he is also very realistic and understandable. As we get to know Rich more through the story, it's easy to see how his view of the world has been shaped by his experiences aboard a dysfunctional ship. The story is told in very episodic fashion, with each sub-story helping to build a bigger picture of Rich and his challenges. Some of the scenes are very sexual, but even these demonstrate how the most intimate of interactions have been colored by Rich's traumatic experiences. Although the term is never used, it's clear Rich is suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) as he gets set off by even the simplest of everyday encounters. Rich manages to form several close friendships over the course of the story. The closest of these is to a colleague, Basil. The younger man is sweet and somewhat innocent, although also a child genius that Rich knew before his time on the dysfunctional boat. Then there's Liam, the brilliant and sexually voracious agricultural engineer who manages to teach Rich that sex is for pleasure, and not “payment” for favors.
  • The Castellan on April 30, 2022

    Bedros was once a high flyer at court, a favorite of the king. All that came to an end when he saved the life of a man he considered an enemy, but who was unjustly accused by the court of high crimes. As punishment he was banished to Castle Rehm, at the furthest reaches of the kingdom. Bedros has nonetheless made a life he's happy with, taking care of the people and keeping the peace. While he knows he's out of favor with the court, it's still a bit of a surprise when word reaches the castle that the king's soldiers are on their way to slaughter the villagers and the residents of the castle, and blame it on the neighboring kingdom to provoke a war. The bigger surprise is that the messenger is none other than the man who Bedros saved, causing his downfall. “The Castellan” is a fast-paced story that quickly becomes quite a page-turner. The action takes off almost from the first chapter and doesn't really let up until the end. While a lot happens over the course of the story, the drama between Bedros and the man he once considered his nemesis never really materializes. On the whole the relationship between the two men is a lot more adult than one might usually expect from these kinds of stories. Bedros was introduced in the previous book, The Succubus, but we really didn't get to know him all that well. You probably should read the previous book before this one, but if you haven't you won't be missing much. This story focuses on two different characters, Bedros and his one-time enemy Warren. We got the impression from the first story that Bedros has a rather relaxed attitude and doesn't stand on ceremony much, although he still knows how to respect the customs of the court when necessary. That view of him is very much reinforced in this book. The story is told entirely from Bedros' point of view, so we get to know Warren through him. He seems to be more like Bedros than the man might have imagined, and there's clearly been an attraction there even though Bedros had been convinced to treat Warren as an enemy. This second installment of the Castle Rehm series feels a lot better constructed that the first book. The relationship between Bedros and Warren has a little more drama to it, although not quite what the blurb promises, and there are no loose ends left at the end.
  • The Art of Boytoy Maintenance on May 22, 2022

    Rich continues to settle into life aboard the Reliant, a life far more “normal” than his time on his previous posting aboard the ship from hell. One of the little pleasures of his new existence is the occasional visit from Liam, a very much friends-with-benefits relationship. On one of these visits, Liam floats the idea of being Rich's “toy” for the day. Rich can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, with Liam, who Rich already knows has an almost insatiable sexual appetite. That day finally comes when Liam's science boat is stowed in the Reliant's hold during one of the violent storms that cross the lake. “The Art of Boytoy Maintenance” is a short sequel to After the Storm. It's almost like a deleted scene from the first book, except that it clearly takes place after the events of that story. After a short introduction, it's really just an account of Rich's day having Liam at his disposal to do whatever he wants, when-ever he wants. Liam really wants to be used, and maybe even a little abused, by Rich. If you read the other book, then you know how sensitive Rich is about using his genetically enhanced size to push people around, so while he know Liam likes it rough, he's always concerned about going to far. This makes the day more of a challenge for Rich than you might expect. He's not your typical fictional Dominant. As you can probably guess, the book is a series of connected sexual encounters between Rich and Liam, with at one point a little help from Basil. Liam is the one man Rich has met that cannot only accommodate Rich's size, he craves it. The day becomes, in part, a test of just how much Liam can really take. While it's mostly hot and steamy fun, there are some dramatic moments mostly resulting from the two men having to balance getting what they want out of the scene with respecting the issues and limitations of the other man. If you've read the previous book, then this is a fun visit with Rich and Liam. It doesn't really advance the Michigan fleet story as a whole.
  • The Monk on June 06, 2022

    Taniel feels like he has always lived his life in the shadows. Growing up with his adopted family, he seemed to be the shadow of his older brother Kohar, who also became a mage. Then, at the monastery, he became the shadow of the spectacularly beautiful monk Vosgi, whose obsession with dark magic finally forced Taniel to turn him in, and get both of them kicked out of the monastery. Now Taniel is back with his brother at Castle Rehm, where Vosgi has been wreaking havoc taking his revenge. Will Taniel be able to defeat his former lover and protect the only family he has left? The Castle Rehm trilogy comes to a conclusion in this final installment, when we finally get to meet the elusive Vosgi and get to know Kohar's younger brother. You really should have read the first two books before reading this one to get the full background on all the characters, but the focus of this story is mostly on Taniel, and there's a lot of background relayed over the course of the short book, so if you haven't read the others you could, in theory, still read this one. Like the previous book, “The Monk” sets a fast pace, with the action starting in the first few pages and never really letting up. Although Taniel appeared in the last book, we really didn't get to know much about him. Frankly, we don't get to know a whole lot more in this book, except to hear more about how he got involved with the mad monk trying to kill everyone around him. Taniel's love interest is Corsair, a member of the palace guard, but we only get the barest sketch of him as well. In fact, the whole romance between Taniel and Corsair very much takes a back seat to the action. The two only get one quick romp in bed before being interrupted. The interactions between the two are quite cute, but there just seems like too little of it. It just feels underdeveloped compared to the two previous books.
  • Fate on July 03, 2022

    Eddie's stand-up comic mother goes into labor while on the road. She ends up sharing a hospital room with another woman, who as it happens lives not far away from her. Although coming from two different social circles, the two women become good friends, as do their sons, Eddie and Brian. At seven years old, the two boys are separated when Brian's parents have to move to another state, leaving Eddie on his own. Ten or so years later, on his first day of college, Eddie meets his new roommate Curtis. The two decide to be friends-with-benefits, which suits Eddie just fine. Until, that is, Curtis introduces his new boyfriend Aaron. At the end of the sophomore year, Brian re-enters Eddie's life, and introduces him to Trevor. Eddie ends up having a relationship with all four men, often at the same time. Despite attempts to let them go, “fate” keeps bringing Eddie's lovers back to him. How is he to decide which one he loves most? As this story began to unfold, part of me hoped it might be an indictment of the tyranny of monogamy. I've always been curious about the argument that, as members of the LGBTQ+ community, we are already living outside of ‘convention’ and so shouldn't really feel like we need to adhere to conventional relationships, like marriage between just two people. However, the story never goes in that direction, although the idea isn't far off the page. The story is related entirely from Eddie's point of view. There's clearly something about him that attracts his lovers to him, although it's not clear what that is, since his telling is rather self-deprecating. What is clear is that Eddie is just as swept up in the tide of fate that keeps pulling his lovers back into his orbit. Why they keep falling into bed with Eddie, even when they are in relationships with others, is another mystery. One of the things that does seem to be clear is that Eddie wants to be loved. Seems to need to know he is loved, although we don't get many clues as to why that is. We only get to know Eddie's many lovers through him. They're each different in their own way. Of them all, Brian, Eddie's first love, is perhaps the biggest enigma. His relationship with Eddie doesn't always make sense, and like what it is that keeps all these men returning to each other, is never really explained. There's a lot left to the reader to guess at and ponder in this book. That's not a bad thing at all, although some might not like it.
  • Lost and Found: Forester Triad Act Two on July 16, 2022

    A young tree elf has gone missing after leaving the camp of a hunting party, so truth-seeker Kelnaht is called in to lead the search along with his apprentice Brem. Clues are scarce, and it takes several days, but eventually they find the boy in a place apparently meant to implicate the forester Taruif, with whom Kelnaht has been having an illicit affair. It's easy enough to clear the forester but harder to track down the real culprit. This second book of the initial trilogy of the Tales of the Forest series continues the story of Kelnaht and his problematic relationship with the forester Taruif and his old partner Ianys. Taruif is still shunned, although there's hope that may change. Until then, they have to be very discrete. There's the added complication that the mother of Ianys's daughter made him promise not to allow Kelnaht to have any role in the child's life. As should be obvious, you need to have read the first book of this series before picking up this one. Once again, the story is told entirely from Kelnaht's point of view. We get a bit more insight into the world of tree elves and cloud elves, and the village where they live together in mixed families. However, the main theme of this tale is the tightrope the truth-seeker walks by having a relationship with the shunned forester and Ianys.
  • Honey and Pepper on Aug. 13, 2022

    Nikias is a recently freed slave that's come to the big city to find work. He ends up working in a snack stall that occupies one corner of a grand old house. That's where he first spots Kallion, a man about Nikias's age who seems to work at the mansion. The two meet when Kallion is attacked outside the house, and despite some initial misunderstandings, they become friends. But Kallion harbors a dark secret about his cruel former master that prevents him from fully opening up to Nikias. When events overtake the city and force Kallion to confess his past, will Nikias still want to be with him? “Honey and Pepper” is set in the same ancient Greco-Roman-like fantasy world as the Sword Dance series. However, the characters in this story are all different, so you don't have to have read the other books before reading this one. Most of the story is related from Nikias's point of view. He seems to be a pleasant young man, although, at times, he's not sure what to make of his newfound freedom. The full details of his past as an enslaved person are revealed slowly over the course of the story and go a long way to explaining some of his early behavior. Some of the narrative is from Kallion's point of view. Like Nikias, the man was recently freed. Unlike his friend, Kallion was highly educated as a slave, learning to not only read and write but also gain the skills to work as a law clerk once he was freed. Like Nikias, the complete story of what he did for his former master only comes out in drips and drabs. If you've read any of the other books by this author set in the same world, then you'll know what to expect. There's a bit of cloak and dagger mystery and a rich set of characters which helps make this ancient fantasy world more real.
  • Full Circle: Forester Triad Act Three on Sep. 09, 2022

    Children in the village are falling ill, and it isn't just the usual summer-time fever that they usually recover from. When truth-seeker Kelnaht looks into what might be causing it, he finds links to an old crime by one of forester Taruif's predecessors. With Ianys' daughter at risk, it puts a considerable strain on the relationship between the three, as Kelnaht and Taruif race to track down the culprit and find a cure. This third book rounds out the initial trilogy of the Tales of the Forest series. Like the first two books, there's a core mystery to solve while the three main characters, Kelnaht, Taruif, and Ianys, attempt to navigate some very complicated issues around their relationship. Naturally, that means you need to have read those other two volumes before taking on this one. As in the first two books, the narration is entirely from Kelnaht's point of view as he juggles keeping the peace, solving a mystery, and relationship issues. This final book of the trilogy manages to resolve most of the issues around the relationship between Kelnaht, Taruif, and Ianys. There is lots of action, but it's an easy-to-follow short novella like the previous stories.
  • Livestock on Sep. 24, 2022

    Lucas works in a law firm where he's supposed to be IT support but has ended up as an under-appreciated general factotum. One of the company's clients is a wealthy businessman who keeps a ‘herd’ of male slaves and has been accused of murdering one of them. Lucas becomes fascinated by the idea of extreme submission, as well as the man, Master Forrest, when they finally meet. The young man is increasingly drawn into the world of kink, but can he really trust his new master with his life? The blurb for this book suggests that the story has an element of murder-mystery. In fact, the mystery of what happened to the missing submissive is cleared up within the first few chapters. However, the doubts that first introduction to Master Forrest's world plant color Lucas' thoughts for the rest of the story. The book is told entirely from Lucas' point of view. I would describe the style as more ‘telling’ rather than ‘showing,’ but given the content, it's hardly as dull as that sounds. It's very much like reading a diary or personal journal documenting a young man's process of becoming a submissive and then a slave dedicated to pleasing his master no matter what the cost. It's all quite believable. This is not your typical warm and fuzzy dominant/submissive romance that is so popular these days. This is a gritty depiction of extreme submission, warts and all. I have no doubt that it is as much a fantasy as the romantic stories, but it's going to appeal to a different audience. Lucas is tested, both mentally and physically, by his new master. He must not only prove that he can please Master Forrest with no concern for his own pleasure but also get along with the herd of other slaves the master keeps. There are a great many things in this story that may make you uncomfortable. It's not just the kinky stuff, which is highly varied, but as Lucas learns more about his master and his brothers in the herd, they reveal some stories of genuine pain and torture. While there are definitely some highly charged sex scenes, I'm not tagging this as erotica. Those scenes usually come after some equally highly charged emotional discoveries.
  • Oren's Right on Oct. 14, 2022

    Forester Veld has been enamored of baker Oren for a long time. But Oren was bonded with Haram, and the healer didn't share, so Veld did his best to remain just friends with both of them. When Haram is killed in an apparent hunting accident, Veld wants to be there for Oren but also needs to respect the customary mourning period. However, that becomes quite difficult when it's clear that the villagers don't understand the unique nature of the relationship that Oren and Haram had. “Oren’s Right” is set in the same fantasy world of magical elves as the first three books of the Tales of the Forest series but features different characters in a different village. You could, in theory, read this story without having read the initial trilogy, but you would be missing out on some helpful context about the roles some elves play in a village, like Guide and Truth-seeker. The story is told from Veld's point of view, so we get to know the mute baker Oren through him. We get to know the forester rather well as he relates how he came to the village and decided to settle there, despite being from a very different culture. This book introduces a bit of kink to the series. It's a bit coy about the details at first, but it's clear early on that Oren was a submissive to his dead partner's dominance. His need for a firm guiding hand, and the villager's misinterpretation of what Haram did to Oren, are the main drivers of the story, along with the mystery of how his former master was killed.
  • Missions: Book 1. Cambodia on Nov. 23, 2022

    Gabriel is an aspiring young journalist. He's relaxing at a club one night when he spots Zach Mendel, a well-known journalist also rumored to be a very sadistic master. When he learns Zach is looking for a new assistant-cum-slave, Gabriel decides to pursue the opportunity. The young man is not inexperienced when it comes to submission, but can he be the kind of slave the experienced reporter is looking for? There's a very superficial similarity between the premise of this book and the previous work by the author I reviewed, Livestock. Both feature a dominant with a bad reputation that the narrator decides to take a chance on. However, the two stories quickly diverge once the initial setup is complete. Like the other books I've read by this author, the story is told in the first person by the submissive, Gabriel. The writing is very much like a diary or journal documenting the young man's experiences. This can be a somewhat dry style that some refer to as “telling rather than showing.” In previous books, the story overcame the limitations of the style, but this time around, that didn't happen for me. The story seemed to ramble, with a lot of detours that, in the end, didn't add anything to the plot. Gabriel is a very sympathetic character. It's not easy to get inside the head of a submissive. The young man puts up with a lot from Zach and perseveres when most people would walk away. It goes a long way to demonstrate the oft-made point that submissives are the stronger personality in D/s relationships. It would be easy to see Zach as a monster, and he definitely has a solid sadistic streak. I have to admit that some of the rambling parts of the story do serve to give us a fuller picture of the dominant's makeup, making him a truly three-dimensional character. He is definitely a man of contradictions. This is the first book of a series that will presumably follow Gabriel and Zach on their adventures around the world. It's worth pointing out that while Cambodia features in the title of this first volume, none of the action takes place there. It's a significant subplot of the story, but it's all related second- and third-hand.
  • Twenty-Five Turns on Nov. 29, 2022

    Many years ago, Eer let the love of their life leave the village to find their calling as a truth-seeker. Eer understood why Kat had to go away but couldn't bring themselves to abandon the community they'd come to call home. It was a decision they'd often regretted. Now, Kat has returned to the village and bought a troubled young man with them. It seems that Willim isn't the only stranger in the area. When Kat's cousin is attacked, and then their sister is killed, Eer and Kat must confront a terrifying foe. Will it bring them back together or drive Kat away again? This latest outing for the Tales of the Forest series takes place in the same world of elves as the rest of the books but in a completely different village. You can read this story without having read the other volumes, and all you'll be missing is some background about who guides and truth-seekers are. “Twenty-Five Turns” is definitely the queerest of the series so far. Call it ‘woke’ if you like, but it all fits in with the world this author has created. Kat and Eer make a sympathetic pair. Like many people in the modern age, they gave up on the love of their lives to pursue their careers, which took them to different places. The decisions may have seemed justified at the time, but after many years, they both have regrets. We get to know them rather well, especially given the short length of the novella. However, there are a few tidbits that come out in the story that I wish were explored in more detail.
  • Regi's Goddess on Feb. 23, 2023

    Regi continues to wrestle with the idea that he has been "noticed" by one of the many gods his people believe in. What's more, he thinks the human Dante has been favored by the same goddess, and that's something that the xenophobic Kowri would never accept. Navigating the complex politics of his people's religious leaders to keep Dante and the rest of his Coalition crewmates safe proves to be quite challenging. The adventures of Regi and Dante continue in this sequel to Regi's Huuman. You definitely need to have read that first book before taking on this one. Many of the characters from the previous story make an appearance in this one, in addition to a few new personalities. We get to know Dante and Regi a lot more in this story. Dante, in particular, becomes much more fleshed out as a man with a difficult childhood that has prepared him to some degree for the trials he faces after getting kidnapped by alien pirates. The pantheon of gods the Kowri believe in is reminiscent of Greek mythology, and the story does quite a good job of convincing you that Regi's goddess might actually be real. This is a somewhat curious story. It's colorfully told with a good mixture of action, intrigue, and interesting characters, but it doesn't really go anywhere. Dante and Regi remain ‘just friends,’ although you could interpret the ending as suggesting they might be heading toward becoming more than that. The fate of Regi's friends from the Coalition is also left up in the air. It's possible that there might be more books in the series, but none are mentioned. It all means that the ending is less than satisfactory.
  • Malena MCD on April 21, 2023

    Mauve is a ‘pet,’ a genetically engineered sex slave, and not a fancy one, either. His genes didn't produce quite what the breeders hoped for, so he ended up in the bargain bin. He's had a succession of brutal, uncaring owners from the underbelly of Malicorn society who used him and passed him on when they became bored. His latest master has been shot dead, along with his gang of thugs, and so Mauve is now ‘evidence’ in the investigation. One of the officers investigating the case, Alexej, doesn't like the idea of keeping Mauve in the cells of the evidence locker and wants to take him home instead. His wife and partner, Andrea, reluctantly agrees, and Mauve's eyes are opened to a different world. This novel is set in the same future Virasana Empire as the Sir Yaden series but can be read as a stand-alone. However, if you've read The Pet and His Duke, you'll have a better understanding of pets and the planet Malicorn. This book was quite a page-turner. It gets off to a fast start and just keeps going. The story is related entirely in the first person by Mauve. There are quite a few allusions to the abuse he has suffered from past owners, but thankfully not many details. He's definitely a survivor and probably much smarter than people, especially his owners, give him credit for. We get a very clear appreciation for the shock it is for him to be seen as a person rather than an object. We get to know Alexej and Andrea through Mauve's eyes. Their behavior towards him endears the pair to the young man almost from the start. They are heroes in his eyes, and Alexej definitely pushes all his genetically engineered buttons designed to make him want to give sexual pleasure. It makes Mauve want to make himself useful to them so they will be his new masters once the investigation is concluded. The investigation into the death of Mauve's owner is the driver of the story. It's something of a homage to classic television police dramas, with heroic cops chasing down bad guys. Mauve has seen his fair share of cop shows, so his observations about the difference between “real life” and the shows provides some humorous commentary.
  • Mind Controlling the Twins on May 01, 2023

    Nathaniel and Basile are twins who have been sold off by their parents to pay off the money they embezzled. With any luck, they've been purchased by an old lady who just wants a couple of cute young men to clean house, but when they find out their owner is Lord Aetherton, Nathaniel knows they're in trouble. He saw the lord molest another student at university but used his magic to ensure the young man had no memory of the rape. I know this author is going to push my boundaries about consent and psychological manipulation, and this short story is no exception. I suppose the fantasy world where magic, and apparently slavery, are commonplace is supposed to make it more okay, but that's debatable. Given the short length of the story, we don't get to know too much about the twins, and what we do learn gets called into question in the end. Although identical in looks, their personalities seem quite different. Nathaniel is the smarter one but tends to be the less favored due in part to his sexual preferences. There's clearly a bit of antagonism between the brothers, which colors their reactions to their predicament. I didn't realize this was part of a series when I picked it out. The ending might make a little more sense if I had read the other two books first, although it doesn't look like they have many characters in common.
  • Learning the Ropes on May 14, 2023

    On his day off, Rich decides to drop in on his friend Liam. Upon arriving at the converted super yacht that serves as Liam's laboratory, Rich finds his friend tied up and apparently being tortured by someone he doesn't know. If there's one thing that can overcome Rich's extreme aversion to violence, it's seeing one of his friends being hurt. Fortunately, Liam manages to calm Rich down before he can do any real damage to Jordan, another friend of Liam's that knows the young scientist likes it rough. The pair invite Rich to join the scene and learn more about Liam's kinky desires. This short novella takes place in the same post-climate change future introduced in After the Storm. You need to have read that first book to understand Rich's complex emotional background and why he reacts the way he does. The entire book is really just one long BDSM scene, or maybe two with a short intermission, depending on how you look at it. Jordan and Rich together try to satisfy Liam's insatiable sexual needs, as well as their own. If you have read the other books of the Stories From the Michigan Fleet series, then you already know Rich and Liam. Their friends-with-benefits relationship was already the subject of The Art of Boytoy Maintenance. Jordan is a new character, and he isn't what he seems, but he definitely knows what to do with both Rich and Liam.
  • Run Wild, Run Free on May 26, 2023

    Joey just turned eighteen, although nobody in his family seems to have taken notice. They're all too busy trying to eke out a living in a 1950s Welsh mining town. His father and older brother work down in the mines, which is where Joey will probably end up. He would rather be an artist, but nobody believes he can make a living from it, and they can't afford to send him to school anyway. Then Joey meets Billy, an itinerant farm worker, or ‘gypsy’ as they were called back then, and everything changes. “Run Wild, Run Free” is a short and sweet romance set in the 1950s, when relations between men were still illegal in the UK. That adds an additional edge to the story, as does the prejudice against gypsies. Joey is somewhat surprisingly innocent for an eighteen-year-old. He is a reminder of what it was like for young gay men in small towns before the age of the internet and social media. Joey knows he is different. His family and school friends never seem to tire of telling him that, but he has no idea what it is that makes him not fit in. Billy is the mysterious stranger who turns Joey's world upside down. We don't get to know him quite as well, but it's clear that Billy is much more worldly than Joey. He seems rather happy with his life despite the prejudice his people face. The two together are quite sweet.
  • The Family Pet on June 05, 2023

    Saint is the eldest son of one of the city's wealthiest and most powerful families. When his parent's latest investment scheme goes sour, they skip town with all the money, leaving Saint to deal with a group of angry investors out for blood. With no money to leave town himself, Saint takes on an assumed name and finds work as a waiter in a restaurant. That's where his cousin Ridge spots him. The two young men have been adversaries for years, pitted against each other by their ruthless family. Ridge tells his father about his find, hoping it will help get him on the man's good side. Bowie hates the damage done to the family's reputation by his brother's actions, and he has no problem taking out his frustration on his nephew. He comes up with an offer to save Saint that is as reprehensible as it is impossible to refuse. “Family Pet” is a very kinky erotic fantasy incorporating taboo subjects such as dubious consent and incest. There are a few things about the plot setup and the first few scenes, in particular, that don't quite make sense, but as with all forms of fantasy, you need to suspend a bit of disbelief and go with the flow. We get to know the three main characters rather well over the course of the story. For erotica, the three men are quite complex and nuanced. The point of view alternates between all three. Saint is, of course, the critical character. We have to believe that he not only accepts the position his uncle puts him in but that he comes to enjoy it. As one of the secondary characters puts it late in the book, Saint may not have had a gun to his head, but the situation amounts to the same thing. So, it's not like he has much choice but to accept his uncle's help. The authors do a good job of portraying the contrasting emotions of the young man. Society and his own pride tell him acting like a ‘pet’ is wrong, yet he has a strong submissive streak that finds the experience pleasurable. We also get to know Bowie and Ridge well enough to see them as more than the cruel father and son they first appear to be. In many ways, it's the two would-be tormentors who change the most by the end. These complex characters, along with a compelling storyline, make this story a cut above the usual erotica fare.
  • Mind Controlling the Haughty Mage on June 13, 2023

    Drake is rich, titled, and entitled. He doesn't like mixing with people he considers beneath him. When he spots Remy Chalet entering his exclusive club, Drake can tell the man is not in his class and can't help but make every attempt to embarrass him. Little does he know that Chalet specializes in a particularly powerful form of magic. When Drake again attempts to cause trouble for Chalet and the Lord who invited him, he gets a full taste of Chalet's talent. Like Mind Controlling the Twins, this short story features magical mind control to make someone want and do things they claim to find repugnant. The primary thing the victims are forced to do is, of course, have sex with another man. It is arguable, perhaps, how much Drake is forced to give himself to Chalet, and how much of it is simply that his ability to resist his own inclinations is removed. We don't really get to know Drake; other than he seems to be a narcissist obsessed with what he imagines his position and power to be. We know even less about Remy Chalet and what drives him. There's not much world-building in this book, either. You would have to have read other books by one or both of these authors to get a feel for the fantasy world where magic is commonplace in which the story is set. Although part of a series, you won't be missing much if you skip books in the set. They feature some of the same characters, but are stand-alone stories.
  • Cross My Heart on June 24, 2023

    Security officer Mitch is involved in a life-threatening incident while off duty. He says he's fine, but he's really not. Mitch decides to seek comfort from his old friend Basil, only Basil is with Rich, and everything Mitch does seems to annoy him. Mitch starts to make a mess of things once again, but Rich seems to understand what's going on. It appears that Mitch might finally have the thing he's been dreaming of for years. “Cross My Heart” is another short story from the Michigan Fleet series. After an initial setup, it's really just one long scene as Rich and Basil help Mitch figure out what he wants. Like the other shorts in the series, you need to have read the first book, After the Storm, before picking this one up, but you don't need to have read the other volumes of the series. We know Rich and Basil from the first book, where connecting with Basil proved to be a big part of Rich's recovery from his experiences on what everyone refers to as the “Murder Boat.” Somewhat surprisingly, Basil hasn't played much of a role in the recent stories, but he's central to this one. Mitch appeared in the first book as something of a joker. In this story, we start to get an idea of the emotions below the surface that the young man masks with humor. As if things are complicated enough, the libido suppressants that security officers must take further clouds Mitch's feelings. There's a strong suggestion that, even without the suppressants, Mitch is probably demisexual.
  • Shaded Ember on July 01, 2023

    In the wake of the first battles with Völsung, Sköll gains new insight into what drives the traditional enemy of the Vargr. Enough to see a way that an all-out war costing thousands, if not millions, of lives can be avoided. But can he convince his followers, not to mention the Cubi, Sleipnir, and humans, to trust an enemy they've fought for thousands of years? His leadership, as well as the alphas of all, will be put to the test. This action-packed seventh book of The Vargr series is full of confrontations as well as outright battles as Sköll fights to unify all races in pursuit of the same common goal. In between, there are still many discussions about how to achieve a lasting peace. Part of the answer seems to be in uncovering the forgotten history of the many races. Sköll / Matt continues to be a fascinating character. He effectively has three personalities warring within him: human, Vargr, and Völsung. One of the themes in this book is the struggle to find a balance between those three influences. The conflict between these three is very convincingly portrayed. The demands on him are such that Matt / Sköll's mates often seem to get short-changed. Sköll's alpha mate, Hati, can't be ignored, but the two get very little time together to strengthen their bond. The boyfriend of Matt's human side, Rasmus, seems to get even less attention, even though the need is still there. It's all part of finding the right balance for Matt.
  • Saved by the Bear on July 06, 2023

    Frode just found out he inherited a cabin in the woods along with a book from his recently deceased uncle. The book appears to be able to tell the future, but he isn't sure it can be trusted. It also shows a bear hanging around his house. Frode's downstairs neighbor, Imre, might be a bit scary, but he isn't a bear, right? “Saved by the Bear” is a short and sweet fairy tale of a story. The title kind of gives away the basic plot, although it's also a bit misleading. This is also a low-heat romance, where there's not much between the characters until the end. We don't get to know much about Frode, although the story is told entirely from his point of view. There a just a few glimpses to suggest that his has not been a happy life. We learn even less about Imre, even though it's obvious soon enough that he is the bear in Frode's book. Of course, you don't expect to get complex character development in a short story. We get just enough to empathize with the characters and want to see what happens to them.
  • Primavera on July 14, 2023

    Nineteen-year-old Adam has been having trouble with nightmares. They're so frequent and so bad that the lack of sleep is affecting his work and studies. Adam can't remember many details of the dreams but has the impression he's experiencing memories of an eighteenth-century Italian music teacher named Paolo. What does it all mean? “Primavera” is an unusual novella. I really had no idea where it was going with the parallel stories of Adam and Paolo. It quickly became clear that there was some kind of connection between the two, but it wasn't obvious how that would play out until the last few chapters. Chapters alternate between Adam's point of view in contemporary California and Paolo's journal entries from the eighteenth century. The two young men have a lot in common. They are the same age and are both gay. For Adam, that's only an issue for his conservative Catholic parents, but for Paolo, it's something he has to keep carefully hidden or risk ruin, if not death. Everything gets reconciled rather quickly at the very end. Given the slow pace of the story, I was expecting something a little more subtle.
  • Release on July 23, 2023

    Misha was orphaned at a young age and grew up in the “trenches” of lower Davlova, where the poorest citizens scratch out a living without technology while the high-born “purebloods” live in luxury behind the thick protective walls of the inner city on the top of the hill. In some ways, Misha was lucky. He was taken in by one of the clans, criminal gangs that ran all sorts of operations in the city. Over the years, Misha learned the fine art of pickpocketing. Sometimes he also turns tricks. It was a good way to see if a potential mark had a lot of money, and where he kept it. One day, the woman at the head of the clan offers Misha a new opportunity. One of the most powerful men in the city is looking for a new toy boy and wants someone “exotic.” Misha fits that bill. The clan leader isn't just asking Misha to prostitute himself. She wants him to gain the man's confidence and learn his secrets. The information may provide the catalyst that unleashes the growing resentment towards the purebloods and start a revolution. Misha's target, Donato, is an easy man to hate at first, but the more Misha gets to know him, the harder it is to contemplate betraying him. The situation gets even more complicated when Misha meets Ayo, a sex slave gifted to Donato, whose life seems one of unending misery. I found “Release” in my wishlist. I have no idea how long it had been there or why I didn't read it sooner, but it's a cracking good read. However, you will want to heed the content warnings about the on-page violence. The violence is all part of a fascinating look at the evolution of an abusive relationship. It's all set in a dystopian city-state ruled by a careless oligarchy that has beaten down the lower classes to the point of rebellion. Sadly, such a state of affairs is all too easy to imagine in today's world. Miguel Donato is an extreme example of a bipolar personality, to put it nicely. His mood swings are extreme, making him a real Jekyll and Hyde. When Donato is in a good mood, he's nice enough to Misha to make the young man fall in love with him. But when his frustrations with the world makes Donato angry, he takes it out on Misha and, especially, Ayo. He's always very sorry afterward, as abusers always are, but how can Misha trust that his lover will never go too far and kill him or Ayo, even if by accident? While Donato is a hard character to love, Misha is an impossible one to hate. He retains a surprising amount of compassion and empathy for someone who has seen so much of the crueler side of life. Although he may have turned a few tricks from time to time, Misha never considered himself a sex worker. The process of coming to terms with selling his body while retaining his self-worth is portrayed quite believably, as is the dichotomy of falling in love with someone that has such a violent side. This is the first of a two-part story. The ending of this first book isn't a cliffhanger, but it leaves the fate of a few key characters unresolved and a questionable future for Misha. Stay tuned for part two.
  • Cold Snap on Aug. 03, 2023

    Although only 20 years old, Iddy has already lived on the streets for several years. He ran away from home when his parents decided he was not the kind of child they expected and tried to have him institutionalized. Iddy has learned to survive, but it's not safe on the streets right now. The weather has turned extremely cold, and someone, or something, is murdering homeless people. Not just killing them but tearing them apart. Iddy knows from bitter experience that shelters are not safe places for a still-pretty young gay man, so he tries to find a place to sleep in what he thinks is an abandoned building. It turns out the building isn't deserted, but rather than ending up dead, Iddy wakes up on a park bench on the other side of town with no idea how he got there. Off-duty police officer Ben finds Iddy and tries to take care of him. The young man is attracted to the older man but isn't sure if the feeling is mutual. In trying to figure out what happened, Iddy meets Nathan, a very large and seemingly very scary angry man whom Iddy is nonetheless drawn to. “Cold Snap” is a rather old-fashioned monster story, plain and simple. We're back to the most basic elements of a good gothic horror tale. Of course, nobody wants to believe there really is a monster, especially when the only witness is a homeless person. That's monster flicks 101. The story does occasionally even poke fun at movie clichés. Iddy is a fascinating character. He seems like a really sweet young man that gets treated badly. Once we get his full story, I strongly suspect he would be classified as neurodivergent, if not autistic. He definitely sees and reacts to the world very differently from most people. The romance angle of the story is also different. On the one hand, there's nice, safe Ben, a police officer with two ex-wives and a son but who swings every which way. Then there's dangerous and probably even deadly Nathan, a man who exudes anger and violence. The choice may seem like a no-brainer, but that's where Iddy's different way of seeing the world comes into play. You won't know his choice for sure until the very end.
  • The Uses of Illicit Art on Aug. 10, 2023

    Kit is an Artisan, a person with magical powers. His rather unusual gift is locks. He can open almost any door, safe, or vault. After he registered with the Artisan's Guild, which is supposed to protect him, his information was leaked, and the young man became the target of unsavory characters that coerced Kit into helping them with their illegal activities. Of course, that got him into trouble with the very guild that was supposed to keep him safe, so now he's in hiding. For six months, Kit has been living in a small village near Bristol, where he has become friends with the villagers. There's been no sign of criminals wanting his services or guild enforcers trying to arrest him. That all changes when Alexander Locke and his sister show up. Now Kit is on the run again, with or without Alex's help. “The Uses of Illicit Art” is set in mid-nineteenth-century England. The time of Dickens, who gets mentioned a lot in the story. Only, in this alternate historical, there are people with magical powers. The magic conforms to much of the common canon about where the energy comes from that artisans use, so the story doesn't spend too much time building this alternate world. The book also doesn't waste too much time setting the scene or letting us get to know the characters much before the action starts. The first third or so of the story is mostly one long chase scene involving Kit and Alex. Even after Alex catches Kit, the pair spends much of the book on the run with their two sidekicks. We do get to know Kit and Alex quite well over the course of the story, which is told from their points of view. Kit is a very complex character. He deflects a lot with humor, but you can tell there's some childhood trauma underneath the mask. It all comes out bit by bit as the plot unfolds. Alex is perhaps a little less complicated but has his own story to tell. There are two significant secondary characters in this book as well: Alex's sister Lulu and Kit's friend from the village, Edith. Lulu, in particular, has a few surprises for us as we get to know her. Edith is largely a catalyst but is still a very well-defined character in her own right. Despite what feels like a fast start, the book has a very measured pace. The relationship between Kit and Alex is definitely a slow burn, despite the obvious attraction. It's so on-again-off-again that you may wonder if the two will ever get together.
  • Mind Controlling the Brute on Aug. 17, 2023

    Bruce engages in a lot of manly outdoor sports, so he's a big strapping fellow. Big everywhere, apparently. His mother is trying to marry him off to a well-off lady, which is the thing to do. However, it doesn't help his prospects that his family is on the verge of bankruptcy, and everyone seems to know it. At one of those parties where he's supposed to woo one of those women, Bruce spots Saville. The man is everything Bruce is not. He's a head shorter, thin, and wears more makeup than most of the women at the party. When Bruce catches Saville having sex with another man at the party, his body reacts in a very unexpected way. This confuses Bruce immensely, and like many men with more muscles than brains, he sets about bullying Saville. Only, he's definitely picked the wrong man since Saville is a student of a kind of magic that allows him to control other people's minds. “Mind Controlling the Brute” is another entry in the Mages of Corentin series of shorts set in a fantasy world where magic is common, but a small group of mages has unlocked the secret of mind-controlling spells. If you've read the other books, then you'll have a better idea of who some of the secondary characters are, but the individual volumes are more or less stand-alone. Like all the books, the stories are so short there isn't a lot of scene setting. In fact, the narration really boils down to just two scenes. This story is told mostly from Bruce's point of view. In this case, the "mind control" magic feels more like just a form of hypnosis. Saville doesn't seem to be forcing Bruce to do anything he doesn't subconsciously want to do. The mage is just removing the “brute's” inhibitions from his narrow-minded upbringing.
  • The Cricketer's Arms: A Clyde Smith Mystery on Aug. 23, 2023

    WWII Army veteran Clyde Smith quit the Sydney police force three months ago so he wouldn't have to put with the corruption that meant he didn't know who he could trust. He's making a modest living as a freelance journalist and private investigator. One day his ex-partner, and former lover, Sam, shows up with news of a strange murder that someone seems to want Clyde's help solving. As Clyde digs into the investigation, he uncovers a complex web entangling gay men, the Italian mob, drugs, and match-fixing. “The Cricketer's Arms” is set in 1956 Australia. It's a classic detective novel. Something of a homage to Dashiell Hammet's Sam Spade, who gets mentioned a couple of times. There are plenty of mysteries as the story unfolds, but this isn't a typical murder mystery. The people responsible for the murder that kicks everything off are apparent early on. Clyde's challenge is unraveling the tangled knot of criminal activities to get at the how and why of it so the crime can be pinned on the people responsible. Perhaps the biggest mystery is Clyde's love life. His preference is exclusively for men, and the story is set in a time when gay sex was illegal in Australia. Clyde has accumulated several friends-with-benefits around him. His ex-partner Sam was the closest Clyde came to having a relationship, but Sam couldn't commit and felt he needed to marry a woman to keep up appearances. Many men did at the time. Then the investigation brings Clyde into contact with Harry, a man that seems his perfect complement but who refuses to get between Clyde and Sam. The mystery of who Clyde ends up with and how that happens is the biggest enigma of the story, and one that doesn't get resolved until the very end. The depiction of gay life in 1950s Australia rings true. It was a time when gay men still married women for appearances, sometimes with the spouse knowing full well what was happening. In some of the descriptions of the ways men met in those days, you can see the beginnings of what became gay baths and then hook-up apps.
  • Hybrid Incubator on Aug. 28, 2023

    Alex has been an avid ecologist since he was a young boy picking up trash in the woods that people carelessly discarded. Unfortunately, even with a doctorate in environmental science, his passion doesn't pay the bills. After another fruitless day of interviewing for jobs he is over-qualified for, Alex feels the need for a drink. Slightly drunk, he agrees to a road trip with another patron who is also a bit down on his luck. As soon as they're on their way, Alex realizes he's been drugged. When he wakes up, he's in a warehouse, naked and restrained, along with several other men. When an octopus-like creature takes Alex to a room to be subjected to a humiliating medical examination, things go from bad to worse. However, once he learns the reasons behind the experiments, things begin to change. Fear and anger over being kidnapped and imprisoned turns into hope. The need to escape becomes a desire to help. I've tagged this as a kidnapped-by-aliens story because it fits so well in that genre, even though the “aliens,” in this case, aren't from another planet. I've also classified this as science fiction even though it's based in the present day and doesn't stretch too far beyond currently known science. Some might say this story is really fantasy, as its central plot is a wild conspiracy theory made real. The story is told entirely from Alex's point of view, which means we get a front-row seat to the conflict raging in his head between sympathy for what his kidnappers are trying to achieve and disgust at the sometimes brutal way they go about it. Adding to the conflict are the feelings the mostly straight Alex is developing for one of the hybrids, Cooper. Given the insight we gain into Alex's thinking, his evolution from captive to willing participant and even lover is believable. The road is not a smooth one, though. There are some dark turns in the course of events. The author also wrote the Cubi and Vargr series under a different name. Compared to some of the gruesome fights depicted in the Vargr books, this story can seem quite tame. However, there are scenes of non-consensual penetration and sexual abuse that some may find very disturbing.
  • The Blacksmith's Apprentice on Aug. 31, 2023

    Village blacksmith Eyck is a big, muscular guy, but he's really a gentle and kind-hearted man who thinks the caste system is outdated. When he sees a low-caste slave being brutally beaten, he has to intervene. He ends up buying the slave and tells the mute teen boy he's free, but the frightened teenager runs away in the night. Five years later, the young man, now grown up and calling himself Wex, show up asking to be Eyck's apprentice. The blacksmith is getting older and doesn't have any children to leave the business to, so he agrees. There's a mutual attraction between the two, but both try to deny it as inconvenient. Wex, in particular, has a hard time trusting people, given the abuse he's suffered. “The Blacksmith's Apprentice” is an unusual mix of fantasy and science fiction. Most of the story just seems to be a fantasy about creatures that evolved to have very human-like characteristics. But as the plot twists towards its conclusion, there's a greater science fiction element that explains many of the apparent anachronisms. Wex is a complicated character for fiction. He is mute, and it's not until later that he learns sign language, which he then has to teach Eyck. It creates a big communication problem, which is what leads to some of the dramatic turns of the plot. The young man is also deeply traumatized by his experiences as a slave as well as the years trying to make it on his own after running away from Eyck. His past not only makes it hard for Wex to trust people, but it also keeps him from forming connections. The young man has never had a true friend, someone who wasn't nice to him to get something in return. Being in a relationship seems like being a slave to someone else, and that's something Wex would never allow himself to be. Eyck is a much more straightforward character. He comes across as an authentically nice guy who always wants to do the right thing. Wex's mercurial nature means Eyck is constantly second-guessing if he's made a misstep with the young man. At times, you have to wonder if the two really can have a lasting relationship. While this is fundamentally a romance story, there are some thought-provoking elements around racism and classism. The cultural background of the book is a rather rigidly defined caste system based largely on the color of one's fur, which indicates which caste you were born into. There is also a dominant religion that views homosexual relationships as wrong. The story suggests these views evolved but doesn't really explain why.
  • Calamity on Sep. 04, 2023

    The Padua's xenobiologist Damon Wild is on his way to a planet where he hopes to plant some saplings he has been cultivating. Unfortunately, the Siwa pirates still won't leave anyone associated with the Padua alone and attack his shuttle. Damon crashes on a small planet and loses most of his memories from a blow to his head. To make matters worse, the planet appears to be on the brink of a global volcanic catastrophe. Damon manages to find his way to a small scientific outpost, but the commander Zavied rubs him the wrong way. Unfortunately, Damon has no choice but to join the outpost and hope they can find a way to escape the impending disaster. This book is the fourth in the StarStation series, but it can be read as a standalone book. However, you will be missing a lot of the background of the series, and the main characters from the other volumes of the series do appear in this story, so it's better if you've read the first three books before this one. I'm afraid this installment of the series is a bit of a mixed bag. The drama of a planet in the midst of a massive volcanic eruption is described very well, keeping you reading on to see what happens. It's when it comes to the characters, particularly Damon, that things don't quite work. Damon effectively loses his identity in the crash. He behaves quite erratically through most of the story in ways that don't always ring true. His panic attacks when memories resurface seem normal, as does his resentment at being treated like an invalid. Then there are times when Damon throws a tantrum over not being listened to or some other minor slight. I think the author was trying to depict the frustration someone must feel at not being able to connect to their memories, and I'm no expert, but the behavior depicted just didn't come off as believable. Problems with Damon's character affect how we view his relationship with Zavied. Being attracted to someone who also annoys you can be a fun trope, but it doesn't quite gel with Damon and Zavied. Towards the end, the two fall into something that is believable, but it begins on such shaky ground that it's still questionable. It feels like this series is running out of steam. It's a problem when a series (both books and television) builds itself around a fight with the same villain. Each installment of this series ends with the crew of the Padua surviving their latest encounter with the Siwa pirates but no closer to beating them, or even understanding their grudge. The constant stalemate is making me lose interest.
  • Return on Sep. 13, 2023

    With the help of Donato's butler Jenko, Misha and Ayo have escaped the mayhem engulfing Davlova on Donato's boat. The question is, where to go? Jenko has family in Deliphine, so with no better idea, the trio head across the sea to the big city on the coast of the mainland. Before they even dock, Ayo begins acting strangely. He seems drawn to a specific spot in the city, and the more Misha tries to delay him, the stronger the urge gets. It's clear some part of Ayo's “programming” by the Dollhouse is compelling him to return, but Misha won't give the badly treated young man up without a fight. This second half of the Davlova series is quite a roller-coaster ride as our two heroes fight against powerful forces trying to keep them apart. Along the way, there are some interesting observations about the ethics of using technology for thought control or behavior modification. We also get a front-row seat looking at the challenges faced by people coming to power through violent revolution. Sub-plots aside, this is fundamentally a romance between Misha and Ayo, the genetically manipulated, cruelly trained, and mind-controlling chipped sex slave created by the Dollhouse. The two have to fight to stay together, and there are times it's not at all clear whether they will ever get the happily-ever-after they want so badly. Misha remains at the center of the story, and the narration is entirely from his point of view. There's a lot for the young man to sort through on top of the struggle to keep Ayo safe. He feels guilty over the death of Donato, who he loved despite the cruelty the man inflicted on him and Ayo. There's even more guilt once Misha returns to Davlova and sees the destruction the city has suffered at the hands of the fires that raged through it during the revolt. It all makes him give serious thought to who he is. Misha may have picked pockets with his clan to stay alive in the trenches, but he's not a thief. He may have pretended to be a prostitute to get into Donato's bed, but he's not a whore. There's Ayo to consider too. Misha wants the young man to see that he's more than the animated sex toy that the Dollhouse made him into. Ayo remains a bit of a mystery throughout the book. He has no memory of his life before he was gifted to Donato about four years before Misha met him. Despite his troubles, Ayo comes across as a genuinely good person that you want to see freed from his demons.
  • A Winter Fox: M/M Fantasy Romance on Sep. 18, 2023

    Albion has been such a cunning general that his people, and even his enemies, have nicknamed him the “Winter Fox.” The thing is, Albion didn't want war. He tried to prevent it, but even killing his uncle, the king, proved to be too little, too late. Now, after four long years of fighting, his forces have dwindled and spend more time on the run than in battle. Albion orders his remaining men to find someplace safe and rides out to surrender to the attackers, led by Prince Trey and his half-brother Draven. He expects to be killed, but Trey takes him prisoner and returns home, where the king gives Albion to Trey as a slave to do with as he pleases. The only hope is Draven, who looked up to Albion as a young man and still retains his humanity after years of war, unlike Trey. This is a rather unusual story, even for this author. It's almost as much a psychological thriller as a romance. The romance is a very slow burn, in a way, and I thought for a while that it might turn out very differently, along the lines of the author's Anrodnes Chronicles series. Instead, the charming, if manipulative, Trey is quickly revealed to be a sociopath with a very unhealthy attachment to Draven. The younger man's attempts to exorcise the demon from the man he has always loved as a brother don't seem to be having any effect. The narration switches points of view between Draven, Trey, and Albion. Trey shows an extreme attachment to Draven from almost the start, but as the story progresses, that brotherly affection turns increasingly darker. There are times when you believe that Draven will pull Trey back from the edge. As we learn more about Albion and Draven, we see how much they have in common. Albion sees what Trey is doing to Draven better than anyone else because it's exactly what was done to him by his uncle. The two have a shared experience that draws them to each other before they even realize what it is. If you've read other books by this author, “A Winter Fox” has a lot of common themes with their earlier work. However, this tale has a wider scope and a different pace than a lot of their work. It's quite a change of pace and a meticulously constructed story that will keep you reading to see which way it goes.
  • The Uncanny Adventures of Adam Honey on Sep. 28, 2023

    Adam Honey is orphaned on his sixth birthday. He is sent to an orphanage where another boy, DJ, claims to have known him “forever.” The two become friends and grow up largely insulated from the problems of the outside world, where environmental disasters signal a dying planet. On coming of age, Adam and DJ leave the orphanage to make their way in the world. The pair become lovers. Adam becomes a policeman, and DJ a professor. But there's more going on in the world than simply the breakdown of technology and environmental disasters. An ancient evil is escaping its prison, and Adam seems to be the person destined to stop it. There's a lot going on in this story, which spans more than 30 years. “The Uncanny Adventures of Adam Honey” is set in an alternate timeline where the world is dominated by a few superpowers and even closer to environmental catastrophe than our current reality. It paints quite a vivid picture of a civilization in decline. Despite the many hardships portrayed, it might be a bit on the rosy side. The story is related mostly from Adam's point of view, although there are occasional snippets of “news” stories and a few chapters from other points of view. Adam is a rather odd child when we first meet him. His well-to-do parents had kept him isolated from the world and fostered a maturity in him beyond his young age. Adam is able to enjoy a much more normal boyhood at the orphanage, but he still maintains a certainty about his life that is unusual. There's an interesting take on the fated lovers trope in this story. DJ (later called Derek without much explanation) is convinced that he and Adam are meant to be together, and have been a couple over many lifetimes. Adam does not remember any past lives, but he is still drawn to DJ, despite the occasional differences that most couples face. The ending manages to tie up this plot line, as well as all the others, quite nicely. Despite the many sub-plots, it all comes together rather well.
  • Dublin Bay on Oct. 13, 2023

    ames is a seventeen-year-old working-class Irish man just out of school and looking for his first job. He's picking mussels from Dublin Bay one day to feed his family when he spots another young man his age on the dock. James is mesmerized by the blond youth, Otto, who also seems attracted to James. Otto is German, and he and his father are on the dock seeing off Otto's mother. It's 1939, and what will become World War II is just starting in earnest. Otto makes his father buy the mussels from James, and before he knows it, James and his sister Bella are employed by Otto's father to take care of their home. Otto and James soon become more than friends and are committed to finding a way to be together. As if their relationship weren't dangerous enough, the two young men do what they can to help refugees from Nazi Germany. It's a course of action that could get the two killed. Although James and Otto are both only seventeen when the story starts, I wouldn't classify this as a “Young Adult” book. The themes are very adult in nature, and the times regarded the boys more as adults. Coming-of-age also doesn't quite fit the bill either. James does undergo quite a bit of self-realization through the two years covered by the book, but it's the type of thing that isn't necessarily specific to young people. Some people never figure it out. The story is told entirely from James' point of view. He only has what Americans would consider a high school education, but he is definitely intelligent and highly resourceful. His business success may seem a little too good to be true, but we have many examples today of successful teenage entrepreneurs. In the pre-war setting of this story, it was a more common expectation that a man was to be established in a career before he was twenty, so his “business” is plausible if a little bit of a stretch. Otto and James make a very complementary couple. Otto is very much the stereotypical German youth when James meets him, but James helps him to see what is really happening. For his part, Otto – and his American tutor – open James' eyes to the world beyond the strict Irish Catholic morals he was raised in. This book is much more than a “simple” romance. It encompasses the full development of a complex relationship between James and Otto, as well as their circle of friends. James' sister, Bella, plays a key role that also highlights the hypocritical attitudes about women of the time. The story also provides a light-handed observation about how fascism takes hold in a supposedly enlightened society.
  • Three of a Kind on Oct. 23, 2023

    Zane's truck has broken down on a deserted Arizona highway. He's been driving for days to get as far away as possible from the boyfriend who beat him up and sold off most of his things. He managed to fight back and get away with just his truck and a few clothes. Construction worker Butch spots the broken-down truck and pulls over to offer help. When he sees the battered young Zane, Butch offers to take Zane home and patch him up. Butch's boyfriend, Randy, is the opposite of the level-headed construction worker. Randy is an eccentric artist who bounces from one thing to the next and says whatever comes into his head. Both men become attracted to the sweet, helpful young man, but while Zane's physical wounds heal, it's not clear he can ever bring himself to trust another man enough to be comfortable with their touch. “Three of a Kind” is a sweet, slow-burn romance about finding love in unexpected ways. The emphasis is very much on the characters, with the drama coming mostly from the tension over Zane's bad experiences and the potential repercussions it might have on him and his new friends. Zane seems like a very nice young man, not in the too-good-to-be-true way we often find in romance stories, but in a very natural way. He is fundamentally a good person, as are Butch and Randy. It becomes clear that Zane's former boyfriend took advantage of the young man's caring nature. His journey back to learning to trust his feelings and allow people to get close is depicted very well and quite naturally. Butch and Randy are also depicted very realistically, although we don't get much of their backstories. Randy definitely provides the comic relief in the story. He seems to have a severe case of ADHD, but Butch provides just the kind of supportive environment he needs. Even before the romance begins to develop with Zane, it's clear that the young man fills a gap in their “family” that Butch and Randy hadn't realized existed.
  • The Gilded Madonna: A Clyde Smith Mystery on Nov. 02, 2023

    Clyde returns from a vacation to Melbourne with Harry to find a photo of him and some of his friends from his days in North Africa during World War II delivered to his office. It's the first of several clues that draws Clyde into two seemingly unrelated cases. One is the kidnapping of two children off the street. The other is the re-emergence of a serial killer from Clyde's old days on the police force. It all becomes a tangled web involving child abuse at local orphanages as well as his dead army comrades. Clyde has to unravel it all before more men are killed, and the killer gets him in his sights. Although private detective mysteries are usually more or less stand-alone stories, there's a huge overlap between this second book of the Clyde Smith Mysteries and the first book. Not only does Clyde's large circle of friends from the first story play a part in this book, but there are also many allusions and tie-ins with the corruption case that was the focus of The Cricketer's Arms. You will also want to heed the content warnings regarding descriptions of child abuse. As in the first book, the story is related entirely from Clyde's point of view as he tries to decipher the mysterious clues as well as figure out how to make a life with Harry, something that wasn't easily done in 1950s Australia. Clyde displays a bit of a Jeckyl-and-Hyde personality in this volume. It's an intentional way of highlighting how his experiences as a prisoner of war in WWII continue to haunt him many years after being liberated. Although Clyde and Harry spend a lot of time together trying to figure out to make their relationship work, it's the new detective sergeant at Clyde's old precinct that becomes his main foil. Mark Dioli ends up being one more mystery for the former policeman to solve to help him get to the bottom of things.
  • Uncle Zach on Nov. 09, 2023

    Owen's particular kink is being “used” – topped by anonymous men who orgasm inside him and then make way for another. He rented a cheap motel room, left the door unlocked, and posted on a hookup app inviting all comers. However, Owen is mortified when he realizes that one of the men using him is his uncle Zach. Zach is equally upset when he recognizes Owen and quickly leaves. Owen can't get the encounter out of his mind. Zach seems to know how to push all of Owen's buttons. When Zach shows up at a family function, Owen begs him for a return engagement, which opens the door to a relationship that is very taboo, which makes it all the more fun. In case it's not obvious from the blurb and description above, “Uncle Zach”" is a work of good old-fashioned smut. Owen and Zach are at it almost non-stop, with just enough story to connect the scenes. Make no mistake, this is top-shelf smut. The plot is plausible and real enough that it doesn't distract you. You don't necessarily expect rich character development in stories like these, but this book delivers more than enough to keep you interested in the two men and what happens to them. While the story is told entirely from Owen's point of view, we learn enough about Zach through Owen to believe he is a man with enough money to afford the lifestyle he enjoys. Owen himself is quite likable. His kinky side does not make him a fool or a pushover. This is a short, fun read without much in the way of drama. It's all good, not-so-clean fun.
  • Bitter Legacy on Nov. 23, 2023

    James is a Detective Sergeant in London's Metropolitan Police, working in the murder investigations team. He's on the fast track to becoming a full inspector in a few months. It's a radically different career than the one James' father had mapped out for him in the family oil business, but after coming out, James was estranged from his father and determined to create the life he wanted independent of his family's wealth. When James and his team are called to the scene where a young woman is brutally murdered, it turns out to be the start of a series of seemingly unconnected deaths. One of the leads in that first murder takes James to a converted townhouse where he meets one of the tenants, Ben. The man, about James' age, is very nice, and gay, and has a room for rent. When it seems that the lead is a dead-end, James welcomes Ben's offer of the room since he's desperate to escape the cheap bed-sit he rented when his father threw him out of the penthouse he was living in. Once he moves in, James finds he has a lot in common with Ben and can't help falling for the other man. But, there's one fundamental difference and some secrets that may keep them apart. You probably won't realize until the very end of the book just how appropriate the title “Bitter Legacy” is for this story. It takes quite a while for James to work out the connections between all the murders. You'll probably make some guesses about what's going on before James figures it out, but even if you're right, chances are there will still be some surprises for you in the end. The story is told entirely from James' point of view. We get to know him quite well. The transition from oil company executive to police detective seems a bit sketchy but not completely implausible. We get just enough of James' back story to know the basics of what happened. His reactions to Ben seem entirely natural and understandable. We get to know Ben entirely through James' eyes. His rejection of monogamy is not unheard of among gay men, but it was clear to me long before James figured it out that there was something else going on in Ben's mind. The other key character in the story is Steggie, Ben's downstairs neighbor. He becomes something of a catalyst in Ben and James' relationship, and it's Steggie who will perhaps surprise you the most at the end.
  • The Price of Paradise on Dec. 06, 2023

    On a future planet Earth ravaged by climate change and solar storms, most of what's left of humanity lives in purpose-built "hives" that protect them from the toxic atmosphere. Everyone works for the good of the hive. Around their twentieth birthday, everyone is tested for their genetic desirability. Those deemed to have especially useful traits are sent to another hive to add to the genetic diversity of the small human population. Axel is one of the few selected from his group, but when he arrives at his new hive, he finds that he has been lied to his entire life. “The Price of Paradise” paints a rather depressing picture of the future. Through greed and shortsightedness, humanity has nearly destroyed its only home. As Axel soon discovers, their survival now rests mostly on a new emerging species that needs humans to help reproduce. It turns out to be quite a frightening prospect, but first, Axel has to survive long enough to get there. There are some parallels between this plot and Hybrid Incubator by the same author. However, this tale feels quite a bit darker. It's quite bleak, especially for Axel. Axel is a true hero. Although only twenty, he has the maturity to understand the need to make sacrifices. It's a very hard decision, but he is even willing to sacrifice his own comfort to help other humans at risk. Axel represents the very best of humanity at a time when the entire race is struggling with the results of their own tendency towards greed and self-interest. This isn't an easy read, with many scenes of brutal non-consensual sexual encounters. You are advised to read the content warnings before taking it on.
  • Deep Dish: A Gay Road Trip Romance on Dec. 16, 2023

    Things haven't been going right for Blake for a long time. Both he and his boyfriend struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic when work got scarce. To save costs, the two moved from California to Albuquerque, but then the boyfriend dumped Blake, and he ended up living in his car. Out of desperation, Blake agrees to move back in with his mother in Chicago, but that will come with a steep cost since he will be expected to take care of the house and his sibling's kids, leaving little time to find a job and get back on his feet. Blake seems to have hit rock bottom when his car gets stolen just before he is about to hit the road. Blake is sitting on a sidewalk trying to figure out how he can get to Chicago with the limited funds he has when he's approached by a woman offering some money. Another woman is recording them, so it's soon clear that the woman is an “influencer,” and she's using Blake to make a video. It also becomes obvious that the woman is stringing him on, but he's desperate enough to keep playing along. Someone finally intervenes and chases the two women off. Blake gets the money, but it's a lot less than he thought it would be. His rescuer, Marcus, turns out to be another influencer, but one that's much nicer than the two women. The pandemic ended up changing Marcus' life for the better. He got into food, started making videos, and became a food influencer. Now, he's touring the US, trying to find the best pizza in every state. Marcus offers to take Blake to Chicago, but as the two get to know each other, the idea of parting ways becomes less and less desirable. Pizza, cute pets, and two guys made for each other, what more could you ask for in a romance? “Deep Dish” is a very slow-burn road trip romance. The “limited-time romance” plot device is one that can be full of potential holes. They can be full of angst as well as prone to the “men don't talk about their feelings” cliché. This story manages to avoid all those problems. Blake and Marcus have very good reasons for wanting to avoid a relationship despite the strong attraction between them. The slow burn facet was a good choice since it keeps Blake and Marcus at arms' length until the fateful moment comes. Blake is quite skillfully drawn. Homelessness is a huge problem in many American cities, and it's often misunderstood. There are probably more people like Blake than people realize. He isn't lazy or a drug user. He even has freelance work bringing in some money. It just isn't enough to afford an apartment, and since he is relatively new in town, he doesn't know enough people to find a roommate. We learn a lot about Blake and what makes him tick. He is a surprisingly nice guy despite a very troubling childhood. In fact, you will probably suspect that many of Blake's problems could be put down to him being too nice. Marcus is also a very kind-hearted young man that we get to know very well. While Marcus seems to have had all the luck, in stark contrast to Blake, we soon learn that there's a price for his kind of stardom. Even his simple act of kindness towards Blake can come back to haunt him. In some ways, we come to see Marcus' situation as almost as precarious as Blake's.
  • The Grocers' Son: A Clyde Smith Mystery on Dec. 27, 2023

    Clyde's latest case comes very close to home. His young friend and one-time lover, Harley, comes to Clyde with a strange story. Harley and his mother were in the market one day when they were accosted by a man claiming to be his mother's brother, who was hanged for murder 20 years before. He also says that he is Harley's real father. The young man's mother faints, and the stranger disappears before he can answer any questions. So, Harley and his mother turn to Clyde for answers. Who was the man in the market? Did he murder the men he was hanged for killing? And, why was the trial and execution so rushed? The search for answers opens up a tangled web involving corrupt police and men who think wealth and power make them above the law. This latest Clyde Smith Mystery offers up another complicated case of seemingly unrelated events surrounding the execution of Harley's father. As we've come to expect from this series, there are a lot of clues that seem to go nowhere before things finally start to fall into place. Something else we're used to in these stories is the concept that “justice” isn't always a matter of black and white. Clyde continues to mature as a character. He has started seeing a therapist and recounts some of his visits with her. Clyde comes across as a little more steady in this outing. He's less likely to fly off the handle despite learning things that make him very angry. It also becomes even more clear how well-matched Clyde and Harry are. They had many similar experiences during the war and are well-equipped to understand each other. This series includes a large cast of secondary characters, most of whom are involved in Clyde's agency in one way or another. We've learned quite a bit about them, making them very real personalities in their own right. Detective Mark Dioli from the previous book, The Gilded Madonna, also appears in this story, and it's nice to see that the author shows him having a difficult time adjusting to life without his vicious foster father. It demonstrates that escaping an abusive relationship is just the start of a long journey.
  • The Complications of T on Jan. 01, 2024

    Stuart falls off the wagon when his wife asks for a divorce. After five years of sobriety, it doesn't take much to get drunk. With his acting career already on the skids, Stuart can't afford to make a scene that might appear in the tabloids. He manages to make it out of the bar but is seriously considering the possibility of passing out on the sidewalk when a "woman" comes to his rescue. Stuart lacks the clarity to remember what hotel he's staying at, so his rescuer takes him back to their place. When he wakes the next morning, Stuart discovers that the "lady" is named Tim, and he is a well-known movie reviewer. Nonetheless, Stuart feels strongly attracted to Tim despite the impact such a relationship would have on his career. “The Complications of T” is a very short and sweet story about finding love in the most unexpected places. For the most part, it's just one long scene of Stuart and Tim getting to know each other while Stuart's overnight stay turns into several days of sex and talks. The title of the story rather gives away Tim's secret. Stuart has a number of frank discussions with Tim, who is quite open to satisfying the actor's curiosity. The narration is entirely from Stuart's point of view. We don't get to know too much about the background of the two men, but it's enough to care about them and hope things work out. This is a little toss-off story that's a fun read you will probably finish in one sitting.
  • Risk Takers on Jan. 13, 2024

    Harley and Denver are brothers, but they're polar opposites. Harley takes after their lithe blond mother, while Denver favors their darker, stockier father. Gay Denver is serious and responsible. Bi Harley likes to party. Older brother Denver tries to keep his younger brother out of trouble while they're at college. Harley thinks it's his responsibility to get his older brother to lighten up and enjoy life. To that end, he talks Denver into going to a party that promises booze, drugs, sex, and every other vice a college kid can think of. As the party progresses and both young men have more to drink than they probably should, Harley and Denver cross a line that probably shouldn't ever be crossed. “Risk Takers” explores the ramifications of what happens when siblings enter into a sexual relationship. The story paints a relatively believable picture of how such a relationship could evolve from a drunken dare at a party to something more serious. The story is told as a flashback twenty years before the present day. The present-day scenes that bookend the flashback effectively give away the plot of the sequel book, “Rule Breakers,” where it would seem that things get even more complicated for Harley and Denver. Denver and Harley are interesting characters. The story would work almost as well, even if they weren't brothers. There's enough difference in their personalities that this is a good opposites-attract story without the taboo aspect. The narration of the flashback alternates between the two, so we get both sides of the story. The two young men are easy to understand and empathize with, even if we get very little background on their history before the flashback. Denver's wildness once he lets go is probably going to be as surprising to you as it is to Harley.
  • The Two Princesses on Jan. 27, 2024

    Yaden and Ivan have largely recovered from their harrowing year trapped in Calarni space, thanks mostly to the love and support of their family. The missions they've undertaken since returning have not been stressful, mostly helping planets deal with disasters that require Yaden's special talents, but not very dangerous. Then word comes to the Lotus Pavillion that the Duke of Goa is trading in N'Bosoti artifacts. The mission requires the pair to go undercover in a way that threatens to open old wounds for Ivan. This seventh book of the Sir Yaden series is something of a return to form, with Ivan and Yaden back with the family that Yaden has assembled on their small island, especially Yaden's husband, Colin. This story is a bit more episodic in nature, as were many of the previous volumes. At one point in reading this story, I thought that it might, in fact, be the last book of the series, but it's not much of a spoiler to say that there's still more to come, although we do get an inkling of how some storylines may get resolved. Some of the major threads involving Ivan's sister and the ancient aliens seem to be coming together. While the series effectively revolves around Yadem, the real key character of this installment, much as in the last one, is Ivan. The young man is forced to confront his past and the abuse he suffered at the hands of his insane sister, who made Ivan a “pet” slave. While Ivan has become part of Yaden's family, it's been an interesting question as to whether or not his past would prevent him from forming any romantic attachment. That's another challenge that faces Ivan in this story. We're reminded that there's a lot that has to be resolved if the young man is to ever have a happily-ever-after free of the shadows of his past. Colin also plays a significant role in this installment of the series. While Yaden's husband may not be a powerful psion like Yaden and Ivan, he is nonetheless the glue that holds this found family together. He is what grounds the two other men and has done the most to help them return to a stable mental state after the stress of their year in Calarni space. Colin is well aware of the temporary madness that came over Yaden after his betrayal by a Calarni agent, and he is constantly on guard over the fear that his husband might go off the rails again. The point of view alternates between Yaden, Ivan, and Colin through the course of the story. We get to know each of them just a little bit better by the end of the book. While this isn't the last book in the series, it does feel like we're getting close to the final installment.
  • Face Blind on Feb. 11, 2024

    Corin survived the car accident that killed his lover, but it left him with some brain damage that made him “face blind.” He's unable to recognize people he has known for years, even his own brother. To escape the pressure of all the people who don't understand or over-compensate, Corin moves to Glastonbury. Shortly after moving in, Corin is exploring the famous tor outside of town when he has a chance encounter with Adam. Adam grew up in Glastonbury, but only recently moved back from London to try and reconnect with his estranged mother, although she died before he got the chance. “Face Blind” is an engrossing contemporary romance set in a quirky English town. The blurb suggests there is more of a paranormal aspect to the storyline than there actually is. The possibility that Corin or Adam may have seen ghosts provides much of the dramatic driver for the plot, but "real" ghosts don't really play a part in the story. If you're expecting a ghost story, you'll be disappointed. Corin is an interesting character. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to have his condition (which is a known effect of some types of traumatic brain injury). Whether you like the one you have or not, our faces are a big part of our identity. The inability to recognize friends and family, or enemies, sounds very debilitating. The description of how this affects Corin and how he copes with it, or doesn't, feels very realistic. Adam is another well-drawn character. He seems to cultivate something of a bad-boy image but is really a nice guy, even a bit spiritual. While Corin's issues are the result of a single traumatic event, Adam has had his own struggles with his family. The full extent of those issues only becomes clear near the very end. The way the two men's relationship develops seems very natural, including a few bumps along the way as they get to know each other. There are a couple of secondary characters that provide a bit of color as well as help move the story along. They're quite well fleshed out and interesting in their own right.
  • Making Waves on Feb. 23, 2024

    Ward grew up in foster care, moving from one home to another. The one constant in his life was Dean, who remained his friend through high school, where they shared a love of cars. Years later, the two stay best friends and work at the same garage, where Dean has become one of the stars of a reality show while Ward does the “real” work of fixing cars for all the clients the show brings in. Then Dean gets his younger brother, Ash, hired to work with Ward. Ash is gay and still harbors a crush on “bi-ish” Ward. Ash comes on strong, and Ward can't deny his own attraction to the young man who was like a little brother to him. But both men have a good idea of what Dean's reaction will be. “Making Waves” is a relatively short contemporary romance. The story spans just a few weeks as Ash flirts with Ward, who eventually stops resisting the persistent advances. The main drama comes from Dean's reaction to the potential relationship. The narration is entirely from Ward's point of view. He seems like a really nice guy. Maybe he's a little too nice since he clearly lets Dean get his way a little too often. Ward's desire to do the right thing is admirable and a real conundrum. Ash is remarkably self-aware for such a young man, but perhaps with a brother like Dean, that was inevitable. He seems a bit mature for his age, but then there are times when it's clear he's a few years younger than Ward. This is a sweet novella-length book that has enough drama to sustain the short length, even if the story isn't especially memorable.
  • A Suitable Bodyguard on Feb. 29, 2024

    Zelli has always been a bit different. His family, which rules the valley where Zelli lives, has always mixed with the fae, and Zelli shows it more than most. His “condition” has made for a lonely life, and Zelli doesn't think he will be able to attract a suitor with his odd looks. Especially not the one he wants. Zelli has had a crush on one of the guards, Tahlen, since the day he arrived. Tahlen is too big and beautiful to want the likes of diminutive Zelli. However, there are more important things to worry about. There's been an ongoing power struggle among many of the ruling families for control of the throne. Their valley has so far remained peaceful, but Zelli's grandmother, the current head of the family, is old and frail. Zelli lives in a medieval fantasy world ruled by feudal lords where fae really exist. It's the same world depicted in an earlier work by the same author, A Suitable Consort. There's minimal overlap between the two stories, so you can read this as a stand-alone. The fae are both sought after and feared. They're a lot like the old Monkey's Paw stories. The fae can grant wishes, but you need to be very careful what you wish for. The story is related entirely from Zelli's point of view. In some respects, he seems more mature and thoughtful than you might expect. But in other ways, Zelli is quite innocent. It seems he has no peers his own age in the fortress, and his mixed heritage further isolates him from other people. Zelli's limited exposure to common folk makes it even harder for him to deal with someone like Tahlen, who guards his emotions closely. Even when Tahlen makes his feelings clearer, it's hard for Zelli to believe a strong, beautiful man like Tahlen would be interested in him. The romance between Zelli and Tahlen is a slow burn, but once it heats up, it's quite scorching. That's also true of the overall story, which slowly builds up to a Big Dramatic Scene near the very end.
  • French Twist on March 07, 2024

    Chef Gage is under pressure. Both the baker and pastry chefs have quit, and Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching. Gage decides to take a risk on two recent culinary school graduates. The new pastry chef, Valentin, is not only very talented, he's very beautiful as well. Valentin isn't the kind of guy Gage is normally attracted to, but he can't seem to resist the young man. “French Twist” is a barely novella-length story about finding love where you least expect it. Aside from the will-they or won't-they tension between Gage and Valintin, there's not much drama to the story. The two main characters are believable enough. What stretches credulity is the restaurant where they work. A staff of 61 on duty on any given day seems hard to believe in a city where the average restaurant employs 15 people in total. The text is full of minor grammatical or word errors. With so many tools available to check these basic things like unbalanced quotes, it seems crazy to publish a book with so many typos. There's at least one on every page. The errors aren't bad enough to disrupt your reading flow, but they are annoying. What was also annoying were the occasional pedantic moments when the author seemed merely to be trying to show off that they'd done some research. I don't think you really need to worry about whether or not people reading your story know what bouillabaisse is, let alone the details of how many kinds of fish are in it. Despite the complaints, this is a fun little story you'll likely finish in one sitting. The short length probably means the minor annoyances won't add up to much before you finish.
  • Rule Breakers on March 14, 2024

    Twenty years ago, Denver developed a sexual relationship with his brother Harley. It all started as a drunken dare at a college party and ended abruptly when bisexual Harley found out a former hookup was pregnant. Harley married the woman and focused on raising their son, Edison. Twenty years on, Denver has never really gotten over the interlude, and Edison is the spitting image of his father at twenty. Edison also shares his father's disregard for conventional taboos. Denver finds his nephew hard to resist, and he still misses his now-divorced brother. Is it so wrong to want them both? This story picks up in the present day, right where the previous book, Risk Takers, left off. Edison has turned up on his uncle Denver's doorstep after a fight with his father, Harley. But Edison wants more than just a place to stay. He wants a reprise of the sexual encounter the two had months ago, which Denver still feels guilty about. You will want to have read the first book before this one to get the full background on the history between Harley and Denver. “Rule Breakers” is a high heat menage fantasy, but it doesn't shy away from the fact that human beings are involved. The characters spend a good deal of time talking about the repercussions of a possible relationship. The brothers Harley and Denver are particularly concerned about Edison. The young man may think he wants all the hot sex he can get now, but will he regret it later? The doubts don't get in the way, but they do add a touch of realism to the fantasy. The entire focus of the story is on the three men. There are only a few scenes involving other characters of any significance. The three are well drawn, especially considering the erotic fantasy nature of the story, where you don't expect as much definition from the characters.
  • The Face in the Water on March 30, 2024

    Tean and his husband Jem are looking forward to some quality time together while Tean attends a conference in the Missouri Ozarks. But Jem has a nose for trouble and when he uncovers some illegal wildlife dealing on the sidelines, he can’t help trying to outsmart the bad guys. Things go sideways quickly, landing Jem, Tean and a group of other men in a mess of biker gangs and murders. It took me a while to get into this story. Much longer than usual, and I had to really think about why that was since all the elements were there. It finally dawned on me that the problem lay in the presentation of the main characters. It was like we should already know them. As if this were a sequel. I even went to check that wasn’t the case. But, no, this is the first book of a series. It was a bit disconcerting, especially since Jem’s background plays such a significant role in the plot. Eventually, we get to know both Jem and Tean well enough. They are an odd couple. Opposites in many ways, but that ultimately is probably why they work so well together. Most of the time. Tean is a classic lovable nerd. He’s introverted and has a head full of “interesting” facts. You wouldn’t want him on the other team in a game of Trivial Pursuits. In contrast to the straight-laced Tean, Jem is quite the bad boy. He’s a man with a troubled past on the wrong side of the law, which we really only get a glimpse of. Still, he seems to be a man that tries to do the right thing. Three other couples help Tean and Jem with their investigation. As with the two main characters, the six secondary men are introduced in rapid fashion, such that you’ll have a hard time remembering who is who for a while. Subsequent books in the series are each told from a different couple’s point of view, so we’ll get to know all the men of this book a lot better. While it took me a while to get into the author’s storytelling style, I did enjoy the book in the end. There are some really funny moments which help counter-balance the darkness of a murder mystery. Be warned, however, that while the basic question of whodunit gets resolved, there’s an overarching mystery of a mastermind that connects the books of the series.
  • Submit to the Alien: M/M Mpreg Alien Romance on June 09, 2024

    Nerren is an omega. A descendant of genetically modified human males that can conceive and give birth. Omegas are prized by some and despised by others. Nerren has been trying to live under the radar since being orphaned as a boy, but he’s running out of options if he wants to stay alive. Offering his reproductive capability to an alien willing to pay a lot of money for it seems like a way out. Khel needs an heir and after being abandoned by his last mate, he’s not looking for a relationship. Using the services of an omega makes perfect sense, if only the human that gets his attention wasn’t so alluring. Based on the blurb and the first few chapters, I was expecting “Submit to the Alien” to be just a sex romp with some dominant / submissive play. While there are some hot scenes between Nerren and Khel, there’s a lot more compelling drama than I was expecting. The story is set on a future moon inhabited by many species, yet with many of the same political issues facing us today. There are obvious parallels between Nerren’s situation and the trans witchhunts we’re seeing in the US and UK. The story alternates points of view between Nerren and Khel. There are a few short flashback chapters here and there which give us a lot of the backstory for both characters. Nerren seems like a nice young man doing the best he can in the circumstances. He has been dealt quite a few hard blows in life, yet hasn’t lost hope or his humanity. It’s easy to understand why he finds the idea of somebody to take care of him so appealing. It’s also easy to see why he is so suspicious when things seem to be too good to be true. Khel is painted as a very domineering personality. A man that is used to getting what he wants and doesn’t react well when that doesn’t happen. However, a softer side shows through over the course of the story. He really does want the people he cares about to be happy. He just has to get past the idea that doing what he says is always what will make them happy. Although the story didn’t turn out to be the one I expected, it was in the end much better. The plot might be triggering for some, so you will want to consider that before you read. I felt that the ending left a few too many unanswered questions. You’re left wondering what happened between the last chapter and the epilogue to get the characters where they end up.
  • The Other Side of Winter on June 09, 2024

    It’s been a year since Bengt returned to Skane from Santuario after helping Alex solve a murder case. Although their affair was brief, Bengt still misses Alex. Now, the borders are finally open between the two colonies and Alex, as promised, is on the first flight out. But starting over is never easy and Alex has a lot of demons to exorcise. Is Bengt really willing to put up with the walls Alex has had to build to survive in Santuario? “The Other Side of Winter” is the recently published sequel to Santuario, which I reviewed way back in 2015. It almost works as a standalone novel, but I would still recommend reading the first book before this one to get a better feeling for Alex’s background and the clash of cultures between Santuario and Skane. As in the first book, science fiction only sets up the basic plot of a future planet colonized by two different cultures from Earth who have had very little to do with each other until recently. This is really a story of two people with a strong connection but little experience with relationships trying to bridge the cultural gap to make it work. Also, like the first book, a mystery provides the driver to keep the two men in contact even when they’re not sure where the relationship is going. Alex is a complicated man, but it’s easy to empathize with a lot of what he is going through. Alex has turned his life upside down by leaving the place where he grew up. It may not have been an easy life, but Alex knew the rules and how to get by. In Skane, he doesn’t really know anyone except Bengt; he doesn’t have a job, and he doesn’t like being idle. Alex’s journey of self-realization is at the very heart of this story. The narration switches between Alex and Bengt from chapter to chapter. Bengt is the man that turns Alex’s world upside down. He wants to help Alex, but it’s frustrating trying to help someone who isn’t used to relying on, let alone trusting, anyone. It’s easy to sympathize with Bengt’s situation as he tries to deal with Alex. It would be easy to describe this as a “men don't talk about their feelings” story. While that is a big part of the drama, both men have very good reasons for holding back. Bengt and Alex are very complex characters — realistically depicted human beings, in other words.
  • Feathered Friend on June 09, 2024

    Dexter inherited his father’s homing pigeons and has grown to love the birds. One day, after a meet, Dexter is checking all the birds made it back and finds an extra pigeon in the roost. He takes the bird into his house to try and track down the owner but when his back is turned the bird is gone and there’s a cute young man in his kitchen. The young man introduces himself as Avery and he’s clearly attracted to Dexter. “Feathered Friend” is a very short fairy-tale story based on the swan maiden folklore. It not only has a gay twist but has been updated to make the bird a homing pigeon comfortable with a suburban roost. Like most fairy tales, it doesn’t try too hard to be believable. You just have to go with the whimsy. Dexter is a rather ordinary man who works in a library. He’s still grieving over the loss of his father. He seems to take Avery’s sudden appearance a little more calmly than most of us would. You could put it down, in part, to English reserve. It’s also clear he’s lonely. Avery remains a bit of a mystery throughout the story. He doesn’t reveal much about what he is or how he came to be that way. Given the very short length of the book, that’s not really a disappointment.
  • Luck of the Draw on June 09, 2024

    Once upon a time, three kingdoms were engaged in a bloody war over a small piece of land. Many princes and princesses died in the battles. When the rulers decided to make peace, part of the treaty called for marriages between the houses to promote stability. The only problem is that there are slightly more eligible princes than princesses. This means that either Obren or his brother will have to marry Prince Dukan. Their father insists they draw straws to decide, and Obren gets the short straw. It’s not that Obren objects to marrying a man, but things happened during the war, which may make a happy marriage to Dukan very unlikely. “Luck of the Draw” is very much a fairy tale romance of medieval kingdoms, handsome princes and evil kings. Our two heroes, Obren and Dukan, must overcome issues with their pasts during the war, as well as the antipathy of Obren’s own father, to find their happily ever after. The story is told entirely from Obren’s point of view. Despite the ill treatment he has gotten from his father, the young man seems well balanced and open-minded. His decision to be honest with Dukan is definitely a sign of Obren’s strength of character. We only get to know Dukan through Obren, but he seems similarly inclined to doing the right thing. Unlike a lot of fairy tale pairings, you get the feeling that the two young men could end up having a highly successful relationship.