But a Brief Glimpse: Review of In From the Cold

cover53345-mediumIn From the Cold by Cat Grant

Thanks to NetGalley and Cat Grant for the review copy.

In from the Cold is the long awaited next-installment of the Courtland Chronicles, a massive series that I admit I only read the first book of many years ago. At the time, I knew it was the first in a series, and I realized that book one was foreshadowing a lot of dramatic breaking up and getting back together, so I felt it was good to jump ship before things got too serious between us.

This book concerns the next generation in the chronicles, as the main character Seth is the son of the first thruple from the original books. One of Seth’s dads makes an appearance, but mostly the book deals with Seth and the object of his affection, Bilal.

This is an extremely quick read at approximately 91 pages, Grant takes just enough time to introduce the characters and start them on the path of future bliss. Seth is rich, cute, sexually experienced, and completely ignorant to his own privilege. Bilal is a Muslim from Iran, where being gay is a crime punishable by death. Some promising conflicts start to surface, but there’s really no opportunity for anything more than a glimpse of future books.

Having read and reviewed one other Cat Grant book in the past (Black Dog), I feel like the (bad) character driven drama that chased me away from the first Courtland book may be a thing of the past. There’s maybe even a little bit of an author-insert speech about not being cruel to your first love by making bad decisions that hurt them. I certainly look forward to seeing more from these characters.

Minus one star for being more of a teaser than an actual story. But it is only $2.99, which is nice.

4 stars out of 5

The Lives We Try to Lead: Review of The Jade Butterfly

cover52634-mediumThe Jade Butterfly by Jeffrey Round

Thanks to NetGalley and Dundurn for the review copy. The Jade Butterfly will be available for purchase on March 3, 2015

This is book three in the Dan Sharp series. If you haven’t read books one and two, the author does a good job of keeping the new reader informed without getting too specific, but with the title release more than three months away, and the first two books available as a bundle right now, I recommend catching yourself up on some good new-fashioned Canadian noir.

In this installment, Dan meets a mysterious Chinese diplomat with a simple request: Find his sister, who’s been presumed dead for more than 20 years, but who appeared on the website of a Canadian bakery only months before.

What follows is a tale of international intrigue, the rebelliousness of youth, the folly of best intentions, and the horrors of what happens when we try our hardest, but still fail spectacularly.

Jeffrey Round knows how to write suspense. All the little threads of coincidence and desire that tie us to each other are strung taught at his whim. New readers will be able to follow the plot, but the larger tensions of family and personal history that follow Dan from the from book one may be lost on them.

Above everything, Dan is a good man trying to do right in a hard world. There are circumstances beyond his control, that’s a given. But the real art is how Round lays out those elements of our lives that we do have control over: How we treat our family, how we choose our lovers; that can mean the difference between happiness and ruin when taken in aggregate. You try to do right, to solve the unsolvable problems of your life, to prioritize those things you hold most dear, and yet, there is always something to get in the way; some trick of fate that pushes you over the edge, that ruins all your carefully laid plans.

That’s the real suspense in a Dan Sharp book. That’s the hook that keeps you coming back for more. It’s almost a uniquely Canadian kind of writing. It’s not the absence of connection that builds tension in these books, it’s the perilous nature of the connections we do have. It’s not only the world as we know it that’s dark, it’s the ways it could be even darker than it is. It’s the vast, unavoidable distance that stretches between who we are and who we try to be.

5 stars out of 5

Old Time Religion: Review of The Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane

cover52089-mediumThe Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane

Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide Publishing for the review copy. The Bells of Time Square will be available for purchase on December 15, 2014.

Reading this book, I was reminded a lot of Rupert Smith’s A Man’s World, mentioned briefly in a long-ago post on decent gay erotica that this review series is doing it’s damnedest to both capitalize and expand on. Like Smith’s book, Lane’s narrative switches back and forth between World War II and a modern setting, and both books deal with a gay couple in each setting, connected by history and proximity. Aside from them each being poetic love letters to our gay grandfathers (both literal and figurative), the similarities stop there, but I couldn’t help comparing them, as they are both very moving.

I’ve been listening to several of Amy Lane’s audiobooks lately, which I haven’t reviewed because if I reviewed non-NetGalley books, this fucker would be two posts a day of nothing but book reviews, mostly erotica, and I don’t think even you guys are up for that. I’m not, that’s for sure. But I digress. All I wanted to say is that I’ve been enjoying Amy’s other works, so was pleasantly surprised to see her name attached to this book.

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of love and loyalty though the ages. Nate Meyer goes to Times Square every New Year’s Eve to listen for the church bells he had promised his war-time lover they would one day hear together. The Bells of Times Square takes place in present-day, with Nate struck mute from a stroke being pushed to Times Square in his wheelchair by his grandson Blaine and Blaine’s boyfriend, but the majority of the narrative is set in occupied France where Nate and his lover Walter found peace and understanding in the midst of the violent terror of war.

Walter was a poor, uneducated man, experienced both in love and fighting when camera operator Nate literally fell from the sky. Tending to his wounds in an abandoned house deep in enemy territory, the two quickly form a bond that each man knows to be true and abiding love. And yet, Nate travels to Times Square alone year after year. Long after he’s married and has children and then grandchildren of his own, he spends one night a year with the man he once promised his life to.

This is the story Nate would tell his grandson if only he could. It’s about devotion, and being true to yourself and your heart, in whatever way that’s possible. It’s about the ways that duty to country and to family can be at odds with duty to self, and the things we do to honor all masters in a world where nothing is as simple as it seems.

In this present our grandfathers and grandmothers built for us, where you can be a lover and a fighter, where a man is judged more by the content of his character than he ever has been before, what would those grandparents have us do with the gifts they cut for us from the live, bleeding heart of the past they came from? It’s a beautiful question for a beautiful book. I cried like a bitch, I can tell you that honestly.

4.5 stars out of 5 because sometimes the transition from past to present and back again can make a person a little bit cross eyed, which I can say is a habit the author has based on other of her books that I’ve read.