New In Town: Review of Trowchester Blues

20150801cover58651-mediumTrowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

Maybe it’s because I’m getting up in years myself, but I really prefer the stories about the above-thirty set. Kids are dumb, and their problems are dumb problems. Not like the main characters in this first Trowchester Blues novel, the start of what promises to be hit series from Alex Beecroft.

Michael May was a police officer. One too many gruesome murder scenes sent him over the edge, and he was encouraged to take early retirement after assaulting a suspect. Back in the home where he was an outcast among his peers, and a victim of his father’s abusive cruelty, he is attempting to rebuild. What, he doesn’t know.

Fintan Hulme was a fence. A good fence, but he got out of the game and exiled himself to an antique bookshop in a tiny tourist village on the English coast. Content to live out his quiet retirement, he was completely unprepared for a new love or an old associate to show up at his door at virtually the same time.

Throw in a snarky orphan, a genderqueer, age-appropriate BFF (and maybe more) for her to bond with, excellent character development, and just a hint of sadomasochism and you have a pretty great combo. And that’s not even accounting for the very English mystery to top it all off.

Michael is afraid of his own anger, Fintan is aroused by it. Michael is adrift on a sea of uncertainty, Fintan knows exactly what he wants but his past isn’t going to let him have it.

The stand-out feature of Trowchester Blues has got to be the character development. It’s so crisp and good, even minor characters are real and whole people.

In terms of complaints, I only wish the sex was a little spicier. Fintan’s masochism is talked about, but not explored to the extent that I was hoping for. Vanilla readers, the kind who can be put off by the more hardcore pain/pleasure stuff will probably be grateful the scenes don’t go far, but they felt anticlimactic to me. I did, however, really enjoy that Fintan’s masochism didn’t automatically translate into submissiveness. All too often the two are portrayed as being practically the same trait, and as a masochist who likes to be in charge, it was refreshing to see somebody with a similar style.

4.5 stars for being a damn good read.

Challenge Participant

The Book that Called Uncle – Review of The Flesh Cartel

cover52093-mediumThe Flesh Cartel, The Complete Collection by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau

Thanks to Riptide and NetGalley for the review copy.

I requested The Flesh Cartel back in the Fall of 2014, and every time I would sit down to read it, then put it down again, I thought that I was just having a bad day. I’d go on and read other books and review them, and then try to come back to no avail. I’m finally throwing in the towel. It’s unfair to continue to think that I will someday finish this book.

I blame my own headspace for this one. I tend to love this stuff. Stories of intense BDSM relationships and situations are usually right up my alley. I was totally excited to read The Flesh Cartel, I’d been hearing about how great it was for years.

For those not in the know, this popular series centers around two orphaned brothers who are kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery, where they are meant to be trained as the perfect submissive slaves.

The first several chapters are straight up terror and pain. Again, usually it’s totally my thing, but it was hard to get through. The original serial nature of the piece made it seem drawn out in book form. A lot of intense things happen in every chapter, because they were originally set as stand-alone pieces meant to sustain a reader until the next installation, but the plot moves incredibly slowly, a least at first.

The boys are likable characters, and they are very clearly not enjoying any part of their situation. I usually prefer my hardcore to be similar in caliber, but with an eventual kernel of consent or underlying secret desire, and while that is threatened, it’s not something that happens. So I begin to feel more than a little bit like the bad guy by continuing to read these characters into deeper and deeper depths of insanity. Yes, I am the kind of crazy person who actually (sort of) believes that I put the characters into and out of danger by reading or not reading. It’s a sickness.

I do know that the boys eventually escape, and I have a feeling that the story gets way less repetitive after that, but it was difficult to get there for me. I’m going to keep going back to the work, and when I do finish it, I will be updating this review, but I wanted to get something out after so long in draft.

3 out of 5 stars

Review of Below the Belt by Phil Andros

Below the Belt by Phil Andros: Most of the original Andros stories came out in underground gay magazines between 1950 and 1980. In the 80s and 90s they were bound into books. Today I learned that this book of porn I had beside my bed is worth between $50 and $750. So if you can find it, you better snatch that shit up.

The sex is good, generally vanilla with some light power play and one extremely small, incidental cutting scene, but nothing outrageous. The reason Phil Andros is a must-have for any penis enthusiast is because of the historical significance of the work. Andros is one of the first pornographers to infuse joy into his gay sexcapades. He’s no Mitch Mitchell, but the first-person narrative of happy-go-lucky street hustler Andros is entertaining, interesting, and educational. Come for the manly hustler action, stay for the antiquated spelling of “gyzym.”

Editor’s note: I re-read some of the later chapters over lunch, and the sex is very not vanilla. Bondage, dominance, and piss drinking all in attendance.

Twink Back the Night – Review of “Home the Hard Way” by Z.A. Maxfield

cover50620-mediumHome the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

I have to admit that I wasn’t that interested in Home the Hard Way when I first saw it on the NetGalley shelves. Disgraced cop returns home to his twinkey childhood best friend and attempts to solve an old mystery sounded like pretty standard fare.

How these things usually go is this: the twink feels hurt after being abandoned by his straight crush, and the not-so-straight crush has to man up and admit their soul-mate level bond after one or more amazing blow jobs from his slightly embarrassingly femmey “bro.” At which point, closet case straight cop turns into a gay rights activist, but never has to deal with any real danger or adversity and life goes on as normal because people are just so damn happy about love.

Home the Hard Way definitely puts the old convention, if not on it’s ear than at least on it’s knees. When Dare Buckley comes back to his minuscule hometown in the Pacific Northwest, he expects some degree of animosity, both for the scandal that sent him running home, and for the apple carts he plans to upset in the 15 year old mystery of his dad’s uncharacteristic suicide. But what he doesn’t expect is his former best friend Finn Fowler. Finn was the little brother Dare had always wanted, someone to protect, someone to look up to him and boost his confidence with hero worship. But something’s changed… for both of them.

Diminutive and openly gay, Finn is used to keeping secrets and taking care of himself. So by the time his boyhood crush comes back to town, he’s quick with the brush off for a man who couldn’t possibly reconcile the starry-eyed kid he was with the confident, leather dom he’s become. He takes no time to figure out that Dare wants him, even that Dare craves discipline, but the idea that they could have more than secret sessions in the dark both terrifies and excites him. It’s untested waters for them both, and when Finn becomes involved in a murder investigation, it looks like Dare’s poor decision making has come back to bite him in the ass. Or can he really trust this man he loves, but doesn’t know?

I fucking loved this book. The idea that the little gay kid would be holding all the cards while the masc. cop who left him behind would be the needy wreck was entirely novel for me. The leather component took me completely by surprise, and was incredibly hot. Character development is top notch. There’s no good guys or bad guys in Home the Hard Way. There’s no cut and dry answers, either. Just people trying to find their way in a sometimes cruel and uncaring, but also sometimes genuinely beautiful, generous world. The alliances and secrets that hold us together, keep us apart, and make up our lives are a character in and of themselves.

The slow burn tension and suspense had me compulsively skipping to the bottom of the screen. The murder mystery and the romance vie for attention, which is just how I like the levels in my romance/mystery combos.

If I had one complaint, it would be that it seems like Riptide (of course this beautiful piece is a Riptide release) has no intention of publishing this on the Kindle* store. It’s paperback or nothing on Amazon at $17.99 for regular users, and $15.99 for Prime users. If you want a kindle format, it is available on the Riptide site for $7.99, and well worth the price.

I just ran a test of their shopping cart process, and while nothing is as easy as the Kindle interface, Riptide doesn’t make it much harder than it has to be. As long as you know your Kindle address, and you’ve submitted the riptide address as an approved email on your kindle account, you can send the title to your Kindle by clicking a button next to the book in your “My Account” section, then entering your Kindle address into the field provided. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to save the Kindle address, or make sure that future epub purchases go there automatically. That would be on my wishlist if they want to continue to keep epub off the Amazon marketplace.

*EDITOR’S NOTE: My mistake, the title isn’t on Amazon because they, like many etailers, don’t allow pre-sale for digital books. As soon as the publication date arrives, you will be able to purchase Home the Hard Way in the Amazon store.

5 out of 5 stars

Review of The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame

The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame: This is a comic book in the Japanese bara style, which means that the dudes are huge in all the best and most fun ways. As cuddly as these tall, chunk, and handsome bears are, this shit is not for the faint of heart. Those of you who do not have an appreciation for creative uses for BBQ skewers may want to check out another bara master, Seizoh Ebisubashi, who has similarly shaped guys but, as far as I can tell, no violence.