Car Crossed Lovers: Review of Hell on Wheels

20150710hellHell on Wheels A Bluewater Bay Novel by Z..A. Maxfield

Everybody needs a break sometimes. But what happens when a much needed diversion from the rigors of everyday life turns out to be more than that?

Nash has a lot on his plate. He’s running his family’s auto shop while simultaneously looking after his wheelchair using younger sister and absent-minded inventor father. Spencer is a celebrity in the middle of divorce that is pure tabloid-fuel.

They find each other at the worst possible point, but can peace grow from chaos?

I am seriously loving the Bluewater Bay series. Not only is it set in my favorite place, the Pacific Northwest, but every character is so well made. The writers are truly the first string on team Riptide, and the quality is quite apparent.

Nash and Spencer are so well written, as are the various family members and self-identified minions that surround the two characters. I do wish that there was more fire between the two leads. I also wish that there was less loving kindness for Spencer’s shitty ex.

I get that how the story plays out is actually the healthier and more realistic, and I know that I’m always harping on these red-flag romances, but I also wonder if there could have been a little more flash bang. What can I say, I’m a woman of contradictions.

4 stars

The Eye of the Storm – Review of Tempest

cover54381-mediumTempest (Playing the Fool #3) by Lisa Henry, and J.A. Rock

Thanks to Riptide and Netgalley for the review copy.

In the third Playing the Fool book, Henry and Mack are on the run, from the both sides of the law. They have no one to turn to but each other, and Mac’s parents, who’s farmhouse they make into their hiding place. This is reminiscent of book one where Mack fails to plan and ends up in the one place anyone who knows him would look for his ass.

But I do like that it gives Mack and Henry some time to be normal people and not on the run or threatened by stuff for a second. I also appreciate that the authors spent time with Viola, developing her character and giving her an arc, rather than making her a plot device, as can sometimes happen with children and the developmentally disabled.

The book wraps everything up nicely in the end, which you guys know that I’m not usually a fan of, especially with a series I enjoyed as much as this one. It makes me very doubtful that there will be a book four, which I very much want. By the end of book three, their White Collar thing is totally in place, and it looks like Henry and Mac are going to have a beautiful partnership, both in and out of the bedroom.

I’d really like to see more of the series with them solving crimes and actually being on the same side. The banter that gave me pause in the first book is completely on point by book two and stays that way through book three. If anybody reading this knows Lisa Henry of J.A. Rock, or the fine people at Riptide, let them know that a book four would be much appreciated. By me, but I’m sure by lots of other readers as well.

4 stars out of 5

Dressed to Spill – Review of The Merchant of Death

cover54382-mediumThe Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool #2) by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

Thanks to Netgalley and Riptide Publishing for the review copy.

Book two of the Playing the Fool series was an absolute charmer. Henry Page, recently an FBI witness, has decided that something is rotten in the state of his twin sister’s adult care facility, and resolves to go undercover as her in order to figure it all out. As anyone would.

Mac, who started falling for the enigmatic conman in book one is quick to follow him down the rabbit hole, as it were. Or at least he would be if somebody wasn’t so busy framing him for murder.

The banter that was hard to round up in book one is on point in book two, as is the suspense, and the mystery. I no longer feel like Mac is making huge mistakes at every turn, maybe because Henry is so damn crazy that I’m just impressed he can hang on for the ride.

Henry in a dress turns out to be a major turn on for Mack, and the reader too, if my own experience is anything to go on. There’s also the signature Lisa Henry touch that takes a story just that much farther and makes it an impactful, humanizing scene rather than mere erotica.

In addition to their relationship heating up, we also get closer to a secret only hinted at in book one. The original trauma that set Henry on his dark path to begin with. Which just happens to be critical to solving the mystery of who’s framing Mack. The mystery of the hospital is a whole other bag of worms.

4 out of 5 stars

The Man Who Loved an Island – Review of Waiting for the Flood

cover58650-mediumWaiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

Thanks to Riptide and Netgalley for the review copy. Waiting for the Flood will be available for purchase on Feb. 23, 2015

I requested Waiting for the Flood because of Alexis Hall. I’ve reviewed other of his books, and loved his characters especially. He did not disappoint.

Edwin Tully lives alone in Oxford in the house he used to share with his boyfriend of 10 years, an artist named Marius. He leads a solitary life, having left all his old friends to Marius in the break-up, he’s spent the last two years with his elderly neighbor as his only companion.

When flooding threatens his neighborhood, Environment Agent Adam Dacre shows up literally on his doorstep, and things start to get… wet and uncomfortable.

How does a man who’s spent the last two years in self-imposed isolation finally decide to break the silence?

This is a sweet love story about the way a broken heart tends to mend itself in time, especially when we aren’t looking.

I was enamored of Edwin right off the start. The fact that he has a fairly serious stutter makes the whole things-he-didn’t-say plot element actually believable, and his quiet loneliness was extremely relatable. They say no man is an island, but it’s clear that he is trying really hard to be one anyway. With the waters rising, both literally and figuratively, he has to make a decision: sink alone, or swim for shelter. The acute pain of making what can seem to outsiders to be an extremely rational decision for a chronic isolater was very well depicted.

Adam comes across as a kind of non-character in comparison to Edwin’s rich depths, but since the narrator focuses only on Edwin, it makes sense that we wouldn’t know him as well.

Since this is a fairly short book, there’s not a lot of it to go over, but it’s adorable, and can be finished in a single afternoon. Worth the $3.99 price tag, but I wouldn’t pay more than that.

4 stars out of 5 for being adorable and having absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Masochist Mine – Review of Sweetwater by Lisa Henry

cover50235-mediumSweetwater by Lisa Henry

Thanks to NetGalley and Riptide for the review copy. Sweetwater comes out on Sept. 29, 2014.

From the author of the 5-star rated Bliss comes a tale of love and loss in the American West. Set in Wyoming Territory in 1870, this book stars main character Elijah Carter, a partially deaf young man who’s only just coming into his twin passion for penis and pain when he meets cattle rustler Grady Mullins, and his entire world starts slipping away.

The tragedy, murky loyalties, and general goings on of Sweetwater mix with the ignorance and the everyday heroism of it’s citizens in a rich tapestry that winds its way throughout the book. Antagonist Harlan Crane, a saloon owning sadist with a tight grip on the local economy and a penchant for young men who like to be tied down isn’t really the true villain anymore than Elija’s perpetually drunk and verbally abusive boss is the villain. The real fight in Sweetwater is mans own struggle with himself.

When tragedy sweeps through Elijah’s life, he is faced with a choice: Remain (at least outwardly) the good, simple boy he’d been brought up to be, or give himself over Harlan’s ties, his belt, and the pleasure in the pain. As in most situations where only two choices seem evident, there’s also door number three, the mystery door. Does a self identified sinner like Elijah deserve to be happy? Can a criminal like Grady really go straight, so to speak? What matters more: love or vengeance?

Like Bliss, this book is well written and like Bliss, it takes chances, which I love it for. On a technical aspect, Sweetwater actually feels better written than Henry’s earlier work, and I love it for that too. I shouldn’t be surprised, considering my feelings on the creative mind behind these books, but I’m so glad to see an improvement in writing from book to book. Unlike the average ebook erotica writer, who gets as good as they get and then stays there, turning out the same level of work every time, I can see the development of a true craft in process. It’s actually inspiring.

The fact that Elijah’s masochism doesn’t magically disappear with the right lover also endeared the story to me. I’ve been reading a few books where it seems like the main characters sexual tastes change when they meet “the one.” Lately for the vanilla main character to discover their kinky side when they finally meet their soul mate. A guy goes from feeling weird about anything short of a peck on the lips if it’s not under the covers in an entirely dark bedroom to straight up public mouth-fucking his dude in the back of a book store (or something), and that somehow proves that they’re made for each other. Of course, this may well be a backlash against books that had hot, kinky sex in front to titillate, but switched to deep kisses and longing gazes in the moonlight for the true love bits.

Either way I like the strong kink-positive vibe I’m getting. There is such a thing as loving masochistic sex, and you are worthy of that careful attention, my friend. This is a very affirming book.

5 out of 5 stars, of course.

Adorable Small Town Boys in Love: Review of “No Such Thing” by A.M. Arthur

cover41136-mediumNo Such Thing by A.M. Arthur

Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.

What can I say about No Such Thing? Except that it’s sweet as shit.

Earnest, intelligent college student Jaime Winters may have recovered from his heart transplant, but being a gay guy in a small town hasn’t exactly done his sex life any favors. That is until reformed bad boy Alessandro Silva walks into his sister’s bakery looking for a job and finds so much more than that. Back home to help his foster mother take care of his youngest foster siblings, Alé is unprepared for the combination of new love and old debt that’s about to hit the fan.

Arthur is serving bucolic haze of youth so hard in this book, and I fucking love it. Even though Alé is supposed to be at least slightly more hardened than Jaime, both boys are just adorable. Silva’s criminal past is more that of a stoner wash-out than anything really serious, and the haunting secret of his youth is one hundred percent a wrong place, wrong time situation. Winter’s almost childish naivety is sharpened by a razor wit and an obviously well turned hand at research. Together, these gamboling lambs will warm the hackles of your cynical, porn-stunted limbic system.

Despite, or more probably because of this overwhelming tenderness, the sex scenes are positively bursting with tension. Heat rolls off the characters, especially when they go into the big city (Wilmington) for some fun gay bar action and end up getting steamy in a foreplay foresome. There’s no actual group sex, but you won’t miss it. Especially if you’re as ADD as I can be when it comes to multiple partners in text-only format (in an IRL format too, but we’re not talking about high school right now).

I do wish A.M. had done better character motivation. It can be scattered. Jaime seems to be extremely well read in terms of sex and sexuality one moment, and then it’s like he grew up without cable the next. His shy impulsiveness in regard to communication can be explained away with his relative lack of social interaction. However, Alessandro’s not so much. Here’s a guy who “doesn’t do boyfriends” but who also gives up his job and his apartment in the city to come home and take care of a woman and her children for no other reason than that they need him; who thinks everybody leaves, but has the unwounded generosity of spirit that could only belong to a man who believes in love and kindness. Maybe I’m judging the character more harshly because I’ve been the no boyfriends, everybody leaves type (for as long as that lasted) and it didn’t keep a lot of room for compassionate patience with my fellow man. But I’ve only got myself as an example. Maybe there is such a thing as a pessimist so mellow and so yet so cynical that they’re totally cool with giving of themselves, despite the fact that, at the end of the day they know they’ll get left high and dry with nothing to show for it.

I also wish there was one major dramatic plot device instead of two. Jaime and Alessandro’s love me or leave me cha cha was in direct competition with the far more interesting, far more dramatic past-comes-back-to-bite-you trauma with Alé and the town jock/bully/rich and privileged douche bag. If I were the editor, I would have advised the author to tone down the emotional turmoil over the future of their relationship and dial up the mystery. Although I would also would have advised against making Jaime too much of a damsel in distress. It’s an easy place to put him in, but easy isn’t always the best course of action.

I don’t want to make it sound like the boys are fighting about their relationship or having the kind of irrational commitment fits so many less skilled romance writers will fall back on in lieu of naturally occurring plot, far from it. All their relationship turmoil is completely internal, and they manage to communicate with one another in a healthy way, while maintaining the appropriate amount of tension. This well-walked line is probably one of my favorite elements in No Such Thing. The characters have drama, they are not themselves drama. This is so hard for so many writers to accomplish, and it shines in this book.

For the oddly lucky looking price of $3.03, you can have one of the most adorable pieces of good clean porno I’ve yet found. So pick it up. There’s supposed to be a sequel, but having read the ending, I do wonder what the duo could possibly tackle next. Personally, I hope for more on the extended family members we met in book one, I kind of fell in love with everybody, and I want to see them grow and change as well.

4.5 stars out of 5