New Rainbow Reviews

 New Rainbow Reviews! I’ve been so busy with life, family, and work that I haven’t read much lately. I know – there’s always time for books. However, not so much some times. But this week in RR was a lot of fun because most of the books were gay fiction without a lot of erotica. I love my smut (who doesn’t) but the change of pace has been great. I’m leaving off one review as there is some debate about it but here are the others:

 

Brushback by Jamie Scofield

White Flag by Thom Lane

Dark Angels by Pam Keesey (editor)

Outland by Kiernan Kelly

Outland by Kiernan Kelly

Blurb:
Living on the down low in their small Bible Belt town is just a fact of life for Hank and Beaver, two lovers who’ve been together for twenty-five years. They’ve always kept to themselves, careful not to make waves, particularly since their town is home to an infamous anti-gay preacher and his rabid congregation, who go out of their way to make sure that not one queer stone is unturned, including the only gay bar within a hundred miles.

When small town bigotry forces them out of the closet they’ve shared for a quarter century, they find their love, their friends, and their very lives in jeopardy. Everything spirals out of control until at last, backs to the wall, Hank and Beaver choose to fight back. From the betrayal of friends to outright violence, they’re not sure if they’ll survive the war with their hides ~ and their love ~ intact.

Sometimes, a bar is more than just a building. Sometimes, it’s a belief.

Review:

Let me first say that I still dislike the cover. I’m sorry! I still think it’s hideous with a dead bird nailed to a board with garish letters. I now realize the significance and it relates to the story very well but there are many other ways of doing this cover well sadly. But if you’re like me and are turned off by the dead bird on the cover, I can suggest you move beyond it and get to the story because it’s really good. This is a solid story that involves numerous issues including bigotry, homosexuality, small towns, life partnerships, betrayal, and standing up for the right to love. The story is bittersweet, beautiful, and full of colloquial affectations that give a certain flavor to the characters and dialogue. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started the book but have to say that Hank and Beaver won me over in spite of the nickname Beaver. If you’re interested in an emotionally complicated story dealing with hard issues and no easy answers, then this well crafted tale will satisfy.

The story is about a long time couple, Hank and Beaver, who live in a small backward town in the Bible belt. Together these men decide to open a gay bar in their horse barn to give folks a place to gather and just be themselves. Predictably, the local clergy and devoted Christians aren’t happy and have no limits to their hatred. The real tension comes in two forms. First, the actions of the townspeople and how the couple and their close friends handle the problems. Second, whether Hank and Beaver should just leave and avoid the issues or if it’s more important to stay and fight regardless of the outcome and cost.

The book starts off slow with an unnecessary prolog. While it sets up the scene and gives an advance look at the events to come, all the information given in the prolog is repeated within the first few chapters. This repetition of information slows the pace and flow of the story initially and takes a bit for the real action to occur. Once you get by this though, the story becomes thoroughly engaging with a believable tension and gripping intensity. Some of the actions and choices are predictable and inevitable but that doesn’t take away from the story at all. In fact, it adds to the sense of foreboding that slowly builds chapter by chapter. The pace is very clever in never creating too much action at any one time, instead giving a cooling period after each significant event allowing the reader to recover from an emotional high while maintaining an uneasy, unresolved tension.

The story is told in first person point of view from Beaver’s perspective. He is a strong enough character and personality to hold the story, even though I truly hate that nickname. As a couple Hank and Beaver are wonderful to watch, both devoted and loving showing the affects of age and health problems on a passionate relationship. There are a few odd aspects such as their open relationship with Fargo and the out of character choices to keep details from each other, but on the whole it is a solid depiction of a couple in their fifties. They may not have the recovery time of younger men, but their love and passion fill any missing problems. The friendships created with their cast of friends adds texture and depth to the various characters and helps develop a well rounded story.

Although this story is a solid tale with several complex elements and a lot of action, there are a few dropped details. Some of the antagonists are more stereotypes of characters than unique personalities and their actions slightly over the top super-evil. Even the motivation of the Preacher felt forced and unrealistic. Additionally some storylines are ignored and never resolved along with the almost overwhelming affectations in the writing. These help give a texture and feel to the characters and story that fits the image of a small, backwater town where living in the closet is a must not an option. This kind of southern, cut off speech helps the story but is distracting at times and slightly overwhelming to the actual writing. This is unlikely to turn off any readers however and those fans of the author should be familiar with this style.  For example:

See, Meridian is a real small town, only a half-spit bigger than a wide spot in the single, two-lane highway that passes through Haggerty County on its way to somewhere else. It’s a pimple stuck right smack in the middle of the Bible Belt’s ass, not even big enough to be a dot on a map. Folks here live in old, tired houses that seen their best days back before the First World War. Got us some even older homes, too, a few newer, and all of them scattered over acres of hardscrabble land. Other folk make do with trailers, mostly singles with a few doublewides thrown in here and there. Everywhere you look, you find hard-working folk who earn a living on hourly pay, people who know how to pinch a penny until it screams good and loud.

Overall, I really liked the story and was swept up in the drama and problems presented. Although the prose ran a little long with some unappealing but very familiar lines from the author, this shows an older couple can be just as attractive as those sexy twinks. Well crafted with incredible, believable tension and a solid story involving engaging, interesting characters will have you not wanting to put the story down.

Get it HERE

Embers by Tory Temple

Embers by Tory Temple

Blurb:

Embers picks up where Tory Temple’s best-selling book, Tinder, leaves off, with the relationship Chris and Morgan have built becoming strained around the edges. Chris can’t understand it, and he’s not sure what’s going on, but Morgan is becoming distant and secretive. Chris can’t help but suspect the worst.

Morgan doesn’t know how to explain what’s going on, so he doesn’t, creating an awkwardness and strain that might be hard to fix. Can Chris find a way to make Morgan explain what’s going on without losing the man he’s come to love?

 

 

Review:

This is a sequel from an earlier story involving Morgan and Chris from the book Tinder. That book had its moments for sure since the main character of Morgan was uncompromising and rigid. When Embers came out, there were mixed reviews but mostly negative as reviewer after reviewer remarked on the unflattering and unappealing personality of Morgan. When one of the main characters is off-putting to the general reading audience, the book is a hard sell. In this case, the general opinion that the story is unsuccessful is sadly true. This is not a romance, and frankly I fail to see what is romantic between one half of the relationship constantly taking scorn and abuse and “letting it go” for… good sex maybe. 

I had my reservations about these two, as Morgan was a disagreeable character in the first book. I looked forward to a sequel though when the reason Chris stays becomes more evident. Perhaps Morgan will actually show emotion and perhaps a nice word to Chris, perhaps Chris will explain why he puts up with the demeaning, derogatory attitude of Morgan’s. I was honestly willing to give both the author and characters the benefit of the doubt and understand their choices. Instead, this is another example of Morgan being inexcusably rude and hurtful and Chris forgiving everything, including lying and betrayal, just to stay with Morgan.

The character of Chris is so weak and co-dependent it is uncomfortable to read. His need to accept Morgan’s poor behavior, dismissive attitude, and lack of any positive influence is painful.  The brief shinning moment where Chris shows some intelligence and emotional strength is soon ignored in the face of his dependence on Morgan. Chris is not a bad character nor is his weakness unappealing, it is more uncomfortable and unfortunate. If he had a decent partner in a loving relationship, he could thrive and lavish love and attention on a deserving mate. Instead he chooses someone who repeatedly demeans and scorns him, his choices, his job, and his passions. It’s sad and says nothing positive about either man.

Morgan is an ass and frankly, he likes it that way so either Chris adapts or leaves. Never once in the entire story does Morgan bend, compromise, or even utter a single positive, nice thing to Chris until the end. At the very end after Morgan has lied, betrayed, and crushed any hope of trust between the two men, he unbends enough to admit he wants to be with Chris. Rather big of Morgan to go that far while admitting he thought he was in love with the ex he lied about going to see. If Chris hadn’t caught Morgan in the lie, he would have seen no reason not to continue to lie and betray his lover of two years due to his own selfish needs and wants. He experiences no regret, no shame, and no sorrow about his actions – only that he was caught. No doubt, this will be a pattern to their unhealthy relationship.

The story attempts several times to address Morgan’s actions but show they are acceptable. Even Chris’ friend councils him to let it go and just deal with an asshole partner. Like that is a healthy way to act in a relationship but apparently it is for firemen. So Morgan is forgiven repeatedly for never supporting Chris or even showing him an ounce of affection, other than when Morgan wants sex. Morgan is allowed to lie, betray, and generally treat Chris like an ignorant child. Morgan says at various times:

 

"I know, Mr. Matthews." Morgan’s gray eyes were calm as he watched Chris grab his keys from the counter. "And you would think that after two years together, you’d try to be less sensitive."

"Less sensitive." Chris blinked. "That’s how you think we should solve the problem? By me ignoring you when you’re a dick?" 

Morgan leaned back and took off his glasses. "Sure. I ignore you when you’re being one."

—-

"What’s the password? ‘Chris has a big dick’?"

"Close. Substitute ‘is’ for ‘has’ and you’ve got it. I have to go, I’ll be home early." Morgan disconnected, and Chris would bet a large sum of money that he turned his phone off, too.

—-

Things clicked into place, although Chris didn’t want them to. Morgan’s more argumentative-than-usual episodes. His reluctance to give Chris his laptop password. It made sense now, but making sense of it seemed to be just as confusing as anything else.

Chris swallowed. "You … you couldn’t take me? You couldn’t tell me?"

Morgan looked up, exhaustion and sorrow written into the lines of his mouth and eyes. But sorrow for what? For hurting Chris, or for his dying lover? "I didn’t want to.”

—-

Morgan smiled and offered Chris a kiss. "You’re easy to get along with."  

"One of us has to be."

Unfortunately I found the entire story unappealing and unattractive. The individual men have enough problems that make a relationship virtually impossible. Morgan, especially, is not equipped to be with another person as his inherently selfish nature will make him incapable of compromise or affection. Why the author chose to portray such archetypes in a romance novel is baffling. Besides the fact that these types of men no doubt exist, who wants to read about them in an escapist romance story? I certainly don’t want to read about a dismissive, scornful man who is above everyone and everything in the guise of romance. For me, there is nothing romantic or attractive and I’d much rather spend my money on well-crafted, intricate characters that appeal in their flaws. That of course is my choice and unfortunately I’m starting to question whether I’ll continue with the author. Decide for yourselves as always.

Get it here!

 

Chasing Smoke by KA Mitchell

Chasing Smoke by KA Mitchell

Blurb:

In the best of times, Daniel Gardner hates visiting his family. With his boyfriend pressuring him for a mortgage-serious commitment, Christmas in Easton, PA sounds, for once, like a welcome escape. His old house holds more than memories of a miserable adolescence, though. It has Trey Eriksson.

At seventeen, Trey was taken in by the wealthy Gardner family after his father was jailed for his mother’s murder. Until he left for the Army, he fought a double-edged battle—for proof of his father’s innocence and against his attraction to Daniel.

Fifteen years later, things haven’t changed. Trey is still looking for the real killer. And Daniel has never forgotten how Trey used to sneak into his room at night.

Now new clues to the murder are resurfacing—and so is Trey and Daniel’s sexual chemistry. Except this time, Trey has come to terms with his orientation.

But their connection may not be enough to overcome the mistakes of the past. Not while a murderer still walks free…

 

scooby-doo had more mystery ..

Second Thoughts by Steve Berman

Second Thoughts: More Queer and Weird Stories by Steve Berman

Blurb:

In Berman’s second collection of stories and essays, a scent of loneliness entices children to start eating away at a caretaker’s historic house; a nursery rhyme tempts a young love; and a meek accountant finds himself abandoning the mundane life he knew to chase after monsters.

 

 

Review:

This highly unique and masterfully written collection of short stories delivers a mixture of fantasy, horror, and fairytale. Often these elements are incorporated into a story inspired from common actions and giving rise to an imaginative world based on a different reality. After each short story is an author’s note that sometimes offers his explanation for the inspiration and sometimes is a narrative with no bearing on the previous story. Both the stories and notes are fascinating and compelling in their own right but not necessarily related, thus creating a larger collection within the book than originally intended. Either way, this is a fabulous group of stories and thoughts which will change upon each reading.

The subjects vary amongst the stories and notes, which also cast doubt on the veracity of the notes themselves. No doubt the narratives offered also contain some elements of fantasy and whimsy. Some of the inspiration that comes through repeatedly is an unrequited love interest of the author’s and the stark, lingering impact of such strong feelings. The undeniable romantic edge to the stories shines through brightest in the powerful story of young temptation based on a fairytale “Bittersweet” and the brilliant, futuristic tale “Tear Jerker.”

A few stories certainly stood out from the rest but there were no bad offerings in this diverse collection. The stunningly creative and witty alternate universe of “Caught by Skin” pops out from the collection, as does the note afterwards. This story is set in a reality where plastic surgery is the norm and gay men constantly remake themselves into the latest in fashionable faces. The twist at the end was slightly sad with a hint of hope, as with most of the stories. Also notable is “Always Listen to a Good Pair of Underwear” for its humor and delightful imagination. The peek-a-boo boxers who alternatively tease and taunt with forbidden flesh give a fun, tongue in cheek story with a cartoonish edge.

“A Rotten Obligation” is possibly my favorite of the group, though it’s hard to choose as some of the author’s notes could vie for that title as well. Here a young gay hustler is distracted from an obligation by a pretty young busboy. The mix of paranormal, romance, and reality all blend to create a witty and entertaining story with a great twist at the end. The snappy dialogue and quirky premise has me sorry the tale had to end and wondering about what came before and after the scene. This is the best kind of story that can spark the imagination of the reader as well.

The writing itself lacks any lyrical elegance but instead is able to evoke emotion and chills with simple turns of phrase and the highly original worlds of alternate reality. The style of writing changes often within the collection; sometimes narrative, sometimes fantasy and always giving entertaining dialogue with a punchy impact. The prose is sparse without unnecessary words and has an ease to the reading quality, compelling and engrossing the reader from the start. Although the material is not always light with numerous touches of horror and dark fantasy, humor and creative imagery are woven into the darkest of stories.

Fans of short stories will definitely want to read this collection, more than once. In no way is this collection limited to gay fiction but instead offer characters with gay sensibilities in a highly innovative reality. 

Get it HERE!

 

New Rainbow Reviews

 New Rainbow Reviews up this week. I’m been incredibly busy lately, thus no updates to the blog for a week. *le gasp* I’ve still read various books but haven’t really had the time or energy to write a whole lot of reviews. I may still or may not. But regardless, I do have a bunch of reviews coming up this week. Let’s hope I get back in the swing of things. In the meantime here is the selection from this past week:

 

A Different Kind of Love by Jay Mandal

Fair Winds by Chrissy Munder

Heart of Truth by Eon de Beaumont

Jacob’s Pony by Jude Mason

Seeds of Time 2: Bread on the Waters by G.S. Wiley

A Different Kind of Love by Jay Mandal

A Different Kind of Love by Jay Mandal

Blurb:

Jay Mandal is unique in his writing of gay love ~ his uplifting stories focus upon romance rather than sex, on fulfillment rather than despair.

Of course, there are tragedies in these pages. Life’s like that. But the difficulties faced and the thrills enjoyed by his characters are the lot of lovers of any gender in a world both bad and beautiful.

This is a collection of beautiful love stories ~ sad, humorous, heart-warming ~ made different simply because the main characters share not only passion and compassion but also gender.

different…engaging

Dragon’s Kiss by Ally Blue

Dragon’s Kiss by Ally Blue

Blurb:
In a future ruled by superstition and fear, wanting the wrong man can be deadly.

A Mother Earth story.

The rules governing a Pack-Brother’s existence are simple. Love your Brothers. Protect each other and your Tribe with your life. Seek sex only within the bonds of Brotherhood, or your life is forfeit. The laws are harsh, but fair. Or so Bear has always thought. Then he and his Brother Lynx capture a stranger in the Carwin Tribe’s outlying lands—Dragon, a Brother from a distant Pack, banished from his Tribe for the crime of challenging things he shouldn’t.

Dragon intrigues Bear from the start, and not just because of his exotic beauty. Interest in the decadent old world is discouraged in this post-Change society. Dragon is the first person Bear’s ever known, other than himself, who’s curious about the vanished past. That kinship sparks a forbidden attraction between them. An attraction which is, if they give in to it, punishable by death.

In the space of a day, everything Bear was raised to believe is called into question, and he must make a life-changing decision—follow the law, or follow his heart.


[More naked chests, but it's an Anne Cain naked chest so... that's better? It's prettier at least.]

Review:

I’m always up for a post-apocalyptic story and throw in some hot sex between two guys and really, can you go wrong? Dragon’s Kiss doesn’t necessarily go wrong but it focuses more on the hot sex between the men than the world building. However, the world building included is intriguing and evocative and the story has a noticeably hanging ending, fairly screaming for a sequel. For a short introduction to the concepts and ideas, this story is pretty decent. It’s not much more than an introduction and the short length would work against other stories in this universe, but for now I’m intrigued.

The world has been destroyed by a natural disaster of some kind and left small groups of people bonding together in tribes, reminiscent of early cave dwelling clans. Separate from these tribes are Packs, but the exact nature of Pack versus Tribe is not thoroughly explained and still somewhat ill described. Packs apparently are filled with all men, each containing some essential identifier that sets them apart from the Tribes, but again what exactly marks men as Pack at an early age is never elucidated. These Packs live by a set of rules which demands they only have sex with each other, no monogamous relationships, and never think or wonder about the past. These rules are enforced with a variety of archaic and barbaric rules and punishments meant to keep people docile and ignorant.

Bear is a member of a Pack and has always hidden his curiosity about the past. He knows that if he divulges that he actually wonders what life was like before the big disaster, he could be executed or exiled. So instead, Bear has ignored those thoughts and goes about his days patrolling and having sex with his various brothers. All of this changes when he meets Dragon, an exile from another Pack who questions the rules of secrecy. His interaction with Dragon rejuvenates all the queries and wonders he had ignored and the sizzling chemistry between the two is too much for Bear to ignore.

The characters of Bear, Dragon, and even Lynx are given life but no depth. The hints of personality are started but never finished as each is interrupted by a sex scene or conversation about the consequences of their actions. Bear seems more interested in finding a monogamous sex partner in Dragon than in exploring the past. Curiosity about the past is supposedly the shared bond but really the sex is too good between the men to ignore. This left all characters slightly empty as the focus on the chemistry and erotica took over the world building and plot. The hanging ending comes about abruptly and clearly was meant for more installments, so perhaps the characters will develop and grow in subsequent stories.

As a short story that focuses on the erotic element with tantalizing glimpses of characters and a world, this tale is decent. It’s intriguing enough to start the series and the writing has a simplistic yet emotive quality. The prose is easy to read while being descriptive without overly dramatic language. Additionally, there are numerous erotic scenes within the story that spans 30 pages. So if you’re a fan of the author and are looking for an introduction to a new world with hot sex – this may work for you.

Get it HERE!
 

New Rainbow Reviews

 

 New Rainbow Reviews up this week. I had the privilege of reading some really unique and outstanding stories this past week. They all were highly reviewed, which is a rare week for me. If you only read one from this list – and really you should read them all – read Drag Queen in the Court of Death. I’ve bought three paperback copies (with the old cover) to pass out to friends. The new cover makes me cringe and thankfully I found sellers with the old cover, I hope there were no new edits.

Anyway, for something absurdly different check out the Androgynous Murder House Party. I’d love to talk to someone who read it and compare notes. Anyone who thinks they’re especially clever in figuring out details in mystery stories, try this one and then tell me about it, please!

For a wonderfully sweet romance that spans 2000 years with some great humor, The Rest of Our Lives fills that without any explicit sex even. Shocking, but possible.

Of course I had to get my smut in and read a hilarious Yaoi book where the boy has a self lubricating ass. I kid you not. The visual images totally grossed me out. I’m debating sharing with the world.