Summer Gardener by Jan Irving

Summer Gardener by Jan Irving

Blurb:
Alejandro Moreno drops out of college and puts aside his dream of a degree in landscape design to take care of his mother and younger brother. Then he gets the chance to restore a strange and unpopular patch of land with an uncanny inhabitant—Fane, a prickly fairy.


At first, Alejo isn’t thrilled to share the space with the annoying fae, but as they work together on the neglected garden, both men discover they have two things in common: a love for working with the natural world and loneliness. But how can Alejo handle feelings for not just another man, but one who isn’t human at all?

 

Review:

 

Although I disliked Irving’s previous offering, The Janitor, I wanted to give the author another try. Unfortunately after reading the train wreck that is Summer Gardener, Irving’s writing is definitely not for me. There are numerous readers who have praised her work so perhaps others will enjoy her books more than I did. This particular offering is poorly written with a lazy way of showing emphasis through random italicized words in combination with a loose plot and bad characterization. There are glimpses of humor that shine in the mess of this paranormal story but the writing, prose, and characters definitely overwhelmed the few humorous touches.

 

The plot is loosely based on a hispanic man who drops out of school while pursuing his master’s degree to take care of his ailing mother and younger brother. To do so, he takes a job tending one of the city’s numerous gardens and encounters a rather annoying and obstinate fairy. Although this fairy is only nine inches tall, the two become so close that sexual sparks fly. When the moon is full and fairy magic high, the opportunity to consummate their relationship becomes a reality. Unfortunately human responsibilities may force the two new lovers apart.

 

There is something inherently humorous about a nine inch obnoxious naked fairy that is determined to run the garden his way in spite of what any pesky, annoying human thinks. Unfortunately the gardener, Alejo, is a Gary Stu character. He is a virgin with a vow of chastity for reasons never explained, who gave up his education to take care of his family while working low wage paying jobs. He saves small animals and tailless snakes while being humble about his attractive good looks and self effacing to his many great qualities. He sacrifices his own happiness to help his family, which causes much angst and emotional depression, and ultimately needs a band of fairies to help him keep his job because Alejo is too wrapped up in his personal angst to figure out a solution to his problems. Alejo is also not gay and is only attracted to the fairy because of the pheromones Fane produces. Alejo can’t quite accept that he’s having gay fairy sex once a month, taking every opportunity to “break up” with Fane.

 

Despite his education, Alejo speaks in a mixture of bad Spanish and broken English. Considering the education he was working towards, the dialogue is deplorable and the characterization is inconsistent. Here are just a few examples:

 

I’m not played out. And I’m not a lad. I’m twenty-three, Soy majo—I’m hot, yes? And gardening is hard work.

 

You are very nicely, ah, formed, Fane. Paz, eh? We make peace now.

 

 

The writing does not help the story at all from poor descriptions to pronoun confusion and an overabundance of italics. The story has a lazy way of using emphasis, italicizing various words instead of showing through words and actions. There are at least 75 random italicized words to show emphasis such as:

“But you seem to like your job.”

He stood when he was able, that scent still teasing him,

But Fane liked to nick things and hadn’t really taken Alejo’s wallet.

Alejo smelled as good to Fane as another fairy would!

“I like it, and who cares what she thought?

When Fane turned over on his stomach and rubbed himself in Alejo’s hair

         He felt a little disappointment but really, it was time he went home,

I can’t help it.

And I’ve been really horny lately.

 

These are just a handful of examples, all early on in the book. This tendency to use italics is repeated with various internal dialogue phrases as well. However, the internal dialogue alternates between third person and first person without any consistency or reason. The story is told in alternating third person point of view between Fane and Alejo, but the changes to point of view in the internal, italicized dialogue are seemingly random.

 

Whether I want one or not.

He wanted to see Alejo naked.

I’ll keep you safe.

He hated going home lately, leaving Fane.

 

The prose tends to be repetitive with words such as wee and Joder! used too many times. This keeps the descriptive quality of the story low and uninteresting. There is a lack of any depth to the descriptions and little vitality and energy. Not to mention the weird and unexplained pseudo bondage fantasy Alejo has out of the blue which leads to Fane calling him “boy” and “pet.” Where this came from is a mystery and although the idea of using floss as bondage while on Barbie’s dream bed for two fairies is humorous, the scene is cringe inducing. Here’s a taste:

 

Alejo lifted up to meet the club inside him, his wings folded behind him, somehow the sensations that lived in his nipples, balls, and cock also translating pleasurably there since his fairy body seemed more sensual than his regular one.

Fane stroked his cock like a friendly pet. And that easily, lifted Alejo to climax again. “Boy, my boy,” he murmured as Alejo spilled, hands balled above his head, neck corded, feeling Fane’s cool release oddly comforting inside him.

 

Ultimately the resolution takes place off page as Fane, the fairy, somehow convinces a city garden board to allow Alejo to keep his job in the face of the evil manager. There is also no strong happy ending, a vague happy for now with Fane and Alejo together but Alejo still barely admits he has a boyfriend, let alone a fairy boyfriend.

 

I wanted to like this story because the touches of humor really stand out rather well, such as Fane’s comment about his ex-boyfriend being stuffy and reformed plant rights’ activist. Unfortunately the poor writing, bad characterization, and badly executed plot just failed on every level, so much that even those moments of humor couldn’t save this book. If you’re a fan of this author, perhaps you’ll enjoy this offering but there are much better stories for your money.

 

Ps. When I was confirming with the Cocktease about the Mary Sue/Gary Stu moniker, they helpfully offered this commentary about the cover.  omg, is that the Dreamspinner one with the hideous cover that looks like the guy’s groin is melting in a pot of acid? frothy acid?”

 

Indeed it is.

 

 

 

 

Facade by Zahra Owens

Facade by Zahra Owens

Blurb:
Jonas Hunter is a high-class body for hire with a small, exclusive, mostly male clientèle who pay big bucks for his undivided time and attention. Discretion is Jonas’s middle name—he can play his role to the hilt for the client’s benefit and at the same time disappear seamlessly into a crowd, safely anonymous.

He’s persuaded to take on a new client who is everything he despises in a man: the effeminate, tantrum-throwing, attention-seeking bad boy of Paris haute couture named Nicky Bryant. Nicky’s shows are outrageous and always good for a front cover, and his appearance never fails to turn heads. But Jonas soon learns Nicky is a carefully maintained façade himself.

As a fiery attraction grows, Jonas and Nicky have to find a way to walk the tightrope between their public and private personas. They’ll need to learn to love and trust each other around the other people in their lives if they’re going to share their hearts.

surprise chick sex… always a win!

Breaking the Devil by Bailey Bradford

Breaking the Devil by Bailey Bradford

Blurb:

Mack and Justin grew up together and were best friends for years, until one day that friendship turned into something hotter and more powerful than either man had ever experienced before. A passionate coupling that branded each man forever—or so Mack thought, until the dreaded day after. That’s when Justin told Mack the whole thing didn’t mean anything to him, and walked away from Mack’s promises of forever.

Mack has never been able to get past that one traumatic event in his life. A dozen years have passed without a word from Justin. But when that red-haired devil reappears, Mack finds out that he can’t resist giving in to his body’s needs—no matter what his head tells him.

Two stubborn, determined alpha males—one nursing a twelve-year fury and the other with a redhead’s temper—who have been denied what they want most for so many years, come together in an explosion of heat and passion that overrides everything else in their lives. Now, if only Mack and Justin can keep their hands, and other body parts, off each other long enough to talk, they might be able to get to the truth behind what happened twelve years ago…and while they’re doing it, they might just have some luck breaking the devil.

 

Review:

This short novella has lots of sex, sex, and more sex. Oh there is a thin plot somewhere between the lube, spit, sex, blowjobs, and tears but it’s rather weak and almost non-existent. There is however, lots of sweaty, rough, cowboy sex. Now, I’m always up for a good porn without plot staring cowboys (ok I have a weakness for hot cowboy on cowboy action), but unfortunately there are several editing errors and writing quirks that ultimately took away my enjoyment of this ranch porn. So if you can overlook some of the problems I mention and you are looking for a complete sex based piece of fluff – this might fulfill that craving.

The blurb summarizes the so-called plot more than the actual story does. The book opens with Mack moping about his long lost love, Justin. Lo and behold though Justin happens to be right there and the two engage in some sweaty hand jobs right out there on the ranch in broad daylight within minutes of their first hellos in twelve years. Thank god no one is actually working to see their bit of exhibitionism. The two then stumble into the ranch house and proceed to have more sex while a word or two is exchanged about the prolonged absence. Repeat this several times, throw in an unnecessary and predictable villain, and that is the book.

The characters are very weak and not explored at all. There is very little depth or interest to either as they have sex for the majority of their interaction and yet the sex scenes do not advance the characters at all. The two act as though no time has past and Julian especially is overbearing and possessive, as if Mack had no right to ever even look at another man in the years they were apart. Additionally neither Mack nor Julian actually questions their future, their past, or how the two immediately started having sex without addressing the problem of their long separation and the changes in their lives. Fortunately for Julian, Mack has been suspended in time for twelve years, waiting for Julian to return. Once Julian is back, Mack waffles between anger at the long separation and just being happy Julian is back in his bed.

Neither man really exists outside of the sexual component of the book. Julian never seems to work on his ranch but instead just happens to always pop up on Mack’s ranch at the exact moment Mack is having an argument or well, Julian never seems to leave Mack’s ranch to run his own. Furthermore there is the evil, predictable plot to keep the two young men apart that forces Julian to break Mack’s heart against his will. Of course there is a villain close to home and one Julian can vanquish to save Mack’s tender feelings. Unfortunately this plot point felt so weak and tired, over used, unoriginal and just boring that even the numerous sex scenes couldn’t save this at that point.

The prose is basic without a lot of complexity or nuance, which fits well with the repeated and numerous sex scenes. Unfortunately there are several quirks to the writing that threw me off and made the story difficult to enjoy and get into – beyond the obvious problems with the weak plot and wooden characters. Mack says “Jayzus” over twenty times in the short novella. Perhaps this is meant to be an affectation but the repeated use of the single word became incredibly annoying instead of charming. Some of the descriptions were unattractive such as the use of “shit-eating grin” close to a scene when one man is rimming the other. The reminder is just, not good. Additionally the writing tended to have rhetorical questions within the story, which could have been stronger if the writing addressed the questions. There are numerous editing errors with internal thoughts not italicized, misspelled words, and similar smaller mistakes.

Although I didn’t realize the book is meant as pure titillation, I was willing be carried along for the ride of hot sex. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver for many reasons but other readers may actually quite enjoy the sex scenes and not be bothered by the problems and quirks I’ve mentioned. As a classic PWP (porn without plot), I can easily see how the erotica will appeal to some readers and only wish I could have enjoyed the offering as well. Sadly, I wanted a brain scrub. 

Get it HERE!

Man’s Best Friend by PA Brown

Man’s Best Friend by PA Brown 

Blurb:

New Mexico, the land of enchantment weaves a spell of love around Todd Richards and Dr. Keith Anderson as they struggle to make their love work amid terrible loss, betrayal and rustlers and make their dream of a bed & breakfast in Santa Fe a reality.

 

 

 

Review:

There are so many problems with this book I’m not sure where to begin. Perhaps with the truly hideous cover art that preschoolers put together with picture cut outs. For a press that prides themselves on their quality, I’ve yet to see these dominating displays unfortunately and the cover art is just one area. This book is actually a DNF. I got about halfway and realized this book was not worth my time as it was that bad. Also by that point, I simply couldn’t have cared any less about the characters so I wasn’t going to spend anymore time to finish their ridiculous story. What is most surprising is that this is by an established author – who I liked! What happened to her?

Anyway, the book is about a new to town vet, Kevin that meets with Dobie owner Todd. The two hit it off immediately and engage in rampant, raunchy sex before falling in love. Tragedy strikes Kevin and the two end up moving to New Mexico to start a bed and breakfast inn together. I stopped here so what happens in the last 100 pages at the Inn, I couldn’t say.

The plot is weak and the characterization is non-existent. The story is told from Todd’s point of view but neither man is well developed and the author surprisingly chooses to spend the majority of the first half depicting sex scenes in cringe inducing language. The story has some tense problems and the initial part jumps between present and past tense, some of which is exacerbated by the use of the first person narrator. The biggest problems that detract are the language choices. Many of the descriptions are awkward with unattractive prose and the first person point of view, in this case, is too intimate. Examples of prose that is not attractive or enticing and often forget the condom they have on:

I pulled away as he arched his entire body in release. I watched as his cock spewed out gobs of thick, hot cum. I smeared it all over his washboard stomach and abs. Leaning down I licked a path up to his turgid nipples, while he continued to pump out thick, gluey fluid. Five, six times his cock spasmed and poured juice all over himself and me. I released his softening cock and slid up his body, smearing it even more, coating us both in hot, salty cum. I captured his mouth in a kiss that left us both breathless. I rolled him over and pressed my hard cock against the soft skin of his ass.

[…]

The bed undulated wildly under us, and I clamped my legs around his waist, pumping with my ass as my own pleasure mounted. Then it broke out into a starburst of pleasure, and exquisite pain, as wave after wave of release slammed through me. My cock twitched and jerked as I came, pumping what felt like gallons of cum onto my chest, face, and hair.

[…]

I arched away from him, ripping open the condom pack and unrolling it over my bulging cock. Slathering my fingers with lube, I explored Keith’s damp hole, then lathered my cock with more lube. I eased the cock head in, past the ring of muscle, pausing long enough to let his body adjust to me. Then I sank into him and began to pump.

[…]

He used the copious amounts of precum off my cock to coat his hand, and slid it between my ass cheeks. He shoved two coated fingers up my hole.

I threw back my head and rode his hand, bucking and twisting, as he worked me harder and deeper. He had never been so relentlessly aggressive in his possession of me. When he replaced his hand with the head of his cock, I growled. He shoved it into me.

[…]

His tongue worked into me, digging and probing, sending wave after wave of raw lust singing along my nerve endings.

[…]

Ropey cum shot out of his straining cock all over my stomach and chest, and the sudden tightening of his ass sent me over the edge. I shouted his name and slammed into him, holding his straining legs high over his thrashing head as I poured my liquid seed into his hot, wet hole. We collapsed on the bed, our bodies glued together. I made no move to extricate myself from him.

 

There are also several continuity errors in the book. The time line of days seems fluid and without much structure, causing some confusion and I was left wondering if I’d missed part of the book, until the men meet up at a dog event on a beautiful Sunday. They go immediately to have sex and spend the night together, yet the next morning after about a page of detail about the eggs, bacon, toast, and brimming cups of coffee, there is a comment “Nine,” he said, glancing at the wall clock. It was eight-fifteen on a Friday morning.

So it was Sunday night last night and the next morning it’s Friday morning. All of this occurred within the first thirty pages and the sheer volume of examples that could have been included is staggering. For an author I have previously enjoyed quite a bit, I’m shocked at the lack of solid writing and tight editing. There are obvious errors (such as the continuity problem) that should have been caught on reading let alone the writing and editing process.

Moving on with the story, the two men admit the day after their first night together (mere days from their first meeting), that although neither is experienced, they’re both convinced the connection between them is love. Here, Kevin is a thirty something vet who is a virgin, never giving or receiving in gay sex, which leaves much to be wondered about his previous experiences. He then immediately tells his parents about Todd after they’ve declared their love, which prompts Kevin’s parents to call and grill Todd about his job prospects and ambition. This entire scene is unbelievable, beyond reality and cemented the lack of depth to the men and the story.

The lack of weight to the various details included is shown over and over in the minute and frankly unimportant bits of information that litter the story. Frequently the men are seen eating and there are extended descriptions of the food which just serve to give the story a boring and superficial layer of information. Repeated descriptions of food without action or conversation are superfluous when adding nothing to the story as is the case here.

These are some very brief excerpts from longer examples:

We dug in, and I found I had a developed a hearty appetite, which necessitated a full helping of omelet, tomatoes, and bacon, several butter-slathered pieces of sourdough toast, and two brimming mugs of coffee.

Keith proved to be an excellent cook. He grilled the salmon steaks on my barbecue, tossed the watercress with a light vinaigrette dressing he whipped up in my blender, and boiled the new potatoes. He served them with butter and chives.

Tonight it was stuffed manicotti shells with herbed spinach and cheese filling. I’d made up a fresh pitcher of ice tea—we made it a habit not to drink at every meal. Everything in moderation, you know. Well, except for sex. We hadn’t gotten around to moderating that yet. 

“So, did you have a busy day?” I asked, spooning some extra sauce onto my pasta, along with a generous sprinkling of Parmigiana Reggiano—until Keith, I’d never realized there were top-shelf cheeses right up there with premier wines.

 

At this point, ~page 60, the emotional upheaval of the book is in full swing with the death of Kevin’s parents right before their big visit. However, the parents still had time to rewrite their will and include the barely known boyfriend of their son.  

He cleared his throat. “Er, yes. At any rate, they had me draw up another will. I can go over the details later today in myoffice, but the crux of the document is simple. The entire estate is deeded to you, Keith, as their sole heir, with the exception of this property.” Bartlett’s washed out blue eyes scanned the cozy living room, with its infusion of southwest artifacts and decor. “This, and the ten acres surrounding it, are deeded to Mr. Todd Richards and you, sir. Your parents gave it to both of you equally.”

At this point, Kevin freaks out and kicks Todd out, back to San Francisco. However, not to worry Kevin comes back with a ring and a blowjob and all is wonderful again for the two as they plan to open up a bed and breakfast. This is about halfway through the book and I question do I really care what happens with the bed and breakfast and can I really stand more horrific writing? The answers are no and no.

Ultimately, the plot is utterly ridiculous and the writing is horrible. I have read other books by PA Brown, even a stunning BDSM themed mystery, and yet this book almost points to an entirely new author. I’m shocked this is under the same name as books I really enjoyed. The raunchy and cringe inducing sex descriptions filled the first 50 pages of the book, to the exclusion of any plot development or characterizations. In between the sex, mundane details and inane conversations filled the pages.

I could go on but you get the point. I can’t recommend this book and this is likely to color my opinion of the author (it was that bad). Why did no one catch this? 

 

The Janitor by Jan Irving

The Janitor by Jan Irving

Blurb:

I’m a naturally optimistic type of person, you know? Yeah, I think good things will happen, only they usually don’t. Take Noel: even though he’s educated and rich and he don’t think he’s even gay, I want to belong to him. I want him to take me completely—Dane Connelly

Dane Connelly is a gay janitor and boxer with a soft heart and a simple outlook–he wants to meet the right man, someone who will look past his macho sport and put him in the place of a submissive. He wants to fall in love and belong to his partner.

On the surface, Noel Atherton, an intellectual, shy, and sexually repressed university graduate student with a crippled leg, could not be the dominant lover that Dane longs for. But after their first meeting, when Dane disables the fire alarm in the library and lights a cigarette, Noel is drawn from his shell. Soon, Noel needs to touch Dane, exploring his sexuality for the first time. And both learn that looks can be deceiving.

However, Noel’s controlling father is appalled by the relationship and quietly arranges to get Dane out of the way and punish him for daring to love a man so far above his station.

 

Reminder to never buy a book for the cover…