The Novel Approach Reviews
5 Stars
Every Inferno
Every Inferno - Johanna Parkhurst
Well, what can I say? If you’ve read Johanna Parkhurst’s other YA contribution, Here’s To You, Zeb Pike, then you’ll know that this is an outstanding author with a firm grip on the audience for which she write. Every Inferno, therefore, left me completely expecting its brilliance. I was not disappointed.

This book was a brief yet complete volume, tackling numerous sub-genres, all under the umbrella of the YA category heading. It was a coming-of-age tale with hints of mystery, hurt/comfort, self discovery and romance, all neatly tied into a riveting tale of one boy’s journey to overcome the problems of his past. I was hooked from the first page and frantically read through to the final one.

The characters were sublime! JJ really was such a relatable, strong and detailed character that it was impossible not to feel for. He was written with such depth and explanation that all of his motives were justified. McKinley was a great mirror for JJ’s character. Where JJ was introverted and depressed, McKinley was proud and grounded. They made a perfect little dream team.

Dr. Ben? Oh, I loved him! He was such a sweet, nurturing character, and it made me wish everyone out there could have their own Dr. Ben to look out for them. The adults in this book were all incredibly well developed and lent their own significant contributions to the progression of this tale.

I particularly loved JJ’s fascination with mystery stories. It added an extra depth to his own investigation, and built tension a lot as he used his knowledge to guide him towards clues as to what really happened the day of the fire.

I had a love/hate relationship with Lucas. On the one hand I wanted the story to end with a bad guy we knew and suspected, but the final twist in the story brought us back to our protagonist. The story was never about finding a murderer, but was ultimately about JJ finding his way back to himself.

Every Inferno tackles a lot of difficulties the audience of these books face, and one that was done particularly well was JJ dealing with his alcohol consumption. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse is something we have come to expect from teens these days, and it is not always dealt with as a problem. I loved the way this book dealt with it realistically and with the severity it deserves.

Overall, I loved this tale and as usual, I am a huge fan of this author. This book is a must-read for any YA fans out there, and is a great addition to the genre. So I will be awarding 5 stars for this great little read, and hope that you all find it as wonderful as I did. I’m looking forward to what Parkhurst releases next.

4 Stars
Second Helpings
Second Helpings - Charlie Cochrane
I love a good second chance at love story as much as the next reader. I’m the rose colored glasses, heart on her sleeve sort who believes everyone deserves a chance at happiness, even if it takes him a few tries to get there, which is the premise of Charlie Cochrane’s newest release, Second Helpings.

Stuart Collins is still grieving the loss of his partner, having a difficult time thinking about moving on after Mark’s unexpected death, let alone acting on the idea of finding someone new. But watching his father picking up the pieces after his mother’s death gives Stuart some reason to think it might be time to try and live again. Trying is easy. Turns out it’s the succeeding that’s the challenge, and each small step Stuart takes is one big tug at the heartstrings. His lack of motivation, let alone success in moving on, stems from the fact that Mark was the love of Stuart’s life, his perfect partner in every way, and it’s an issue the author puts to good use to create the angst in the story.

Paul Franklin is in a relationship. It’s too bad, really, that his boyfriend doesn’t know it. Paul is carrying on a one sided, long-distance romance with a man who can’t even be bothered to call, email, or text every once in awhile to reassure Paul he’s still alive. When Paul discovers his mother is dating Stuart’s father, he decides it’s time to vet the senior Collins via the son to make sure she’s not going to end up with another loser like his own father was—a pattern Paul himself seems to have fallen into when choosing men—and this is where the crux of the story begins, the point where Charlie Cochrane begins to weave in the various speed bumps these two men face on the road to togetherness.

Second Helpings isn’t quite an enemies-to-lovers story, though Stuart and Paul certainly don’t get off on the right foot with each other. They both manage to say things that touch exposed nerves, yet still they abide the gravitational pull that keeps bringing them together. Stuart is ready to start over again with someone new, and it’s Paul who trips his libido. Paul has read all the signs of his lover’s silence and interpreted it to mean he’s a single man again. Stuart’s easy on the eyes and a nice guy when he’s not elevating Mark to sainthood. And, that’s the plot of this book in a few simple sentences. Second Helpings is an uncomplicated book with a lot of heart.

Having read more than a few Charlie Cochrane books over the years, I can say with certainty that this short novel is delivered in her dependable style—fluid and effortless prose, with characters by whom I was immediately engaged. If I had any qualms at all with Second Helpings, it’s only in the fact this particular storyline, the essence of it, has been done before, though not always as well as Charlie Cochrane does it. Consider Second Helpings comfort food for the romantic soul: a sweet, read-it-in-one recipe, a relatively angst-free love story between two men who need each other more than they could’ve imagined. If you’re looking for a book that will make for an effortlessly entertaining summer read, this book is precisely that.

4 Stars
Dance - Teodora Kostova
Fenix and Jared are both stage actor/singer/dancers. The triple threat. Jared is performing in a show at Queen Victoria Theater in West London, which he co-wrote with his best friend Adam. Fenix gets the lead role in another musical about a rock band, which will be sharing the theater with Jared’s show. He and Jared will also share a dressing room.

Fenix’s goal has always been to star in a Broadway show. His mother did it but was injured in a suspicious accident many years ago, which cut her career short and left her in a wheelchair. Fenix sees the show in West London as a stepping-stone to his ultimate goal. He plans to make Poison a success and make himself indispensible so that when the show is offered a spot on Broadway, he will go along with it. He makes it clear to everyone, including Jared that this is his plan.

Fenix doesn’t count on the immediate and undeniable need to be with Jared. Not just sexually. But every minute of every day. They fall very quickly into a serious relationship, both seeming to forget that this is only a stopover on Fenix’s ride to the top. The first months of their relationship happen very quickly but takes up a large portion of the book. There is so much sex, it is almost too much. Instead of developing a relationship through spending time together doing things for fun, talking, learning each other’s likes and dislikes, Fenix and Jared have sex. Sometimes they talk, too. Mostly just the sex, though. The first half of the book is made up of approximately the first eight months of their relationship.

When it looks like Fenix’s dreams are coming true, their idyllic world seems to fall apart around them. It’s unclear if either of them will survive without the other. They both take different paths to deal with their loneliness and sorrow, but they are both terribly bereft and sad. They have no contact for two years. This doesn’t really make sense to me. If they loved each other, I would have expected them to have most likely at least spoken or e-mailed to keep up with each other’s careers, if nothing else.

It is now about two-thirds of the way through the book. The pacing felt off to me. The first half covered eight months, then a small portion contained events of over two years, which were skimmed over by the author and given very little detail.

The initial insta-love caused a little eye rolling, as did the ease with which they parted ways when Broadway came calling. They were so miserable without each other that it seemed implausible to me that one of them wouldn’t have reached out to the other. Then, when Fenix had reached his goal, he realized it wasn’t enough. The ease with which he undid the previous two years was again, implausible. By this time, I wanted Jared and Fenix back together so badly I would have believed almost anything to see it happen!

I loved the characters and really wanted them to have everything they wanted. The supporting cast was engaging, too. Ms. Kostova described the dancing and scenes from both plays very well; I could practically smell the sweat.

I really did enjoy this book. I admittedly skimmed over a large portion of the sex just because there was so, so much of it. I loved the last third of the book, even if, again, things happened too fast to feel real. By that point in time, it was what I expected from Jared and Fenix. The end and epilogue were deeply satisfying, but left Jared’s best friend Adam hanging there, ripe for his sequel… I look forward to it.

4 Stars
Greymalkin (Melusine's Cats Book 1)
Greymalkin (Melusine's Cats Book 1) - Chris Quinton
Greymalkin is the first book in a new paranormal series by Chris Quinton.

Jesse, a former rugby player, is taking a semi-forced sabbatical in the small town of Greenlynn. While there, Jesse is supposed to write his memoirs, keep out of the public eye, and relax and regroup. Unfortunately on one of his first days in the village, his Jeep is vandalized. Jesse realizes that he’s been recognized and that he may not be welcome there. Deciding to go for a run to clear his head, he spots a group of young boys clowning around by the River Lynn. One of the boys ends up falling into the swift moving river, and Jesse dives into save him.

Enter onto the scene police officer Will Blake, who ends up helping Jesse with the young boy. While this is their first meeting, they are both so wrapped up in helping the boy that they don’t really get to speak to each other. They actually speak when Will runs into Jesse, when he’s coming back from a run. There is an instant attraction between them, but since Jesse was just burned by an ex, he’s reluctant to let anyone near him in even a casual sense. Will eventually talks him into going running with him, and they strike up a friendship.

After this point the story delves more into both the relationship with Will and Jesse but also the addition of Melusine and her companions, as they try to create Triads. Eventually, Greymalkin starts communicating to Jesse and Will that they are meant to be part of a Triad with him. Their acceptance of Melusine and the Triads also serves to draw Will and Jesse closer, until they realize there is more than just friendship between them.

Greymalkin is packed with action, strong characters and storyline, a solid foundation for world building, and adds a healthy dose of Celtic Mythology to tie it all together. The characters are the strongest part of the story, as both are very believable. They show strength, vulnerabilities, and sense of purpose once Greymalkin gets through to them. The various worlds of the Here, There, and the village are solidly crafted into this story and with a paranormal book, that is a big part of what makes the story work.

There are a few spots where the story could make the reader pause or feel slightly lost. This happened for me when the story transitions from Greenlynn into the Here or There of Melusine’s world. However, it’s not a reason, by any means, to stop reading, as this is an excellent start to a new series. This book was very enjoyable and makes this reviewer want the next book in the series as soon as possible to see where the author is taking the story. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys classic good vs. evil fantasy novels.

4 Stars
Tail Slide
Tail Slide - P.D. Singer
How did we get from werewolves to otters? Well, you take authors who perhaps have a fondness for a particular species of animal, add a dash of imagination, and the next thing you know, they’re shifting birds and squirrels and opossums and, well, now otters in P.D Singer’s Tail Slide, a short and sweet, fun and sexy little treat.

Lon and Corey meet on the slopes but take the real action back to Corey’s place, where Lon’s otter gets the best of him and creates a little havoc. It’s a secret Lon didn’t want or expect Corey to discover quite so early in their meeting, but how can a guy resist an adorable otter who knows the true meaning of the word playful? And mischief. Lon gets up to plenty of mischief too, in this short little tale. The answer is, Corey can’t, and, as it turns out, it adds up to what could be the start of a beautiful romance.

If you’re in the mood for something lighthearted, doesn’t take itself at all seriously, and stars one shifty little otter and the man who seems his perfect mate, this Small Gem might be just what you’re looking for.

4 Stars
In Your Eyes
In Your Eyes - Cardeno C.
3.5 Stars

This is the third book in Cardeno C.’s Mates Series. There are a few characters that blend into this book from the previous ones, but their past stories or roles are explained well enough throughout the story to understand who they are. I did enjoy the first two books in the series, especially Wake Me Up Inside, so if you like shifter books, this is an overall good series. This author is one of my favorites and a definite auto-buy for my Kindle.

Samuel Goodwin, or as Korban prefers, Sam, is a socially awkward eight-year-old boy who meets Korban Keller, an energetic, playful eleven-year-old from a neighboring pack at an interpack council meeting. He immediately experiences unease in his gut, which he deciphers as possible danger. Korban proceeds in trying to befriend the skittish shifter. They meet one more time and Sam’s uneasiness turns into feelings he does not understand. This puts Samuel even more on guard, believing Korban is trying to make him weak. Over the next few years, Samuel avoids any meetings where he might run into Korban. But as Samuel grows older and becomes one of the strongest shifters, in knowledge and skills, he also begins to lose some of his humanity to his wolf. It becomes increasingly difficult to shift back or communicate in his human form. He has no friends except his father, and he refuses to discuss his problem because he is afraid he will be perceived as a failure.

After a tragic battle between Korban and Samuel’s fathers, Samuel is faced with his fears of shifting and leading his pack according to pack law. He now is being guided by a voice in his head to make the right decisions. This voice seems to be his only hold on reality, until Korban is thrown back into Samuel’s life and it has become clear that he cannot avoid the connection anymore.

This story is about a shifter learning to balance his head and his heart. Samuel, even guided by his parents, cannot grasp how to feel. It is a foreign concept that he cannot understand until he is guided by his true mate or true love. Korban helps Samuel through his journey to fulfil his father’s legacy. It is filled with tragic and painful lessons, but once he begins to feel with his heart, he quickly becomes the leader that his father would be proud of.

This is a sweet story of love and true mates, with some steamy scenes thrown in for good measure. My only real issue with this story was a lack of closure for the Miancarem Pack. With the deception that followed the fight between the fathers, I felt like the Miancerem Pack was left in limbo, and the story was incomplete. I was bummed when I got to the end and some questions were left unanswered. There was a lot of character development with Samuel, but not as much with Korban. You cannot help but fall in love with Korban and his patience, and I wanted to see this gentle loving man/shifter step up to the plate and lead his pack with the help and strength of his mate, Samuel. I wanted another 20 pages, but I always want more from this author. I am bummed when her books end because that just means I have to wait for the next one… (boy, a lot of wants in there, haha)

This was a quick, enjoyable read. If you like shifters and have enjoyed this series, you will agree that it is a good addition to the series.

5 Stars
Kitto - Harper Fox
That moment you devour the last available book in a series and have no idea when, or even if, another one is coming—we’ve all been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. It’s a thing. Series Hangover Is Tangible. In other words, S-H-I… Well, you get the picture.

How much love and mystery and tradition and emotion does Harper Fox deliver in Kitto, the fourth—and hopefully not the last!—book in the Tyack and Frayne series? All of it. What was meant to have been a romantic getaway for Gid and Lee turns into yet another enigmatic journey through a turn in the pagan wheel, when Midsummer brings danger and drama to an already dramatic Golowan day celebration and the meeting of the oak and holly kings.

Gid had best start believing in ghost stories, because he’s in one. Or, at least he’s in a close facsimile of one when a young man, who may or may not be real, takes the voyeuristic approach to introducing himself to Lee and Gideon—but in his defense, they were participating in a little public display of…err…everything. Is he corporeal or merely a product of Lee’s abilities? The author weaves that question into the plot and in doing so to perfection, nearly tears Gid and Lee apart at the point where their bond has evolved into something powerful and glorious. Kitto’s sudden appearance in their relationship creates a rift between what Lee knows and what the copper in Gideon suspects, and it’s the doubt that makes for all the tension in this installment of the series.

Kitto is the boy who’d disappeared two years earlier, leaving behind a heartbroken stepbrother, Ray, a man Gid had inspired to leave behind his lawbreaking ways at the point he was most vulnerable, mourning Kitto’s loss. That grief wends its way into Gideon’s need to find answers to the questions surrounding Kitto’s disappearance, which prompts Gideon to start poking around a bit, his doubts pushing Lee away but bringing the truth close and a suspect closer to paying for his crime. There was so much emotion at the crux of this book, both the good kind that makes your heart beat a little faster, and the not so good kind that makes your heart feel as though it might seize up at any moment, and I loved the swing from one moment to the next.

As she’s done with the three previous books in the series, the author blends the supernatural with the season, bends the rules of reality to the point it becomes possible to believe in the impossible, and then wraps it all up at the end with a glimpse into the future. Zeke fulfills all my hopes by being the brother, not the minister, I’d hoped he would be, and I loved his austere self just a little more in this book. It’s a future that, after a struggle with psychic blindness, Lee appears to have seen into reality, and is a future I hope Harper Fox will see her way to delivering in a fifth book for me to love.

5 Stars
Boystown 6: From The Ashes: A Nick Nowak Mystery
Boystown 6: From The Ashes: A Nick Nowak Mystery - Marshall Thornton
The following is the reason I picked up the ebook version of Boystown 6: From the Ashes for review:

I had just finished listening to the first Boystown mystery on audio. I really enjoyed the first three short stories and thought, why not skip books 2, 3, 4, and 5? (I didn’t own them…yet…by the way.) Since the first three mysteries were considered standalones, I could read the others later, right? I thought I’d be lucky and find out Boystown 6: From the Ashes also was a standalone. Um. Not. By the time I hit the second chapter of From the Ashes, I realized, that yes, I was going to have to go back and read books 2, 3, 4, and 5 to figure out what the heck I just got myself involved in. After spending some time at All Romance (hey, I hit it lucky. There was a half price rebate sale going on), I bought the books in the series I didn’t already own, then proceeded to read the series in the order it was written.

Man, oh man, what an adventure that led up to From the Ashes! See, something happened while reading all these stories. I developed a love/hate relationship with Nick Nowak. The man is definitely into sex. I mean every chance he gets, but let’s not go there for now.

This mystery takes place a year after Bert Harker’s murder and as the blurb states, Nick has really let himself go in his grief. He’s crossed over the threshold into alcoholism, though is a functional alcoholic, and he bartends in exchange for money and alcohol.

I don’t think I’m revealing too much when I say that it is Mrs. Harker who finds out where Nick is working and asks him to look into the death of Father Maniatis. Mrs. Harker believes that there is more to his sudden heart attack and asks Nick to look into it. Now, the reason Mrs. Harker is considered the most unlikely person to ask for Nicks help is because these two have not liked each other since they met, back when Bert first became sick with AIDS.

After visiting the Catholic school, something just isn’t right when one of the priests objects to Nick poking around in Father Maniatis’s death. Nick relays this information to Mrs. Harker and then decides to investigate further. They come to the agreement that instead of being paid, Mrs. Harker will show him the family photo album. Mrs. Harker is kind of cute with how she doles out in increments Bert’s childhood photos, but it’s also these times that I found rather sad and bittersweet, as Nick and Mrs. Harker sat together looking through this album. Even though these two started off disliking each other, I think these little moments of looking back at Bert’s early life helped with their grieving. I know I had a few tears in my eyes at the final picture.

As usual, Mr. Thornton weaves a very tangible mystery that keeps one guessing until the very end, and it’s also a chance to look back at the 80s, to a time when a little known virus was hitting the gay community. I’m giving Boystown 6: From the Ashes a high 5 Star rating and would also highly recommend reading all the previous Boystown mysteries, in their given order, to really appreciate this latest installment.

And yes, Mr. Thornton, I want more Nick!

4 Stars
Technically Dating
Technically Dating - Jena Wade
Sometimes a short book doesn’t quite cut it…you don’t have a chance to get to know the characters, there isn’t enough story, it’s often unbelievable, or insta-love that doesn’t always work…but, Jena Wade’s Technically Dating didn’t fall into any of these traps. This was 94 pages of very likeable characters and a super cute story that left me wanting more in a good way.

I really enjoyed the set-up in this book. In the opening scene, Westley has gone to a club looking for “Mr. Right-for-the-night”, and shares a sexy dance with Bruce. The dance is hot and Bruce is even hotter. He seems ultra-smooth and knows just what he’s doing when he asks Westley to come home with him, but when Westley runs into him the next day at work, he is nothing like the confident man from the night before. They are able to get past the initial awkwardness, though, and begin dating.

As I said above, I really enjoyed these characters. Bruce is intelligent, a MASSIVE comic book geek, and aside from the confidence he possesses in the bedroom, is adorably unaware of how sexy he is. I would love it, actually, if the author would re-visit these guys at some point and give us more of Bruce’s backstory. She only slightly touches on this other ‘persona’ that he takes on when he goes out looking for some action, and also makes brief references to the difficult time he had in high school. In other words, it would be nice to get into his head a bit more. Westley also has a good head on his shoulders, and seems to know exactly what he wants out of life. He is taken with Bruce right away, and I loved that he was never afraid to show his interest or let himself seem vulnerable.

There is a conflict in the book – as all good books have to some degree – and though I did have a bit of “Man, why are guys so lame sometimes? Why can’t they just talk?” going through my head, I felt like it was just the right amount of drama. Also, the pacing of the story was great. Nothing happened too quickly, and the time jumps that were put in worked perfectly to move the story along. And, I definitely enjoyed the end… and loved the epilogue!!! That fun scene could have definitely been a bit longer!!

This was a perfect Sunday afternoon read. I would absolutely recommend it – especially if you’re looking for a great little novella!

5 Stars
Shattered Glass
Shattered Glass - Dani Alexander, Joseph Northton
Bunny slippers…they’re baaaack!

Thanks to a friend who loaned me the book Shattered Glass a couple of years ago, I haven’t been able to look at a pair of bunny slippers without fantasizing about seeing a pair of legs up in the air, bunny slippers bouncing merrily off the feet of someone who is being thoroughly….

Well…as you can see, Shattered Glass appealed to me and fed my warped sense of humor. It’s also on my top 20 list of all time favorite reads, and now it’s on audio! Woohoo! Did it meet my expectations? Oh yeah!

Mr. Northton did an excellent job of bringing Austin, Peter, Cai, and even Darryl to life. I love it when not only can I visualize the characters in my mind but can hear them as well. I especially enjoyed listening to the banter between Austin and his partner Luis, absolutely loved the “hump day” quips, and Austin just has a way of putting the “fun” in dysfunctional, so it was awesome to know that the audio version had the power to make me smile and laugh!

To my fellow audio listeners, Shattered Glass is an easily recommendable 5 Star listen. Hopefully, if the sequel ever comes out on audio, Joseph Northton will be chosen to narrate again. I love this man’s voice!

5 Stars
The Ex Factor
The Ex Factor - RJ Scott
On the surface, The Ex Factor could be just another story about a bodyguard that falls in love with his client. Instead of the simple love story, however, this book turns out to be a very deep story about abuse in same sex marriages. There are no on page scenes of the abuse Daniel suffers, but the outcome and the subsequent issues Daniel has to live through are covered very well.

Daniel was competing on a reality TV music show Ben was working on. When Ben finds Daniel secluded in a room and in pain, he has no idea what is truly going on in Daniel’s life, but he offers him help if he ever needs it, and gives him his business card.

Later, when Ben receives a call from another competitor on the show telling him Daniel is in trouble, Ben races to the rescue. What he discovers when he gets to Daniel not only angers him, it makes him feel guilty about everything he missed the last time he saw Daniel.

Ben begins to help Daniel rebuild his life, both professionally and personally. When they begin to grow closer, Daniel feels like he doesn’t have anything to offer Ben, but Ben helps him to see himself as a man no matter what his ex has done to him. Once they get on the right track, their romance is pretty special.

I feel that RJ Scott did a great job of showing the devastation that occurs both during and after living in an abusive relationship. She also showed us that no matter how bad things may seem there is always still a chance at a happily ever after. I loved the way Ben was gentle with Daniel when he needed it, but forceful when he had to be. I can’t recommend this book enough. If I didn’t have a TBR pile a million feet high, I would be rereading this one immediately. The Ex Factor could very well be my favorite RJ Scott book to date. You won’t want to miss this one.

3 Stars
No Sacrifice
No Sacrifice - Grace R. Duncan
2.5 Stars

Patrick is a straight man playing the role of a gay lover in a cable network TV series. He lives a fairly solitary life spent mostly apart from his son and his wife, who is also an actress. More and more he is feeling the strain of being away from his family and is confused by what seems to be a widening gulf between he and his wife. To complicate matters, he must face the contracted love scenes that will place he and his costar, Rhys, in rather uncompromising situations, which include full nudity. When Patrick realizes that he is beginning to get aroused during one such scene, he must come to terms with the fact that he is not as straight as he always supposed himself to be. In fact, Patrick must acknowledge the fact that he may well be bisexual and must now try to make sense of that in light of his rapidly dissolving marriage.

However, neither divorce nor gay are words one uses in his parent’s home. His mother is staunchly catholic and a good portion of his family is homophobic. Therefore, Patrick must hide not only the fact that he is in the midst of a divorce, but that he has found a new lover who is also a male, Chance Dillon. When pieces of Patrick’s secretive and closeted life come to light, there are devastating consequences for him, his newfound love and their potential future together.

I struggled mightily with No Sacrifice. While I felt the premise for the story was good, there were so many small problems with its execution that continued to mount and eventually really frustrate me as I read. Many may argue that the “insta-love” aspect of the relationship between Patrick and Chance seemed weak, but that actually was not a problem for me. Rather, it was how Patrick failed to realistically stack up as a main character. Please forgive me, but I think it best if I go point by point to explain why this novel fell so very short for me.

1. Patrick’s “street gang” and karate background. Apparently, the admittedly wish-washy person Patrick becomes in this novel began as a tough street gang member who knows how to kick ass and was saved by a high school drama teacher from becoming a low life thug. So, why can’t adult Patrick head off his co-star, Rhys, when he starts to put the moves on him in a truly underhanded way before the camera? I mean, Patrick comes right out and tells Rhys he does not like him—that he is, in fact, in love with Chance. Yet each time Rhys puts the moves on him under the guise of “acting his role,” Patrick folds up and gives in? It just did not make any sense that this man who once ran with a street gang had no strength to shut down the advances of a man he did not love.

2. His over the top catholic family, i.e. a stereotypical irate and demanding mother and a weak father. Patrick just completely lost himself when he went home to visit the parents. His mother ruled the roost with an iron fist and some of his siblings actually hated him for not only being bi, but worse, for divorcing his wife. Patrick’s father was effectively a whipped man who dared not cross his wife or correct her remarkably homophobic and extremely rigid religious beliefs. While I could understand this plot point; i.e. the “horrible family,” I could not understand that they had NO reservations about Patrick playing a gay male and doing full frontal nudity on a TV show. So they could accept that but could not even harbor the idea that he and his wife no longer loved each other and were filing for divorce? Really? No one balked at Patrick’s day job? Yet they were sanctimonious and holier than thou when it came to him remaining in a loveless marriage? It simply did not compute.

3. The endless repetition of the dreaded sex scenes and Patrick’s inability to fight off arousal. Okay, I understood that the author wanted to have us see how the contracted sex scenes with both Rhys and Angelo were so difficult for Patrick. I further understood how they allowed for Chance and Patrick to come to terms with the idea that this was Patrick’s job and nothing more—that the loss of bodily control and subsequent aroused state did not mean that Patrick was cheating on Chance in any way. But truly, one scene would have been enough to prove this point. Instead, we are subjected to several sex scenes where even I felt the line between cheating and Patrick’s inability to control his wayward penis was essentially crossed. This is the point where I also could not understand that Patrick did not insist that Rhys back off from his sexual assaults. Over and over again, the author gave us lengthy and extremely detailed moments where Patrick lost control and was even brought to the point of orgasm on set. Really? Was the money and the job really worth his partner, Chance, having to endure watching these scenes again and again? I also found myself wondering why so many? Surely once was enough for us to get the gist that Patrick had no bodily control or ability to resist Rhys on set and was guilt ridden over that fact. All in all—it was just too much! And that leads me to my last point…

4. The overall length of this novel. I felt it rambled and hit the same points far too often. I truly felt that the editor on this book did not do their job. So much of the same type of action was thrown at us, from the show’s sex scenes to the continual worry about Patrick being outed. In fact, for such a huge fear, Patrick’s actions—such as holding Chance’s hand and kissing in public—happened way too frequently to make his fear over coming out as bisexual in any way realistic. But seriously, 400 pages of story demands some huge plot twists and action to keep it interesting. This is where I really struggled. Patrick’s life was just not exciting enough to hold my interest for so very many pages of text. I have read many lengthy novels that held me captive. This one just missed the mark, for me.

All in all, No Sacrifice was not the pager turner I had hoped it to be. The rather tame storyline, the gratuitous and repetitive sex scenes, and the inconsistencies in the character development left me confused and dismayed. I believe this author has some really good work out there to be read, but No Sacrifice is not one I can recommend.

5 Stars
Don't Let Go
Don't Let Go - Harper Fox
Now that’s what I’m talking about! If ever there was a book with a flawless balance of danger, tension, a delicious sense of otherness, and all the romance you can handle, Don’t Let Go is that book. Let’s bask in the perfection that is this short novel for just a moment, shall we?

My obstinate tendency to remain on the emotional fringes of Gideon Frayne and Lee Tyack’s romance in the first two books of this series was obliterated by Don’t Let Go. Why? Because Harper Fox found a way to bring both a real and surreal connection to this relationship, and oh my god, it’s almost tangible. When Gideon is injured in the line of duty, nearly losing his life in the process, it not only throws Lee into an emotional and physical tailspin, but it threw into perspective how much these two men need each other not only as lovers but as touchstones to the reality that is their life together. Everything in this book was one big open emotion—love, fear, pain, grief, and joy—and it worked to perfection to weave their bond into the supernatural elements in this book, which culminated in a way that nearly broke my heart for both Lee and Gideon.

Ms. Fox has allowed us to get to know Lee’s backstory in this book, a past that transfigured him entirely from a boy whose future was altered in a single moment by a very real and human monster, to the man who has the unique ability to touch the other. There is a common monster in this story, one that preyed on Gideon’s own fears all while preying on Lee’s very being when they were both mere boys. Learning more about Lee’s family, his Uncle Jago, his relationship with his deceased father, and the way his village rallied to protect Lee—an event that culminated in a very real skeleton in the Tyack family closet—came to light in a spiritual and entirely romantic way in this installment of the series.

I got my wish and Gideon’s brother Ezekiel, the uptight and upright minister, was back for more of his particular brand of disapproving opinions and grudging acceptance, or, maybe I should say his grudging concession to Lee and Gideon’s relationship. He’s realized that his beliefs hold no bearing on the fact that the love and devotion Gid and Lee feel for each other is as real as any sanctioned from his pulpit, and I’m not exactly sure how Harper Fox has managed to make me like the man, but she’s succeeded in spades. There’s no doubt he’s judging the sin while loving (or at least liking them a little) the sinners, though he may never admit to loving them out loud, and it showcases the author’s talent for writing very real and multi-dimensional characters.

I have loved, from book one, the way in which the pagan wheel of the year has been worked into each of these stories, adding to the spirit lore and offering the perfect time and setting for each supernatural event to occur. Don’t Let Go has ended with Imbolc and I, for one, am anxious to dig right into the Midsummer intrigue.

3 Stars
The Wind Your Voice, The Rain Your Tears (Golden Nettle Book 1)
The Wind Your Voice, The Rain Your Tears (Golden Nettle Book 1) - M.E. Sanford
At first I thought The Wind Your Voice, The Rain Your Tears seemed decent enough. I was intrigued by the blurb enough to try reading a new author. Taking a chance on a new author who is also a self-published author can be double pleasure or double trouble. In the case of M.E. Sanford, it was a mixed bag.

Vinny is sort of a redneck. He is a twenty-something mechanic who doesn’t seem to have much going for him; he comes across as not being all that bright. He loves his job but is fully aware he won’t ever be more than a mechanic. He has a girlfriend, Vicky, who is kind of a slut. Vinny’s brother Danny drops a bomb on the family that he’s gay, and everything changes. There aren’t changes so much as it is made clear that his parents, and to a certain degree Vinny himself, are homophobic bigots. It was so hard for me to read about Danny’s suffering and pain caused by his family.

Vinny isn’t all that likeable, but I don’t have to like an MC to want him to find love and have an HEA, and I thought there was promise for some interesting character development. Initially, the plot was a little depressing. Being inside Vinny’s head wasn’t a great experience, but I still thought it had some promise. It would have been nice to see some things from other characters’ POVs.

Vinny has a terrible and unprovoked reaction toward Tristan, an effeminate gas station attendant. The homophobic slur sets off kind of a transformation in Vinny. This is the part I like best in the GFY theme, the process: the questioning what the character has always believed to be true of himself, then starting to explore the building curiosity to get to where he finally figures out the truth about himself.

The way Vinny initially lashes out at Tristan is what Tristan has been through so much in his life; I can’t believe he has any hope left in him. But he appreciates the good things as long as he can, even while his experience has taught him they never last. Tristan is a character who stirs a lot of feelings in the reader. It is so easy to care about him. I would have liked to read his POV.
When Vinny comes out to his parents, his father has a heart attack and winds up in a coma for three months. Vinny’s family is more important to him than anything, including the love of his life. When his father comes out of the coma, during which he must have had an epiphany, he is completely okay with both of his sons’ homosexuality. Now he wants Vinny to go find his boyfriend. Tristan has disappeared after the loss of most of his family.

Suddenly Tristan shows up at Vinnie’s apartment. Now Tristan’s brother is in a coma. What happens next really defies description. There are families who change their long-held religious beliefs. Someone is held at gunpoint. Someone gets shot in the chest. An ultra-straight homophobic prick gets together with another guy. It comes out that a car involved in a life changing crash was tampered with. I really tried to enjoy this book. I had to roll my eyes so much, though. This plot would make even a career soap-opera writer cringe. There was so much going on that it was completely over the top.

I saw from the first page that this book would benefit immensely from some heavy editing. There were words missing, words used in wrong contexts, punctuation errors… I needn’t go on. The lack of quality editing was enough that it drew me out of the story. I found the writing to be sloppy and seemingly careless. I was disappointed. I think this might actually have been a good book; the subject matter, dealing with homophobia and the importance of love and acceptance was a good premise, and that’s why the three star rating instead of the lower one I initially thought to give it. It had potential, it contained serious themes which I can totally get behind, but it was just poorly executed. I hope M.E. Sanford doesn’t give up. This is a first book, and there is a lot of room for improvement, but I believe there is also a lot of talent.

4 Stars
Jay Walking
Jay Walking - Jacques N. Hoff
I have read a lot of shifter books, but only a few with avian shifters. Jay Walking was one of the most unique shifter books I have read in a while. There was some great steam in this book, but the overwhelming theme is its tongue-in-cheek humor.

When Jay Azure, a blue jay shifter, is demoted to watching the streets for jaywalkers, he is shocked to find a man he can’t seem to forget about. While writing the jaywalking ticket Simon Spoonwell had earned, Jay realizes that Simon could very well be his mate, but, unfortunately, things don’t go well on their first meeting—Simon can’t stand Jay—and from there, the story goes on with all of Jay’s humorous attempts to get Simon’s attention. With a few misunderstandings to overcome and some confessions to make, the two begin a relationship and much hilarity ensues.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Jay Walking if you are looking for a fun, good-time read. I loved both of these characters individually and together, and think the author did a great job of mixing the silliness with the seriousness, as well as setting us up for more books in this universe. It’s a wonderful, light start to what could be a very entertaining series about bird shifters, and I will definitely be checking out any follow-up books from Jacques N. Hoff.

5 Stars
Wicklow's Odyssey
Wicklow's Odyssey - R. Cooper
It’s an odd thing but sometimes the more I love a book, the more difficult it is to put that love into words, which leaves me afraid I’ll never be able to do this book justice. The first thought I had when I finished Wicklow’s Odyssey was, “damn, this book was freaking brilliant,” and my love for it has only increased the farther I am from having finished. My second thought when I finished this book was, “please, please let there be more.” That’s how much I loved these characters, not only Alexander Rhoades and Wicklow Doyle, but all of them. I don’t want to let them go and can only hope with the ending R. Cooper has delivered that it means there will be more adventures to be had by this Sacred Band of spies.

All I needed to see was that this book is Steampunk to know I wanted it. Not having bothered to read the blurb then discovering that the story takes place in an Alternate History during the US Civil War, the level of perfection for me could only have been increased by it being filled with action, suspense, danger, intrigue, romance and characters with whom I fell in love, all told in a prose that was not only descriptive but also engaged the imagination in every possible way.

It is.

From the moment R. Cooper introduces Private Wicklow Doyle—beaten, imprisoned, and awaiting death—it becomes obvious his story is one that’s going to do more than tell a simple tale. There, in fact, is nothing at all simple about Wicklow or the man who comes to his rescue, Alexander Rhoades, the man who becomes Wicklow’s leader and tells him stories in the Greek epic tradition, of Troy and the Trojan War, and then leaves Wicklow to suss out what those stories mean to him and to his mission.

Private Doyle and Rhoades are an enigma in the way only men who are adept at keeping secrets and are proficient in the language of hiding their motives and intentions can be, or, in Wicklow’s case, not understanding what it means to trust and to believe someone cares for him. Wicklow and Rhoades couldn’t be more different—Doyle, the rough and rigid Irishman, and Rhoades, the sophisticated rogue whose cleverness at times comes off as madness. Rhoades is fluent in seduction and isn’t above taking any number of men to bed to gain the information he needs to further his cause. Wicklow is fluent in anger and, at times, killing if the situation warrants it, coming from a world where fighting often meant survival. There is no one Wicklow trusts unconditionally, not even the men and woman who make up the team he works with to carry out Rhoades’s mission to bring the Civil War nearer to an end. These two men together become a puzzle to be solved and as the author parses out clues here and there about who they are, all while building the sexual tension between them, it becomes imperative to know them and to see how the relationship between the man who seduces and the man who doesn’t like to be touched will resolve to remain in each other’s lives and perhaps become more to each other than simply chess master and pawn.

The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior.

I am so thoroughly infatuated with Wicklow’s Odyssey, with every nuance, every word the author shaped and finessed to tell the story through a vivid narrative and lush dialogue, that I want to bask in my love for it again. Just as Rhoades is the voice in Wicklow’s ear, a voice that soothes, directs, touches Wicklow without touching, R. Cooper directs us through this exquisite journey. I could likely write a second and third review of this book and come up with something new to love about it each time, that’s how rich Wicklow’s Odyssey is and I can’t begin to recommend it enough.