Cole McCade

Review: Autumn by Cole McCade

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Title: Autumn (Crow City #2.75)
Author: Cole McCade
Genre: Contemporary romance, MM romance
Release Date: 27 March 2017

Author's links:
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My rating: 5 Stars

Blurb

There are worse things in life than loving a man who hates you.

Unfortunately, Walford Gallifrey can’t think of many.

Ever since a ghost from his past kidnapped his niece, Willow (THE FOUND, Crow City #2), Wally’s life has been nothing but grief, turmoil, and loss. With no idea if Willow is dead or alive, Wally’s only comfort is in caring for his grieving brother-in-law and Willow’s father, Joseph Armitage. For the past twenty years, Wally has never hoped to be anything but the backdrop to Joseph’s life; between marrying Wally’s sister and decades of mistakes building walls of enmity and resentment between them, Joseph has been firmly cemented in Wally’s mind as unattainable.

But the pain of Willow’s loss forces them to face the demons sleeping between them, find common ground—and more. Together, they explore mutual grief. Shared memories. Quiet respect. Warmth. Camaraderie. The joy of learning to live again.

And an unspoken attraction, buried beneath the scars of hurtful words and terrible missteps. 

Yet even as they work through the thorns and tangles of old wounds, Joseph has his own struggles to face. The struggle to leave his ex-wife in the past. To let his daughter go. And to trust Wally to love him, to see him as more than just his multiple sclerosis, when so many have treated him as less than a man. The only way forward for them both is forgiveness. Trust.

And a second chance to discover what it means, to truly be in love.

Review

This is the fifth book in the series, after two novels and two novellas and the first queer one. And unlike all the previous, it's so much lighter, happier and heart-warming and how it can any other way when one the heroes is Walford Gallifrey. He brought warmth and tenderness even in the darkest moments in the previous books, so I couldn't his own story any other way. 

We get the story of two older characters, Wally - a circus ringmaster, whimsical and caring and lonely, having had a crush on Joseph since they met over 20 years ago. The other - Joseph, suffering from MS, angry, abandoned and alone. They have a history with its ups and downs, and some serious hurt of unpack and overcome. There are expectations of each other to change. And revelations, so many revelations to absorb.

Joseph has a lot to deal with, including realising he is bi but that is not what this story is about. I liked how the author didn't make this focus of the romance. It's just one aspect of his personality, yes, a bit unexpected both for him and for Wally, yet he accepts it in stride. It's just what it is and no one in the story (their friends and family) made a big deal about it. 

I really liked how the focus in their relationship was on intimacy, companionship, being together - sexually and in all other ways, in their everyday lives. It's not all smooth sailing. They keep hurting each other inadvertently, but never give up on trying. We see them learning their way around each other, how to express their love for each other, how to be there for the other in sickness and in health, in good time and bad times. 

I'm avoiding any spoilers, so let me just say we see more of Willson and Vin and Gabriel and Leigh and it's perfect!

The writing is what I have come to expect from Cole McCade - lyrical, emotional, evocative. He builds these rich, powerful images that stay with the reader long after they have finished the book.

Autumn could be read as a standalone though I definitely recommend reading the previous books in the series before it, or at least the novella, The Saved. They will give you a deeper insight into the world of Crow City and its inhabitants, including Wally and Joseph.

Purchase links: Amazon





Author Interview

New and Debut: Dal MacLean

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I'm really happy to welcome Dal MacLean for the regular New and Debut spotlight. She is the author of Bitter Legacy, mm romantic suspense, which was just announced to be a Lambda Literary Awards finalist in the Mystery category! Read on to see what inspires her to write her stories and what you can expect from her in the future. There is also short excerpt from Bitter Legacy for you to enjoy. 

Meet Dal


1. Tell us about yourself and why did you decide to become a romance writer?

First of all thank you for having me! To answer the question (that sound is me sucking my teeth in a considering fashion)… I don’t think I ‘decided to become a romance writer’ so much as deciding to TRY to become a romance writer. I’m still not really sure I’ve succeeded. I’ve been fascinated to find that romance has a formula and structure that maybe I veer from slightly. Without meaning to. Not deliberately. Or anything. It’s because I don’t know any better. Honestly.

I do know that the kind of romance I love reading, has genuine, believable conflict at the heart of it, which must be overcome to win the happy ending. I think my first (and so far only) book, ‘Bitter Legacy’ was a bit of a 50/50 hybrid really of mystery and romance. Mystery, I discovered (it was my first try at that too) has its own structure that readers expect to see, and trying to wrestle both structures into one coherent, balanced story isn’t the easiest thing in the world. I loved the process though, in a masochistic kind of way.

Before this, my training and experience were in writing, but not creative writing. I hadn’t done any of that since school. I decided, on a whim, to give fanfic a go and discovered that, while I was using, in principle the same basic skills (grammar, punctuation etc) it was a totally different thing. I didn’t do much of it, but I loved the challenge and reward. I think MM is different again from fanfic. 

2. Can you share some of your favourite books and authors?

The person who first got me in to reading (and writing) M/M is still right at the top – Josh Lanyon. I bought ‘Fatal Shadows’ and was blown away because it read like a top-of–the-line mainstream mystery, but with gay leads and a turbulent, charismatic romance at its core. I thought it was incredible, and then I bought the rest of the Adrien English series and I became A Fan. A Fanyon in fact. She writes so beautifully and intelligently and she’s not afraid to make her characters genuinely flawed, and her conflict genuine and not easily resolved. I crave that in romance, and, really, in any book I read. It’s that ability to make what’s probably essentially wish fulfillment feel believable and real that gets me every time

Harper Fox, Nicole Kimberling and Ginn Hale are such superb, skilled writers they kind of knock me on my arse every so often, with sheer envy. I think we’re incredibly lucky to have them in this genre. I recently discovered and love Elin Gregory & Roan Parrish. I loved the Captive Prince series by C P Pacat – that felt like something a bit different. And because I like historicals (history was what I studied) KJ Charles. And I still want to read Alexis Hall, Rhys Ford and CS Poe because so many people have told me how good they are. But right now, if I read, I don’t write, so…

3. Who/what do you consider your writing influence/inspiration?

I don’t know, to be honest. I read and a watch mainstream mystery and detective fiction – mainly UK stuff, though I love US TV as well. But I also love historical books and TV –– medieval to Elizabethan is my favourite. And I like sci-fi and fantasy too.

I’ve always admired Agatha Christie particularly, as a mystery writer, not just because she emphasized characterization with actual flaws included, but because she was never afraid to make an unpopular decision for the good of the book. By which I mean, sometimes the culprit was a person you liked and understood. That made her work more messy, far less predictable, and far more exciting, and I think it’s one reason it’s had such longevity. I also love Hollywood film noir and Raymond Chandler etc -- laconic humour, lovely use of language and flawed larger than life characters.

In MM, possibly Josh Lanyon, because I love what she does so much. But also because I’ve never been taught to write formally (as in taking a course or anything) having an editor as skilled and insightful as Nicole Kimberling at Blind Eye Books was a real revelation. Nicole’s taught me such a lot.

4. What kind of stories can the readers expect from you (contemporary/historical/sci-fi, adult/NA/YA, etc)

I think probably contemporary and for the time being anyway, mystery, though, as I said, mystery was a genre I never tried before Bitter Legacy. I have an MM ghost story/romance, shoved down the back of the sofa, but it’s not a traditional romance structure so I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I don’t have the nerve to try historical because I research everything so obsessively I’d spend months identifying historically accurate curtain fabric. So contemporary it is.

5. Please, introduce your latest/upcoming release.

Ah. I can’t really because I’m still writing and forming it. But at this point I can say it’s in the ‘Bitter Legacy’ universe, but not a sequel. It’s set in present day London, and the main protagonist/narrator is not a policeman. That may all change tomorrow if I panic and throw it in the bin.

In the meantime though, there’s Bitter Legacy. It’s a fairly complex police procedural/whodunnit on the one hand (set with the Metropolitan Police in London) and a focus on a challenging romantic relationship on the other. Everything is seen through the eyes of the narrator, DS James Henderson, but bear in mind that, just like all of us, Jamie sometimes gets the wrong end of the stick when it comes to interpreting other people’s behaviour. If you read it, I hope you enjoy it!

BLURB

London...

Detective Sergeant James Henderson’s remarkable gut instincts have put him on a three-year fast track to becoming an inspector. But the advancement of his career has come at a cost. Gay, posh and eager to prove himself in the Metropolitan Police, James has allowed himself few chances for romance.

When the murder of barrister Maria Curzon-Whyte lands in his lap, all that changes. His investigation leads him to a circle of irresistibly charming men. And though he knows better, James finds himself enticed into their company.

Soon his desire for photographer Ben Morgan challenges him to find a way into the other man’s lifestyle of one-night stands and carefree promiscuity. At the same time his single murder case multiplies into a cruel pattern of violence and depravity.

But as the bodies pile up and shocking secrets come to light, James finds both his tumultuous private life and coveted career threatened by a bitter legacy.

Purchase links: Amazon


AUTHOR BIO AND LINKS

Dal Maclean comes from Scotland. Her background is in journalism, and she has an undying passion for history, the more gossipy and scandalous the better. Dal has lived in Asia and worked all over the world, but home is now the UK. She dislikes the Tragic Gay trope, but loves imperfect characters and genuine emotional conflict in romantic fiction. As an author, and a reader, she believes it’s worth a bit of work to reach a happy ending. Agatha Christie, English gardens and ill-advised cocktails are three fatal weaknesses, though not usually at the same time.



EXCERPT


The door on the left at the top of the first flight of stairs appeared identical to the one on the ground floor—paneled and freshly glossed white. But though James knocked on it, ignoring the intercom-man’s instructions, and though he definitely heard voices behind it, it remained stubbornly closed. He knocked again. The door didn’t open. The man had meant what he said.

James had no real reason to feel as pissed off as he did. The man inside couldn’t know he was a detective investigating a murder. He wasn’t purposely disrespecting the police. Yet, as James lurked, frustrated, in the plush hallway, stealing irritated glances at his watch, he found himself almost deliberately pushing himself to conclusions.

The visitor in there had an appointment. And the man who’d answered had said there’d be another right after James.

So. What kind of men were most likely to have serial “appointments” at expensive residential addresses? High-end hookers.

He glowered at the pristine door, copper’s imagination running with it.

Fuck—the last thing he needed was a vice collar right now, but he couldn’t exactly ignore a high-class prostitute operating under his nose.

Or maybe—he could. He really didn’t have time for this.

He frowned fiercely, slumped against the opposite wall. Then, without warning, the door to the flat opened with a shocking blaze of light, and a man slipped out into the hall.

James, as he straightened, could hardly fail to notice the guy was flamboyantly good looking—all extravagant cheekbones and pouty lips, like a catwalk model—and to all appearances, extremely pleased with himself. As he strutted past, he gave James a quick once-over and a knowing smirk, then he trotted down the stairs and out of sight.

James stared after him. He didn’t look like the kind of man who paid for it, but, if police-work had taught him anything, it’d be that people rarely obliged by fitting their stereotypes. Whatever the guy had been there for, he’d emerged appearing very satisfied indeed. James’s suspicions solidified.

“Sorry about that, mate. Overran a bit.”

James snapped his head back to stare at the figure now standing in the open doorway of the flat, assessing him in turn.

The man was startling. Caucasian, round about James’s height, but with a more slender build and thick, dark, shoulder-length hair in silky, loose curls. He had a fine bone structure, straight black brows and large, dark eyes whose color James couldn’t determine in the dimness of the hall. If the guy fucked for money, James thought in those first moments, he could fully understand how he could afford to live in Selworth Gardens.

Suddenly James felt very aware that, while he was wearing a very nice Paul Smith suit from his old life, it needed a good pressing. And after only three hours’ sleep, he could do with the equivalent himself.

The man smiled brilliantly, which rendered him even more startlingly attractive.

James found himself fighting not to blush. It was his fatal emotional tell and he hated it—a lifetime of self-discipline, and he still colored up like an adolescent.

“Hey,” the man said. “Come in.”

Eli Lang

Review: Half by Eli Lang

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Title: Half
Authors: Eli Lang
Genre/Themes: MM fantasy romance
Release Date: 13 Feb 2017

Author links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 3 Stars

Blurb

Living between worlds has never been comfortable, but it’s where I’ve always fit: between human and fey, illness and health, magic and reality.

I’ve spent the last six years looking for a cure for the nameless sickness eating me up. If I believed there was one out there, I would keep searching. But there isn’t, so I’ve come back home, where my past and present tangle. Come home to live . . . and to die.

But my father insists I meet Kin. He’s a healer, and determined to help, even though I’m not so hopeful anymore. But Kin isn’t what I expected, in any way. He sees me, not my illness. He reminds me of what it’s like to be alive. And I can’t help falling for him, even though I know it isn’t fair to either of us.

Kin thinks he has the cure I’ve been looking for, but it’s a cure that will change everything: me, my life, my heart. If I refuse, I could lose Kin. But if I take it, I might lose myself.

Review

Before I start this review I feel the need to add a trigger warning which this story doesn't have but for me there needs be one. TW for serious disease/disablity, which is potentially terminal.

This is a debut novel and I was drawn to the premise of an urban fantasy with faeries and the while I enjoyed a lot of things in the story ultimately it was an OK read for me.

I loved the writing style, it's very lyrical, poetic and reminds me a bit of Alexis Hall's writing which I absolutely love.

Eli Lang tells a tender love story, subdued and quiet and in a way I missed there being a stronger conflict at the center of it. The mood was melancholic and self-reflective throughout the story and while I liked it and also felt it was too much at times.

Both main characters, Luke and Kin are interesting and well developed. The focus falls on Luke and his struggles to come to terms with his fate which leads to a lot introspection, thoughts on life and death, im(mortality), the meaning of love. I very much enjoyed how the author explored the complexity of human relations, the difficulty of building and maintaining meaningful connections with the people around.

The romance between Luke and Kin was something I really liked in the story. There was an easy, natural flow to it with the inevitable setbacks and both characters making mistakes and trying to overcome them. We see two people coming together and learning to be together and making compromises and ultimately respecting the decisions the other persons makes.

A major plot in the story was Luke's relationship with his sister and I felt it overshadowed the main plot at times. There was a lot of going back and forth in both relationships (Luke and Kin; Luke and his sister) and some repetition which I found annoying. This affected the flow of the story as a whole making go all too slow at times, nothing much happening.

I was the drawn to the (urban) fantasy setting  and found it interesting but in the end it felt underdeveloped. I was left wanting to learn more about the world of the different faeries.

The ending is a bit unconventional when it comes to romance though it was fitting and came as not surprise. It's a sort of HFN ending, not too optimistic but focused on the now and enjoying the good things while they last without thinking much of the future.

Despite the issues I had with this story, still I found it to be a very tender, imaginative romance beautifully told. It was not quite the right book for me but I loved the author's writing style and I want to read more of her books in the future.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo  / Riptide

M/M romance

Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

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Title: Insight (The Community #1)
Authors: Santino Hassell
Genre/Themes: PNR mm romance
Release Date: 13 March 2017

Author links: Website / Twitter / Fb group / Goodreads
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My rating: 5 Stars


Blurb

Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate. 

Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.

Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.

Review

I'm don't read much PNR but I'm a fan of Santino Hassell and was intrigued by the idea of a romance involving psychics, so picking this book was a no-brainer for me. And I'm so glad I did. 

This is an intriguing story combining a tender and explosive romance with an interesting suspense/mystery plot. There is a bit of everything - a very dysfunctional family, a murder to solve, a road trip during which to fall in love, a big bad mastermind and their organization to bring down. All the while trying to make a relationship work while keeping both yourself and person you love safe.

That's a lot for Nate to deal with, Nate who is a low-level psychic, angry at his family, unable to use/control his gift fully and basically just a young guy dealing with some pretty hard luck in life.

And then he meets Trent and everything changes, Trent is all warmth and sunshine and happiness and optimism. At least that is what Nate psychic gift tells him. And this is very much true, though Trent is not naive or totally out of touch with reality, he is just a genuinely kind person. We see this practical down to Earth, engineer-major guy accept the existence of psychic power and gradually get involved in some serious conspiracy, behind-the-scene actions, yet he stands by Nate without hesitation or doubt.

We get the story from Nate's perspective and we are privy to his innermost thoughts which give us an invaluable insight into his character. I wish we got the same level of familiarity of Trent but only see him from Nate's perspective. He is defined more in his relation to Nate rather than on his own and that is fine with me. He is an invaluable partner, a lover, best friend, the person everyone needs in their lives, especially during turbulent confusing times.

the story, despite being paranormal, is very emotional and raw, and feels real in the way I have come to expect from Santino Hassell. It read very much like romantic suspense which I greatly enjoyed. Nate (and Trent)'s struggle to figure out who to trust and who is the real danger and how to fight it was one exciting ride.

Overall, Insight is a very well written with intriguing plot and likable characters  which made me a very happy reader. And there is still a lot to look forward to in the next two books in the series. I'm excited to see some very interesting characters (Chase, Chase!) get their stories told and  ultimately the good winning the fight against evil. 


Purchase links: KoboRiptide | Amazon | BN | iBooks



Contemporary Romance

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

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Title: Madly (New York #2)
Author: Ruthie Knox
Date of publication: 14 March 2017
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Author's links:
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My rating: 4.5 stars

Blurb

Allie Fredericks isn’t supposed to be in Manhattan, hiding in the darkest corner of a hip bar, spying on her own mother—who’s flirting with a man who’s definitely not Allie’s father. Allie’s supposed to be in Wisconsin, planning her parents’ milestone anniversary party. Then Winston Chamberlain walks through the door, with his tailored suit, British accent, and gorgeous eyes, and Allie’s strange mission goes truly sideways.

Winston doesn’t do messy. But after a pretty stranger ropes him into her ridiculous family drama with a fake kiss that gets a little too real, he finds out that messy can be fun. Maybe even a little addicting. And as the night grows longer, Allie and Winston make a list of other wild things they could do together—and what seems like a mismatch leads to a genuine connection. But can their relationship survive as their real lives implode just outside the bedroom door?

Review 

Ruthie Knox is one of my favourite authors of contemporary romance. I have enjoyed most of her previous books but somehow I missed that she started a new series. I haven't read Truly yet but after I finished Madly which I absolutely loved, the first thing I did was to go on Amazon an get it :)

Madly is exactly the kind of contemporary romance I like to read - life-like complex characters, struggling with life and love, discovering themselves, making mistakes and growing up as people. And the romance part was just perfect - a bit whimsical, both characters acting simultaneously slow and fast, cautious and daring.

The heroine, Allie, is fabulous in my opinion and I feel there is a lack of heroines like her in romance. She is young and independent and smart and financially successful. She doesn't depend on no man and doesn't need a man in her life to support her, take care of her. She needs and finds a partner, someone who appreciates and loves her with all her contradictions and complexity - being smart and beautiful, young and rich, self-confident but also desperately trying to keep her family together, hungry for the love and approval of her loved ones, deeply involved (albeit, often misguidedly) with their lives.

Winston was an interesting character as well. He has just turned 40, divorced, re-evaluating his life. He appeared stuffy and distant, too set in his ways, deeply unhappy and lost. he was not prepared for Allie and all the possibilities she brought with her. And it took him some time to grasp it and take a chance on being happy, on falling in love, on being vulnerable and honest with himself and the peole in his life he cares about.

I liked how Allie and Winston challenged each other, how they opened up to one another. The game of the list of sexual dares that want to try was an interesting and effective way to bring them together in raw honesty. Their romance was a curious mix of daring and hesitation, of I-don't-need-this-in-my-life-right-now and This-is-so-exciting-and-new-and-perfect-for-me.

The story explored different family relationships, between sibling, between parents and children, withing the romantic couples themselves. in all their complexity and dysfunction. And I liked where the author went with all of them. Through them she built a compelling picture of the characters' lives - complex, interwoven, changing and evolving.

I have only one minor quibble with the story and this has to do with Allie's mum and her relationship with her dad and her artistic career. I was surprised with the development of this plotline and I am not sure how to take it. On the one hand she is presented as a strong woman, one that balanced having a family and a suitable way to express her creativity. She is someone who hasn't sacrificed her dreams but have found an alternative way to pursue them. On the other hand, I felt her behaviour was deceptive to her family, keeping a secret like that, leading a double life. This didn't sit very well with me. I'd say it is a matter of personal preference and not a weakness of the story itself. Other readers may not feel like that about it, so don't let this minor issue of mine stop you from taking a chance on this wonderfully complex romance. 

Madly it's a beautiful and compelling modern day love story that fans of contemporary romance would greatly enjoy.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Ibooks / Kobo

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