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Gay Like You by Kim Dare

In this novella, Kim Dare explores two men's contrasting life experiences and the impact those experiences have in the men's quality of life and definition of what "being gay" means. The subject is treated respectfully, but very superficially. What a missed opportunity!

The dynamics of dominance and submission are taken as a given part of the H/H personalities, which is always a bit hard for me to believe without some evidence. In the end, the story is saved from being forgettable by one amazing sex scene involving a mirror, leather cuffs, a spreader bar and some honest emotion.

If you are looking for a realistic contemporary or a detailed exploration of D/s dynamics, you won't find it here. However, if you enjoy BDSM stories and want to read a nicely crafted bondage scene, you may want to read "Gay Like You".

Blurb:"Cody's more than happy to have sex, he may even be willing to offer his submission, but experience has taught him that's as far as he can go as a gay man. Tristan disagrees…

Tristan has being gay all worked out rather nicely. His biggest problem with his sexuality is his mother's persistent attempts to find a nice young man to marry him off to. And even that doesn't seem like such a terrible thing when he arrives to have dinner with his parents and finds Cody sitting at the table.

Homosexuality isn't working out quite so well for Cody. As far as he can see, Tristan's appearance in his life is unlikely to make things any better. Nice guys rarely stay nice for long and dominants have a way of turning into complete psychos if he lets his guard down.

Cody needs to walk away before Tristan tempts him into wanting the sort of happiness he knows he can't have. Tristan needs to stop him"

Gay Like You at TEB

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Trine by T.C. Blue

Trine is a highly erotic, yet gritty paranormal/fantasy that explores controversial themes of good vs. evil, human morality, human weakness, racial discrimination (though not in the way you might think) and organized religion. If you are a TC Blue fan, then you know this is a significant departure for her sweet and/or angsty character driven contemporary stories.

Don't get me wrong, Trine has lovely characters that are appropriately developed given the length of the story. The sex scenes are well written and deliciously naughty. The Chavri's tail is beyond sexy, it is decadent fun. The plot is surprisingly complex for a novella (~13k words?) and hints at a broader world that is just waiting to be explored.

Fans of TC's contemporary stories, should approach this one with an open mind, because above all it is an m/m erotic tale with a strong HFN ending. Fans of unapologetically controversial m/m paranormal/urban fantasy with a touch of violence, such as McLeod/Valentine's work are likely to absolutely enjoy this story and beg for more. Not hard to guess which category I am in. More please!

Blurb: "Caspari Roccaro is many things -- human sorcerer, husband, father, and patron to his mistresses. He's also more fond than he should be of his hired lover, the golden-skinned, pampered pet Victore with his kindness and dubious origins, and oh, yes. His tail.

Victore knows himself for what he is: a whore. That he plies his trade in the best demon brothel in all of Rome changes nothing. Yet it is how he met Caspari and as such, he is content. A faction within the Holy Church has set covetous eyes on Caspari, seeking to use Caspari's talents for their own ends. When Ashalam, winged and bound to do the bidding of his earthly masters, finds himself questioning that plan, all bets are off.

Can a human sorcerer, a demon, and an angel of sorts find their way through the pitfalls offered by the Renaissance? Will their determination prove to be enough?"

Trine at Torquere Press

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Gay Until Graduation (Gay #3) by Kim Dare

Gay Until Graduation is a thoroughly enjoyable D/s novella (15k words?) about two college students who come together for a full-time master/sub relationship for the six months prior to their college graduation. The story is fast moving, highly erotic and deliciously kinky. The writing is smooth and the BDSM is portrayed in a fun (if not excessively accurate) manner without delving far into the details. Not my usual preference, but appropriate given the length of the story.

Since I have a mile long kinky streak, I absolutely adored this story and plan to read the rest of Dare's Gay series. That said, there are two aspects of the story that I found a bit frustrating. First, the majority of the conflict revolves around "the great misunderstanding", meaning there is no real conflict and the characters just don't seem able to figure that out. I am not fond of this overused romance trope. Second, one of the characters spends a significant amount of energy stressing about the mechanics of building a future together (or not). Yet the story ends without bringing closure to these concerns. The implicit assumption is that love conquers all, but given all the fretting a word or two to close the issue would not be amiss.

All that said, this story is highly recommended for readers who enjoy m/m bdsm and would like a quick, satisfying read.

Blurb: "A gay man should know better than to get involved with a guy who is only gay until graduation, but Baxter's never been very good at saying no to Spencer...

Stunning, dominant and cheerfully bi-sexual, Spenser's been screwing his way through both the male and female student population since he arrived at the university. Baxter is entirely gay, completely submissive and, by his own estimation at least, thoroughly average. He knows that being more than friend's with Spencer would be more trouble than it's worth.

When a drunken Spencer decides that he's going to be gay until graduation Baxter doesn't pay much attention. But when his friend's attention suddenly focuses in on him, the guy he's had a crush on for months soon becomes far more dangerous to his peace of mind.

Baxter knows he should say no to a relationship that will break his heart when they graduate, but he's never been very good at saying no to his friend - especially not when Spencer is offering him everything he's ever wanted."

Gay Until Graduation at TEB

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Hammer and Air by Amy Lane - My late night reaction!

Graeme and Eirn are very sweet, which is why I was caught completely off guard and ended up crying at 1am.  Dammit! ;)

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Blurb: "Graeme and Eirn have no words for what they are to each other. Children, clinging together in a crowded orphanage; friends, battling back to back in a school yard; and bedmates, finally bridging the gap between sleeping next to a body and allowing it to touch you in the night—all of these roles are summed up by just their names: Hammer and Air.

 The innocent exploration of their newest roles is brutally marred when a violent, ill-tempered master threatens Eirn, and Eirn's "Hammer" kills the man in a fair fight. The two run off into the wide world with only each other for safety. It's difficult to forge a good life with only a blacksmith's hammer and a printer's cleverness, but together, Hammer and Eirn will learn to negotiate the dangers of magic and motion, of sex, obsession, and tenderness, and of the word that can make sense of it all—one word they must earn for themselves."

Hammer and Air at Dreamspinner Press
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Tooth & Nail by Mary Calmes

Tooth & Nail is a very satisfying read. Dylan is one of those characters that I absolutely love just from the description. An angel indeed! Malic is the stereotypical strong and silent type. He is determined to save the world on his own and determined to save Dylan from the perils of life with a Warder. So very noble and extremely frustrating. 

The story is written as a very traditional paranormal romance. This is the book's main strength and its chief weakness. At times, I felt like I could replace Dylan with a female heroine and not much would have changed. Yet the very scenes that caused me to roll my eyes, also warmed my heart. Ultimately I am sucker for romance, so my investment in Dylan and Malic's HEA overcame my slight frustration over the use of m/f paranormal romance tropes. 

This is a very well written, very romantic story. While it is not a "keeper" for me I am very glad I read it.

Blurb: "Nineteen-year-old Dylan Shaw is possibly the most beautiful thing Malic Sunden has ever seen. After Malic rescues Dylan from an attack, Dylan makes it very clear that he is more than interested, but Malic won’t even consider sleeping with Dylan because of his age. Malic is sure he’s not good enough for Dylan, who has his whole life ahead of him, and can’t conceive of burdening Dylan with his secrets.

But the darkness in Malic’s life won’t be denied, and soon Dylan is drawn into the dangerous paranormal world that is Malic’s reality. Malic fights tooth and nail to push Dylan away, to keep him safe… no matter that Dylan is the key to Malic’s strength and the only hope for his future."

Tooth & Nail at Dreamspinner Press
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Skyscrapers #1: Code of Conduct by Reno MacLeod and Jaye Valentine

The title and setting conjure thoughts of cold glass and steel. Yet, this little story about sexcapades in corporate america is as hot as they come. Not surprisingly, Reno and Jaye weave a captivating and highly erotic web around a controversial subject. In their masterful hands, anything becomes plausible. Exciting characters and smooth writing make this a highly recommended erotic short that (in accordance with the author's tagline) is definitely "not for the faint of heart".

Blurb: "Skyscrapers. Tall, intimidating, a symbol of power to all who stand in the midst of their imposing shadows. Zane Garrison invokes these qualities from his lofty offices high above Crystal City near Washington, D.C.

Cody Walker is a brilliant but impetuous hacker and thief, and his live-in boyfriend, Ray Sharpe, is a former paramilitary operative. Both have settled into new careers as Information Security Officers for Zane Garrison. These two very different men share not only an intimate relationship with each other, but also a bond with Zane reaching above and beyond the call of duty.

As the founder and CEO of Garrison Tech International, Zane has learned the best way to maintain control of his enigmatic corporation is a balanced system of punishment and reward. Not everyone finds Zane's business pursuits or his methods appealing, forcing him to employ men he can fully trust as watchdogs of his company's information assets. To Zane's amusement and Cody's frequent delight, there are times the dogs need leashing, and the hand that feeds is all too willing to take control."

Skyscrapers #1: Code of Conduct

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Hidden Treasure by V.B. Kildare

This could have and should have been an excellent story, but it just didn't live up to its potential. I fell in love with the characters, which kept me reading when the pace of the story lagged and even towards the end when the characters actions seemed predictable and sometimes childish. There is just something about Kildare's tone and style that appealed to me at a very basic level.

The ending left me baffled. Either there will be more written about this characters or there needed to be a few more pages tacked to the end of this book. As it stands, it is an abrupt HFN ending with the "for now" being the very, very immediate future. Too many unanswered questions for my taste given the length of the book. I hope this means another story, because if that is the case, I would most certainly buy it and read it.

Blurb: "According to legend, five hundred years ago the country of Connmeera sent an exceptional gift to the country of Ormslea, but the ship was overtaken and the treasure lost. Now proof of the treasure has been found in the vast, daunting country of Jarvoct, and Connmeera and Ormslea mount a joint venture to recover the treasure. Ormslea sends Jaxom Archeron, the son of a noble family, an elite soldier known for his dedication to duty. But the Queen of Connmeera chooses Lord Dorian Pelias, a poor relation who could benefit even if the mission is unsuccessful.

While the two men at first have nothing in common, as they travel, Dorian’s intelligence, optimism, and kindness work their way past the wall of resolve Jaxom long ago constructed around his heart. When a Jarv prince attempts to enslave Dorian for his own purposes, Jaxom comes to his rescue, shaken by how much Dorian has come to mean to him. Recovering the treasure isn’t the only challenge they will face as they search for common ground and a life in disparate countries that may not be so pleased to welcome them home."

PS: I bought this book in print at Yaoi-con and I loove the cover.  So pretty!

Hidden Treasure at Dreamspinner Press
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Black Gold by Clancy Nacht and Thursday Euclid

The bottom line is that I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It has many of the elements that I love, such as impossibly beautiful rock stars, glam and punk fashion sensibilities, sweet romance and hot sex. The story hooked me from page one and kept me turning pages non-stop until the end. Given that this is not a short book, I give the authors high marks for entertainment value. Then again, I am one of those readers that can easily suspend disbelief and go along for the ride once invested on a couple's HEA.

That said, this book had a lot more potential than was actually realized. Probably the biggest issue I have with this story is the dialogue. Even for a diehard romantic like me, the dialogue was too frequent and often far too sweet to be believable. While the authors did a good job of keeping the characters actions in line with their personas, the words coming out of their mouth often didn't seem appropriate for the situation and the personalities. After a while, the lovey dovey declarations between Jett and Goldie started feeling excessive.

Another reason why everything felt overly sweet was the quick and painless resolution to all of Jett and Goldie's problems. There were plenty of opportunities to build a little tension in the story, but they all vanished quickly without much emotional impact. This was a missed opportunity for more "show" and less "tell", as a little more tension building would have enhanced the impact of the character's actions.

While I enjoyed the book's generous word count, this book would have greatly benefited from more aggressive editing. A shorter but more tightly written version of the story would have been more impactful. Based on my comments above, you can bet that I would have started by editing out some of the dialogue. ;)

All in all, m/m fans are likely to enjoy this book despite its flaws. (I did!) Readers who enjoy very romantic, low angst stories are likely to love it.

Blurb: "Billy "Goldie" Goldean is the biggest pop star in the world and he's harboring a terrible, career-killing secret: he's gay. Even with song titles such as "Astral Glider" and "Winking Brown Eye," few question Goldie's squeaky-clean teen heartthrob status. That is, until Jethro "Jett" Black, an infamous womanizer and underground punk icon, names him in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine as the celebrity he'd most like to fuck.

After Goldie and Jett hook up at an industry party, Goldie's management dumps him, Jett's exes come back to haunt them, and even Goldie's mother makes a public plea for him to come to his senses. Goldie wants to trust his untamed new lover but the pressures of fame may tear them apart."

Black Gold at Loose Id

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Blacque/Bleu by Belinda McBride

The first few pages of the story were a bit frustrating. I was starting to wonder if this was going to be another run-of-the-mill paranormal.  In fact, this book carries many of the common werewolf/vampire themes and runs the risk of being another "me too" story. However, the story is quickly redeemed by fantastic character development of both main characters and secondary characters. 

I thoroughly enjoyed even the barely introduced tertiary characters in this story. Bleu's nightime tour of the town was a nice way to bring this paranormal world to life. (The elementals sounded really cool!) Secondary characters such as the vampire April and Blacque's sister Dru are intriguing and clearly expected to have their own stories in future books. The relationship between characters, particularly Blacque and his father, Blacque and Dru and even the relationship between Bleu and April are carefully crafted and add depth to the story.

What ultimately drew me into the story and kept me turning pages was the author's exploration of the D/s dynamic between the main characters.  Blacque is an unlikely submissive.  Yet he can not deny his nature.  Bleu is somewhat of an unlikely dominant, definitely not your typical uber alpha vamp. His need to dominate is greatly tempered by his inherently good nature, making him a very gentle, loving dominant. It is this gentle dominance and its emotional impact that truly made a difference for me and made Blacque/Bleu a satisfying read.

Blurb: "Lukas Blacque is a deeply closeted werewolf, and almost more than anything in life, he desires his neighbor, Oliver Bleu. Oliver is a vampire who is slowly dying from insomnia. More than anything, he needs Lukas Blacque and the rich blood that flows through his veins.

On the day that Blacque makes an important commitment to his family and pack, he also succumbs to temptation and agrees to a passionate weekend with the alluring vampire. At sunset on Friday, it’s all about urgent lust and the drive to lose his virginity. When the sun rises on Monday, lust has shifted to love and devotion. He's not sure he can walk away, even for the commitment he's made. He's even less sure Bleu will let him go.

In Blacque’s world, vampires and werewolves make uneasy bedfellows, and a gay werewolf is an impossibility. In Bleu’s world, all living creatures are little more than vessels for food and sex. But in the mysterious and magical town of Arcada, the unexpected is always waiting right around the corner. Now Blacque and Bleu just need to survive long enough for Arcada’s magic to work for them."

PS:  If like me, you enjoy reading about characters with piercings and tattoos, you will love Blacque!

Blacque/Bleu at Loose Id
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Destiny Series by T.C. Blue

Just read this wonderful series of short stories by T.C. Blue.  I have a hard time thinking of them separately as I read all three back-to-back, but I'll give it a shot.

Destiny Drops In (Destiny #1): I am a sucker for traditional romance and there's something about a well written destiny/soulmates/love-at-first-sight story that resonates deeply with me. In the case of this engaging short, it didn't take long for me to empathize with Raj and believe in his connection with Andrew. When I turned the last page, I was very glad there were two more Destiny stories to read!

Destiny Goes Spare (Destiny #2): It was lovely to visit Drew and Raj again. Even lovelier to see how their relationship has evolved and grown stronger. The family conflict takes over a significant portion of the story, which makes this second installment in the series angstier than the first. Since I am quite the angst whore, that worked out well for me!

Destiny Takes a Holiday (Destiny #3): Destiny Takes a Holiday is a little snapshot of Raj and Drew's life.  The inherent trust and love displayed by Raj and Drew truly cements their HEA.  Andrew is just adorable! After reading this story, I had that "warm and fuzzy" feeling that leads me turn the last page at once sad to be done but satisfied that the characters have grown and reached their destination.  The vacation scenes add a nice dose of sexiness and spice to the story, and quickly reminded me why I love these two guys so much.

You can find this great series at Torquere Press:
Destiny #1
Destiny #2
Destiny #3