July 12th, 2012

Author Review: The Pirate’s Game by Heidi Cullinan

The Pirate’s Game by Heidi Cullinan
Series: The Etsey Series, Book 3
Publisher: Loose-Id
Genre: Fantasy, Erotic Romance, M/M, GLBT
Length: 246 pages

Summary:

As the love slave of the captain of the pirate ship The Merry Sue, Charles Perry, professional mess and reluctant god, is at last reunited with his lover Timothy—partly, at least. Somehow Timothy has become implanted in Captain James Gibbs’s mind, and for the right sexual favors, the pirate will grant Charles’s lover a few moments at the helm.

Three square meals a day, endless pirate fantasies played out in real time, and more Timothy than he’s seen in months. How can Charles complain?

Of course, trouble always manages to find its way home to Charles. The Pretender is still trying to kill him. His cousin is in a funk and shocks everyone with the reason why. But the most worrisome part is that Charles has realized he’d trade all his god powers and most of the world he made to have Timothy back with him for real—and he’s finally figured out how to do just that.

Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual situations, graphic language, and material that some readers may find objectionable: male/male sexual practices.

Barb Manning’s Review:

The Pirate’s Game is the third episode in Heidi Cullinan’s Etsey series. This chapter in the epic tale of Charles Perry and Timothy Fielding fills the pages with drama and love and heartache as the two try to resolve their fractured lives, which is not an easy task with time and space in an uproar and armies on the verge of battle.

There’s a desperation and urgency in the characters as they all struggle to come to some important point. James Gibbs, the Pirate Captain, moves onto the stage and The Pirate’s Game focuses on how he relates to Charles, Timothy, Jonathan and Elliean, the dual gender androghenie.

Charles, the Lord of Life is the bed slave of Gibbs, while his lover and the Lady, Timothy’s spirit, inhabits Gibbs body. This is a complex tale in which Ms. Cullinan manages to keep the details straight and the action moving. The Pirate’s Game tells the tale of a couple of seemingly all-powerful beings who cannot set themselves free from the turmoil they’ve made of their existence.

Other characters occupy the stage with Charles and Timothy. Jonathan and Madeline make changes in their relationship. Elliean, one of the good guys and Bassam, the prime villain in Temple Boy come to an understanding. Still the Lord and Lady remain at odds and this is the crux of The Pirate’s Game.

Heidi Cullinan is an excellent storyteller. In addition, her characters in the Etsey series are richly developed and the scenes are dramatic. There are three more books in the Etsey series and readers are in for a treat.

Rated 5 Ravens and a Recommended Read by Barb Manning!

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July 8th, 2012

Author Review: Gregory’s Rebellion by Lavinia Lewis

Gregory’s Rebellion by Lavinia Lewis
Series: Shifters’ Haven Series, Book 6
Publisher: Total-E-Bound Publishing
Genre: Paranormal, Erotic Romance, M/M, GLBT, Wereshifters
Length: 106 pages

Summary:

Book six in the Shifters’ Haven series

Leopard shifter Gregory is delighted to finally meet his mate, but why doesn’t the heavily scarred young jaguar shifter Hayden recognise their bond?

When supernatural council member Gregory is sent to Las Vegas to pick up a stray jaguar shifter, he thinks it will be an easy job. But upon his arrival, Gregory discovers that his quarry is his destined mate – a mate that doesn’t recognise their bond. Hayden has an angry looking scar running the length of his left cheek, but he won’t tell Gregory how he got it or why he hasn’t shifted into his cat form for the last two years. Something bad must have happened to him, but can Gregory convince his wary mate to confide in him?

To make matters worse, many council members’ mates have been murdered in recent months so Gregory is afraid to tell his employers that Hayden is his mate. Instead, he lies to the council – risking his job and his life – and takes Hayden to Texas where he’ll be able to protect him. But is Hayden as safe on the Crazy Horse ranch as he imagined?

Barb Manning’s Review:

Gregory’s Rebellion is part of Lavinia Lewis’ Shifter Haven series about a group of shifters living on the Crazy Horse cattle ranch outside of Wolf Creek. Gregory, a member of the supernatural council, finds himself sent on a mission to Las Vegas to retrieve Hayden, a young panther shifter living in isolation from his family and the rest of the shifter community.

While you can read this romance alone, background from previous stories in the series supply useful details regarding several of the plot motivations. The story deals primarily with the relationship between Gregory and Hayden and solving the mystery of why Hayden doesn’t recognize his connection to Gregory.

Both Gregory and Hayden are likable characters and their story is a good one. However, supernatural council fighting occasionally sidetracks the budding relationship between these two cat shifters. Gregory spends much of his time trying to figure out who’s behind the supernatural council mate murders, while Hayden is trying to fit into to his new life in Wolf Creek. The two are in for a bumpy ride, which Ms. Lewis handles with an entertaining hand.

The writing in Gregory’s Rebellion is spare and light, which makes the book an easy read. The sex scenes have heat and energy. There are some spicy exchanges between Gregory and Hayden, as well as some bedroom appearances by characters from other stories in the series.

Gregory’s Rebellion gets 3.5 Ravens mainly because of a lack of detail regarding Wolf Creek and its citizenry. How did all of these shifters come to be living in the wilds of Wolf Creek? And what about the supernatural council? How do they seem to know what’s going on in the entire shifter community, including a lone panther in Las Vegas? Despite these questions, I enjoyed Gregory’s Rebellion.

Rated 3.5 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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June 25th, 2012

Author Review: John’s Match by Viki Lyn

John’s Match by Viki Lyn
Series: Woodland Village, Book Three
Publisher: Musa Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 135 pages

John's Match (Cover)

Summary:

John Kramer discovers two guys humping on the hood of his Ferrari in the parking lot of the local gay bar. When he finds one of the pair alone and in a drunken stupor, John drives him home. To his surprise, the young man’s father is his new next door neighbor, Scott Marwick. Tempers flare when Scott accuses John of getting his son inebriated and taking advantage of him. John plans to never see the man again.

Then John’s boss flips out when he finds out the jerk next door is Scott Marwick, a temperamental, but famous fantasy writer. The elusive author could save their company from financial ruin if they can get him to sign over his characters for a computer game. Ryan insists John befriend Scott, show him around the Village and get him to agree to a meeting.

The last thing Scott needs is friends. He moved to Woodland Village to forget about the past and to write. Since his partner’s death three years ago, he hasn’t written one word, and his agent, publisher, and fans are clamoring for the final book of his award-winning series. His life is spiraling out of control and he doesn’t know if he can finish his series. He doesn’t need the complication of love and he certainly wouldn’t associate his name with a computer game.

But when John’s life begins to fall apart, Scott must decide where his loyalties lie — with John or his principles.

Barb Manning’s Review:

John’s Match is book three in Viki Lyn’s Woodland Village trilogy. The novel focuses on the romance between John Kramer and Scott Marwick, two guys who could not be more different from each other. John is the money man for a small, but rising gaming company, while Scott is a writer with a popular fantasy novel series.

John and Scott meet in the worst possible manner over the inebriated body of Scott’s son, Rob. Sparks and accusations fly immediately. Scott thinks John is taking advantage of his young son, while John is certain he wants nothing to do with his jerk of a neighbor. The drama is off to a good start from that point. Ms. Lyn writes some entertaining scenes between these two different but attractive men.

John and Scott are both strong men with clear ideals and opinions. There’s chemistry between them and some real passion and warmth. Both men have some emotional baggage from their past that they need to put behind them to have a future together. They each try to deal with their problems in an honest way that made them endearing.

Reading John’s Match made me curious to read the two previous books in the series. I’d like to know more about the other gay couples in John’s Match — Ryan Adams and Martin Pierson, as well as Drew Adams and Skye Taylor. I’m definitely going to check out the other books in the series.

Rated 4 Ravens by Barb Manning

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June 6th, 2012

Author Review: Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov

Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 79 pages

Summary:

Owen may be a bit of a country mouse, but he’s loving his vacation in London. After a long day playing tourist, he’s on the hunt for some cheap beer and a good burger. Instead he finds a man hunting him, an arrogant prick with only one thing on the brain: the kind of meat that doesn’t come on a bun.

Eighty-hour weeks at a trading desk don’t leave Malcolm Kavanagh much time for meaningful relationships. Besides, in his world, everything’s a competition—even sex. When his newest one-night-sub fails to show, Malcolm sets his sights on the pretty young Yank on the bar stool beside him.

Owen’s all for an adventure with a native, but he’s not the pushover Malcolm thinks he is, and Malcolm’s not as shallow as he tries to be. They both soon learn that nothing’s too intimate to share with a stranger, and the strangest things happen when two people share the most important pieces of their hearts.

Barb Manning’s Review:

Country Mouse by Amy Lane and Aleksandr Voinov is a delightful tale of a romantic romp that takes place in London. Two dashing young men, British Malcolm Kavanaugh and American Owen Watson meet in a rather seedy bar and begin a weekend adventure that could turn into something special if both men are open to trusting each other.

Owen’s on holiday with a former girlfriend and he’s looking for a good beer and maybe a hookup with a nice guy. While Malcolm is looking for a quick and submissive lay to replace the one stranded in the Tube. Both men are in for a surprise.

Amy Lane is a good writer with strong characters and teaming up with Aleksandr Voinov is no mistake. Country Mouse works well. Mr. Voinov and Ms. Lane create great characters and the plotting is well-crafted and smooth. There are some moments of emotional angst, but humor tempers them. Country Mouse is written with a light-hearted touch. The tone of the story is similar to Super Sock Man by Ms. Lane where the characters have personal problems but the pain and drama of those problems don’t color their entire lives.

Country Mouse is a good collaboration between two strong writers. I very much enjoyed watching Malcolm, the Dom wannabe try and out-maneuver Owen, who’s definitely not training to be a sub. They are a well-matched couple and that’s a good thing, since much of Country Mouse focuses on their interactions with each other. This is definitely going to get a second read.

Rated 4.5 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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May 27th, 2012

Author Review: Too Hot To Handle by L.C. Dean

Too Hot to Handle by L.C. Dean
Publisher: Decadent Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 26 pages

Summary:

Why the hell do I torture myself? Sitting in the sun and hiding a hard-on from his best friend is not Tucker’s idea of fun. He’d rather drink beer and fantasize than destroy what he and Jase have.

A good fuck between friends, what the hell’s wrong with that? Heat and lust make a man do crazy shit, but Jase intends to prove he and Tuck can be lovers and friends.

When desire flares under the Texas summer sun, will it burn too hot to handle.

Barb Manning’s Review:

Too Hot to Handle is a short story, less than 30 pages, by L.C. Dean about two young friends who find themselves spending time alone together during a very hot spell in Texas. Tuck is gay, while Jase is not sure. The story focuses on one afternoon and evening when their relationship could change for better or worse.

L.C. Dean turns out a passionate and steamy interlude with plenty of drama. Jase is the brawn, while Tuck is the nerdy geek. The two characters are well-matched and clearly care about each other. This is a couple of guys you wouldn’t mind getting to know better. The build up to the story conclusion is not without surprises and not rushed.

Too Hot to Handle is well-written with attention to detail. It would be nice to see what, if anything, develops between Jase and Tuck in the future. Too Hot to Handle is short and worthy of 4 ravens. Some short stories end up shortchanging the plot or the character development. Too Hot to Handle does neither; it’s an entertaining and fun read.

Rated 4 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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May 24th, 2012

Author Review: Nate’s Deputy by Lavinia Lewis

Nate’s Deputy by Lavinia Lewis
Series: Shifters’ Haven, Book #5
Publisher: Total E-Bound Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Paranormal, Erotic Romance
Length: 128 pages

Summary:

Werewolf Nate Stanford is riddled with guilt over his brother Rick’s death…so much so that when he meets his mate—Deputy Sheriff Jared Ambrose—he rejects him, believing he is not good enough for Jared and not worthy of being loved. The only thing that matters to him is buying his childhood home in honor of his brother’s memory.

Since their father died, Jared Ambrose has taken on responsibility for his younger brother, whose drinking binges are constantly getting him into trouble. Jared’s only hope of saving his brother is finding them a place they can call home. Jared wants to make Sheriff, but believes he’ll never be elected if the residents of his new town find out he is gay. When he realizes Nate is his mate, he knows it’s not possible for them to be together.

But trouble in their small town and unrest in the supernatural council force them together and make them question their decisions. Can these two stubborn men conquer their demons and overcome all obstacles to carve out a life together?

Barb Manning’s Review:

Nate’s Deputy is the fifth book in Lavinia Lewis’ Shifters’ Haven series. It’s a standalone story about two strong-willed gay werewolf shifters, Nate Stanford and Deputy Jared Ambrose. Nate’s Deputy focuses on life in the small town of Wolf Creek, New Mexico and the activities of its denizens.

Jared is looking to find a home for him and his troubled younger brother, Tristan; while Nate’s want to restore the home his deceased brother Rick lost. At the same time these two stubborn young men work to gain a home, they must deal with the shady activities going on in Wolf Creek involving the Supernatural Council. They also need to cope with an attraction so passionate it threatens to overcome all the other obstacles in their lives.

Lavinia Lewis writes some steamy scenes between Jared and Nate, as well as other key characters in Nate’s Deputy, including Aaron and Cary from other Shifters’ Haven stories. Ms. Lewis has a strong voice and her characters are sympathetic and compelling. Jared’s relationship with Tristan is tender and caring. Nate’s grief over the death of his little brother is touching, as are the scenes with Cary and Aaron.

Nate’s Deputy moves at a fast clip; the action almost never stops. On occasion, this shortchanges the depth of the story. There are also some minor technical and grammatical problems with Nate’s Deputy that are not present in other installments of Shifters’ Haven. Nevertheless, Nate’s Deputy is a fun read worth 3.5 Ravens. Shifters’ Haven is a nice series with some interesting characters worth getting to know.

Rated 3.5 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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May 15th, 2012

Author Review: Solitary, a Hammer novel by Sean Michael

Solitary, a Hammer novel by Sean Michael
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: GLBT, M/M, BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 174 pages

Summary:

Greg’s on a downward spiral. He broke his back a few years into a promising stunt career, then his master died shortly after they began living a BDSM lifestyle together. He’s just lost. So lost, that he can’t keep a Master for more than two weeks. So lost that he’s been arrested several times and is this close to winding up in jail. So lost that Master Oliver doesn’t know what to do with him anymore.

In desperation, Oliver calls on his friend Appleton who lives in isolation in Northern Canada. Ap enjoys working with subs, and has both the time and the inclination to work with a lost soul like Greg. Not to mention, there’s no way to get into legal trouble or run away from Ap’s house given its location. So, Ap takes Greg in, hoping to help Greg find his center and himself again.

Will Greg find what he needs with Ap? Or will he find so much more? Find out in this latest addition to Sean Michael’s Hammer Club series.

Barb Manning’s Review:

Solitary: A Hammer Novel by Sean Michael is a sweet novel that’s part of the long-running Hammer BDSM series. The main characters Greg and Ap are immediately sympathetic and engaging. Solitary deals with the development of Ap and Greg’s relationship as Dom and sub.

Greg comes to Ap with some serious emotional baggage. A fractured and beaten-down spirit leaves him unable to keep a Dom for more than a couple of weeks. Greg is very high maintenance, demanding a great deal of attention. Ap, on the other hand, is a self-sufficient individual comfortable with his solitary existence out in the middle of the wilds of Northern Canada.

Mr. Michael brings these two disparate characters together with warmth and depth. Greg’s fragility is clear, but so is Ap’s strength. Both characters are well-drawn with distinct features and flaws. Mr. Michael focuses more on the control aspect of the BDSM life-style in revealing Ap and Greg’s story.

Oliver and Jack, owners of the Hammer Club, make brief appearances in Solitary to move the story along at strategic points as Greg and Ap get to know each other on Ap’s tree farm. Greg learns to deal with the loss of his former Dom, Tim, and he develops new strength under Ap’s peace-giving touch.

The Hammer Club series is a great collection of stories and Solitary is a fine addition. Ap and Greg’s story is worth 4 Ravens for the skill of writing and the passion of the characters.

Rated 4 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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May 14th, 2012

Author Review: Shibari Auction House: Alec by Sean Michael

Shibari Auction House: Alec by Sean Michael
Publisher: Changeling Press
Genre: GLBT, M/M, BDSM, Contemporary, Erotic romance
Length: 54 pages

Summary:

Experienced sub Alec is back at the Shibari Auction House to sell two more years of his time after his master of ten years turns him in for a “newer model.” Novice Top Benj can’t believe anyone would throw the lovely Alec away or complain that he’s too old and snaps Alec up for twice the asking price.

Could it be both men are looking for more than a sale and some fun, and is it possible they’ll find it together?

Barb Manning’s Review :

Shibari Auction House: Alec is the second installment in Sean Michael’s Shibari Auction House BDSM series. It’s a short story that focuses mainly upon the two main characters Benj, the new Dom and Alec, an experienced sub. The two young men meet during an auction at Shibari House. Alec is selling his services for two years and Benj is looking for a new sub.

This Dom/sub pair has some problems to overcome from the outset. Alec, while an experienced sub, is unsure of himself after his former Master rejected him. On the other hand, Benj is not an experienced Dom. The two have good chemistry, though. There’s an immediate attraction. Mr. Michael builds the sexual tension between the pair with skill. This is a brief story, but it’s not an unfinished story. By the end of Shibari Auction House: Alec, it’s clear where these two men are going in their relationship.

Sean Michael is light-handed with the BDSM life-style. Much of Shibari Auction House: Alec focuses on the two main characters getting to know each other, discovering their sexual likes and dislikes. This second story in the Shibari Auction House series continues in the same vein as the first with the emphasis on the main Dom and sub. The auction house loosely connects the two stories. It might be interesting to know more about the Shibari House. For instance, who owns the house? What goes on there when an auction isn’t underway?

Shibari Auction House: Alec is worth 3.5 Ravens. It falls a little short of the bar set by Shibari Auction House: Jack, but it’s well worth the read.

Rated 3.5 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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May 4th, 2012

Author Review: Artistic Pursuits by Andrew Grey

Artistic Pursuits by Andrew Grey
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 200 pages

Summary:

Frank Jennings is an FBI agent looking for redemption. Leslie Carlton is an Interpol agent looking for a thief. Attraction flares from the moment they meet on a case searching for a stolen triptych of unique Tiffany windows, but after a single night of stunning passion, Leslie is called back to London to continue his search there.

When the case heats up again, Leslie returns to the States—and to Frank—but their investigation is complicated by their tumultuous feelings. Is it possible for two dedicated detectives to pursue each other while they’re tracking down stolen art and the unscrupulous man who steals it?

Barb Manning’s Review:

Andrew Grey’s Artistic Pursuits is a gay romance between FBI Detective Frank Jennings and Interpol Agent Leslie Carlton. The two men come together in the aftermath of a high stakes art theft of three fabulous Tiffany windows. Their attraction is powerful and immediate. While they’re chasing down leads and rounding up suspects, Frank and Les find themselves dealing with strong and unprofessional feelings for one another.

Andrew Grey weaves a taught tale; managing to keep the heist front and center of Artistic Pursuits while never losing focus on the budding relationship between Frank and Les. He deals with the mechanics of working on high-profile crimes, as well as the politics involved with much skill. The pacing in Artistic Pursuits is fast, but smooth.

Frank and Les move on the stage with purpose, both demonstrating skill as investigators pursuing their nemesis. It’s entertaining to watch them plot strategy over the case and maneuver through the pitfalls of a new romance.

Artistic Pursuits is part of a series, but it stands alone with rich characterization. Andrew Grey is a good storyteller and Artistic Pursuits is a good story. The scenes between Frank and Les are genuine, as well as the interchanges between Frank and his co-workers. This is definitely worth 4 ravens.

Rated 4 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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May 4th, 2012

Author Review: Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: GLBT, Contemporary, M/M, Erotic Romance
Length: 320 pages

Summary:

Chase Summers: Golden boy. Beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a promising future. Nobody knows the real Chase.

Chase Summers has a razor blade to his wrist and the smell of his lover’s goodbye clinging to his skin. He has a door in his heart so frightening he’d rather die than open it, and the lies he’s used to block it shut are thinning with every forbidden touch. Chase has spent his entire life unraveling, and his decision to set his sexuality free in secret has only torn his mind apart faster.

Chase has one chance for true love and salvation. He may have met Tommy Halloran in the world of gay-for-pay—where the number of lovers doesn’t matter as long as the come-shot’s good—but if he wants the healing that Tommy’s love has to offer, he’ll need the courage to leave the shadows for the sunlight. That may be too much to ask from a man who’s spent his entire life hiding his true self. Chase knows all too well that the only things thriving in a heart’s darkness are the bitter personal demons that love to watch us bleed.

Barb Manning’s Review:

Amy Lane’s Chase in Shadow is a poignant and painful romance between Chase Summers, a young engineer-in-training and Tommy Halloren, a veterinarian wannabe. Both young men carry some serious emotional baggage that they need deal with if they want a future together, if they are even going to have a future.

At the same time Chase and Tommy are working through their emotional angst, they also need to handle their gay-for-pay side jobs. They’re having sex with multiple partners disconnected from any real emotions.

Chase has a life built upon a scaffolding of lies and half-truths. He reaches out to Tommy in a move that could save him, if only he’s willing to face the fallacies in his life. Tommy, on the other hand, has some serious body image issues he has to overcome.

Ms. Lane is a master at creating strong, but flawed characters. She paints emotional scenes that make lasting impressions. Her books are always rich with characters who step from the page and tell their story. Ms. Lane does not fumble with the awkward moments even when they’re uncomfortable to witness.

Chase in Shadow is no exception. Chase has some very painful experiences in his young life. Even so, he’s barely of legal, and already he has a successful girlfriend and is saving for a house in the suburbs. He’s planning for the future, but is it the one he really wants. Chase in Shadow asks some serious questions about family and friendships, love and hate, lies and truth. Chase and Tommy are two young men very much worth getting to know.

Rated 4.5 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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April 2nd, 2012

Author Review: A Tryst of Fate by H.C. Brown

A Tryst of Fate by H.C. Brown
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Historical, Erotic Romance
Length: 171 pages

Summary:

After inheriting a Georgian house in Berkley Square, London, Colt Daniels, millionaire art dealer, finds himself obsessed by a portrait of the home’s former owner, Lord Alexander Swift.

During a conversation with author, Jake Williams, Colt discovers Lord Swift and his cousin had mysteriously disappeared from the cellar one evening, shortly after Alexander’s illicit affair with the rogue, David Fitzhugh. Jake reveals Colt bears a remarkable resemblance to Fitzhugh.

Colt decides to investigate Alexander’s strange disappearance and ventures into his cellar late one night to look for a secret passageway. When his flashlight fails, Colt finds himself transported back in time to 1775 and there he comes face to face with the man of his dreams — Lord Alexander Swift.

Barb Manning’s Review:

A Tryst of Fate is a gay romance novel by H. C. Brown that involves time travel. Millionaire art dealer Colt Daniels finds himself transported back to 1775. He explores the cellar of his newly restored London home after purchasing the portrait of Lord Alexander Swift, a man he’s been fascinated by since he inherited his home.

Both Colt and Alexander are engaging characters and much of the action of the novel focuses on the two of them. Alexander is a lonely man suffering under the oppressive anti-sodomite sentiments of the time, while Colt is a free and openly gay man of the 21st century with the money and power to get what he wants.

In A Tryst of Fate, H.C. Brown writes an entertaining time travel story with glimpses into the difficulties of a modern man trying to live in the 1700’s, as well as the obvious hurdles faced by a man from 1775 trying to fit into the modern world. However, H.C. Brown rushes the romance between Colt and Alexander somewhat. They barely know each other before they are falling into bed. A little more build up in their relationship could have made the story much richer.

Nevertheless, the scenes between the two are passion-filled and on occasion touching and sometimes humorous.

Rated 3.5 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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March 15th, 2012

Author Review: A Journey of the Heart by Rick R. Reed

A Journey of the Heart by Rick R. ReedA Journey of the Heart by Rick R. Reed
Publisher: MLR Press
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 14 pages

A Journey of the Heart by Rick R. Reed

Summary:

Take a journey back to that magical moment in time when two lovers first meet. In this case, it’s on board a train bound for England’s seaside community, Brighton. There, our narrator and his soon-to-be-true-love meet for the first time and what follows is an encounter so erotic and romantic that it has to be destined for a lifetime. They may have been strangers on a train when they boarded, but that all changes with just a meeting of the eyes, igniting a spark leading to a lifelong connection.

Barb Manning’s Review:

A Journey of the Heart by Rick R. Reed is a surprising short story that takes a brief, but poignant glimpse into the lives of two young men taking a journey on a train. A Journey of the Heart exposes that first magic of two strangers physically attracted to each other almost from first sight.

Love at first glimpses may be clichéd, but Mr. Reed makes it work. From the opening scenes, it’s clear that the two young lovers, Jim and the unnamed protagonist are very much in love. The plot only deals with two train rides ten years apart, but it manages to encapsulate lust, passion and the loving comfort they share.

A Journey of the Heart is a very short story and the ending may disappoint some, but the story is a good one. Rick Reed is a fine writer and pens scenes of tight-clench passion with much skill. He invests a lifetime of experience into two brief train rides: one in England and the other in New England. A Journey of the Heart is a touching tale that garners 3 Ravens.

Rated 3 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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February 19th, 2012

Author Review: Cinder by Marie Sexton

Cinder by Marie SextonCinder by Marie Sexton
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Fantasy Romance
Length: 133 pages

Cinder by Marie SextonSummary:

A CinderFella story–it’s all fun and games until somebody loses a shoe…

Eldon Cinder would give anything to see Prince Xavier one last time, but only women are invited to the royal ball. When the local witch offers to make Eldon female for just one night, he agrees.

One spell. One night. One dance.

What could possibly go wrong?

Barb Manning’s Review:

Cinder by Marie Sexton recounts a childhood fairy tale with a twist. Eldon Cinder has the role of the harried young Cinderella, while Xavier is the Prince desperately in search of a bride. The two young men find themselves caught in a dilemma: the Prince must marry or become a pauper.

How Ms. Sexton works out the challenges of this story that everyone knows is entertaining. The story has all the elements expected in a Cinderella tale, namely a stepmother and stepsisters, witchery and magic, as well as new elements to make the story fresh.

There’s no sex between Eldon and Xavier, but there is chemistry and a great hulking dog named Milton. Cinder is a fresh look at an old tale handled with much skill and romance. It’s worthy of 4 Ravens for its creativity and sweetness. Cinder is a real charmer.

Rated 4 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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February 16th, 2012

Author Review: A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan

A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Genre: Gay, M/M, Historical Romance
Length: Novel

Summary:

To seal their bond, they must break the ties that bind.

Painfully introverted and rendered nearly mute by a heavy stammer, Lord George Albert Westin rarely ventures any farther than the club or his beloved gardens. When he hears rumors of an exotic new orchid sighted at a local hobbyist’s house, though, he girds himself with opiates and determination to attend a house party, hoping to sneak a peek.

He finds the orchid, yes…but he finds something else even more rare and exquisite: Michael Vallant. Professional sodomite.

Michael climbed out of an adolescent hell as a courtesan’s bastard to become successful and independent-minded, seeing men on his own terms, protected by a powerful friend. He is master of his own world—until Wes. Not only because, for once, the sex is for pleasure and not for profit. They are joined by tendrils of a shameful, unspoken history. The closer his shy, poppy-addicted lover lures him to the light of love, the harder his past works to drag him back into the dark.

There’s only one way out of this tangle. Help Wes face the fears that cripple him—right after Michael finds the courage to reveal the devastating truth that binds them.


Product Warnings

Contains wounded heroes, bibliophilic tendencies, orchid obsessions, a right bastard of a marquis, and gay men who get happily-ever-afters.

Barb Manning’s Review:

A Private Gentleman by Heidi Cullinan is at its core the love story of Lord George Albert Westin and Michael Vallant. It’s a tale of failure and redemption in families, friendships and society.  Ms. Cullinan paints a vivid tapestry of passion and pain, of love gone down to the depths of hell and reclaimed at great costs.

Heidi Cullinan is not a gentle writer. She can draw beautiful imagery, such as her descriptions of Wes’ orchids and Michael’s books. However, her power as a writer is in her depiction of emotional trauma. As she explores the contours of Wes’ addiction to opium, Ms. Cullinan delivers some gut-wrenching scenes; likewise, with the recounting of Michael’s early life with his courtesan mother.

While Ms. Cullinan is hyper-focused on the romance between Wes and Michael, she peoples A Private Gentleman with characters who step onto the stage with their own powerful history. Her secondary characters are not mere stand-ins or tools to move the tale. They have their own stories to tell.

Penelope and Rodger are just two of the secondary characters who demand attention on Heidi Cullinan’s stage. On the surface, it appears that Penelope, the crusader, stands at one end of the social spectrum while Rodger, the brothel owner, stands at the other end, but neither character is so clear cut, both are good and bad.

A Private Gentleman is a great read! Ms. Cullinan’s Wes and Michael make you root for them. You want them to win through the pain and trauma of their lives because they deserve to win. There should be 10 stars just for this book. A Private Gentleman is definitely a keeper.

Rated 5 Ravens and a Recommended Read by Barb Manning!

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February 2nd, 2012

Author Review: The Gallows Tree by RJ Scott

The Gallows Tree coverThe Gallows Tree by RJ Scott
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Length: 232 pages

The Gallows tree coverSummary:

Cody Garret is only just finding his way after an abusive relationship ended with his ex in prison. Coming to England to restore Mill Cottage is his way of running so he has time to heal. His goal is simple—hire a company to help make the mill cottage saleable then go back to the States.

What he doesn’t count on is meeting Sebastian Toulson-Brown, the brother of his contractor and the man who may be able to show him he can stop running.

But first Cody and Sebastian must deal with the ghosts of lost loves and the destinies that are woven into the story of the mill and the sycamore trees that stand on its land, one of which might be the gallows tree.

Barb Manning’s Review:

The Gallows Tree by RJ Scott is a tale of recovering from abusive physical and emotional trauma. Cody is running from an extremely abusive lover and he’s been running for the past six years. Coming to England to restore Mill Cottage is just an opportunity to get farther away from his pain.

When Cody meets Sebastian Toulson-Brown, the youngest brother of his contractor, all his plans go awry. He and Sebastian find themselves embarked on discovering just what happened to two hapless young lovers lost centuries ago. During the process of finding the truth and settling old hurts, Cody and Seb develop a passionate, but gentle and tender relationship.

Some of RJ Scott’s scenes in The Gallows Tree are touching while others are heart-breaking in their pain and pathos. Ms. Scott’s descriptions of the environs of Mill Cottage are very real. You can almost hear the sounds of crunching fresh powder snow as Cody and Seb trudge across the fields. Likewise, the intimate moments shared by Cody and Seb are sweet in the care they take of each other’s feelings.

The Gallows Tree is a story about finding the strength and courage to stop running and facing your fears. The quality of the writing and love story is a sweet tale you’ll definitely enjoy.

Rated 4 Ravens by Barb Maning!

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January 17th, 2012

Author Review: Jesse’s Christmas by RJ Scott

Jesse’s Christmas by RJ Scott
Publisher: Silver Publishing
Genre: GLBT, M/M, Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Holiday
Length: 82 pages

Jesse's Christmas by RJ Scott

Summary:

For Jesse Connor, Christmas is nothing but a series of bad memories. It takes a man imbued with the spirit of Christmas to help him realize that the Christmas spirit lies in everyone–if they only know where to look.

Barb Manning’s Review:

RJ Scott has a sweet little story in Jesse’s Christmas, a holiday treat about a talented photographer with the attitude of Grinch regarding all things Christmas. On assignment from his editor, Jesse is in charming, remote Eden Vale to take some Christmas photos for a client’s online magazine.

Almost immediately, Jesse is knee-deep in Christmas with picture-perfect landscapes and the delightful young Gabriel McClurey, the son of Eden Vale’s innkeeper. RJ Scott paints a clear image of Jesse as a man packing a great deal of baggage from a broken relationship. Ms. Scott writes poetic descriptions of Eden Vale as the little hamlet goes through it’s annual celebrations of the holidays.

It’s impossible not to smile while reading this tale of lost and found love, as Jesse and Gabriel struggle (all too briefly) to develop a relationship in a situation that could ultimately be temporary. After all, Jesse is on an assignment for Christmas.

The only shortcoming in Jesse’s Christmas is the brevity of the story. For a small town boy, Gabriel is a little too quick to get involved with Jesse. Still, the writing is good; the flow of the story fine in Jesse’s Christmas by RJ Scott .

Rated 3 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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January 11th, 2012

Author Review: A-Hunting We Will Go by Kate Roman

A-Hunting We Will Go by Kate Roman
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, M/M, GLBT
Length: 28 Pages

Summary:

The Honourable Philip Huntingdon is due to inherit a comfortable country estate, and what should have been a comfortable fortune. But Philip’s dissolute guardian has squandered the inheritance, and is now determined Philip must marry a rich heiress as soon as possible. Philip’s own preference runs instead to his boyhood friend Fergus, a groom on the estate. When a foxhunting accident brings things to a head Philip must decide: his home, and the life he was born to, or an unknown future with the man he loves?

Barb Manning’s Review:

A-Hunting We Will Go by Kate Roman is a Torquere Press Sip short story set in what appears to be 19th century England. A-Hunting We Will Go relates the story of nobleman Philip Huntingdon and Fergus, a young groom on his family’s estate.

Kate Roman weaves a tale of dissolution among the nobility and the courage of two young men determined to develop a life for themselves. The plot line focuses on the events surrounding a foxhunting accident and how Philip and his guardian, Sir John deal with the situation. There are some passionate sexual exchanges between Philip and Fergus, as well as some violent confrontations between Philip and his guardian.

Ms. Roman resolves the problem of Sir John’s dissolution and Philip’s sexuality in an interesting and unusual way. A-Hunting We Will Go is a nice little Sip of 28 pages that is worthy of 3.5 stars due the caliber of Ms. Roman’s writing. Her stories are always enjoyable.

Rated 3 1/2 Ravens by Barb Manning!

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