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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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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Author Review: Mirror Image by Cherie Crystal

Mirror Image by Cherie Crystal
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: F/F, LGBT, Contemporary, Erotic Romance
Length: 41 pages

Summary:

Jaylyn Dayley, professional stuntwoman, isn’t afraid of anything. Except commitment. She can tuck and roll, crash and burn, and walk away unscathed, but can she survive the searing heat of her attraction for the lovely Monika Morning during her stint as the actress’ stunt double?

Tarsilla’s Review:

Mirror Image is not only an exciting read, but it is also one of the most unique stories I’ve read. I lost myself in its authentic British setting, and I thought Ms. Crystal did a wonderful job in creating idiosyncratic characters through a realistic and dynamic dialogue.

The plot is exceptional in its own way, and I was primarily drawn by the story surrounding Jaylyn. I had some reservations about Jaylyn being attracted to Monika because, in order for the mechanics of the story to work, they have to be almost identical physically. The idea of someone getting romantically involved with another who looks almost exactly like them was bothering me. However, Ms. Crystal did a good job differentiating the two women, even on a physical level. Furthermore, I really liked that she kept subtly accentuating their differences and bringing their clashing personalities (and nationalities) to the forefront.

Jaylyn, the main character, is very captivating. I love that this story is in first-person since it allowed me to be really attuned with this character. Mirror Image is very complex and emotional, and because of that I truly felt connected to Jaylyn and engaged with her emotions. Monika’s character was a little harder to get a sense of. She was sort of unapproachable in the beginning, and the reader keenly feels that distance since Jaylyn herself emphasizes that point. Then, all of a sudden, there’s this unexplained camaraderie between the two women. While the idea that they have an instant and effortless connection is the point of the story, I still would have appreciated a little more build-up in their relationship. Also, Monika’s behavior is a bit erratic, and while that’s not necessarily a problem, I would have liked to see a clearer reason behind her inconsistency.

Basically, I wanted a deeper connection with Monika’s character. Her romance with Jaylyn was lively and their antics really brought the story to life. But, I wasn’t quite convinced of Monika’s feelings. It was much easier to trust Jaylyn’s feelings instead. The resolution also happened too fast, which heavily contrasted with the slow pace of the beginning. Issues like the conflict with Josh, the director, were too easily resolved. I wasn’t too emotionally invested towards the end because, before I could grasp the meaning of what had happened, the story was already coming to an end.

Still, Mirror Image is truly an entertaining one-of-a-kind read. The international setting, combined with this unconventional couple and this fascinating narrator, all work together to create a real, sexy romantic story. I was sad to see it end so quickly. I’ll definitely keep my eye open and hope for a sequel.

Rated 4 Ravens by Tarsilla!

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Author Review: Under the Skin by Nicki Bennett & Ariel Tachna

Under the Skin by Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: M/M, GLBT, Erotic, Mystery/Suspense, Contemporary, Romance
Length: 200 pages

Summary:

Police detective Patrick Flaherty has no illusions about Russian mobster Alexei Boczar, but that doesn’t stop his fascination with the bodyguard to one of the most ruthless families in Chicago’s growing Eastern European crime community. From the moment Patrick meets Alexei’s eyes over the body of another Russian mobster, Alexei is a thorn in Patrick’s side, refusing to cooperate with the police and turning all of Patrick’s questions back on him. Alexei’s hard-as-nails persona whets Patrick’s professional determination to get the information he’s sure the gangster is hiding, while personally Patrick just wants to get his hands on Alexei’s hard body.

The tattoos marking Alexei’s skin tell the story of his criminal past, but the more Patrick learns about Alexei, the more he wants to know, until he finds himself over his head in a relationship that might cost him his job and could well cost Alexei his life. Alexei is equally fascinated by Patrick’s willingness to overlook his past and even his present associations, but he has secrets of his own that could drive a wedge between them forever.

Layne’s Review:

It took a minute to get used to the whiplash head hopping in Under The Skin, but once I did, I loved it. Authors Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna gives a great ‘Good guy cop, bad tattooed guy’ story, complete with intense love scenes and great chemistry.

That’s just the first chapter.

I loved Patrick first, because he’s the easiest to figure out, to understand. He’s a cop, doing his job the best way he can to clean up Chicago from the Russian mafia, but he’s also drawn to one of those men immersed deeply in the criminal underworld.

Great dialog and flawed characters. Nicki Bennett and Ariel Tachna deliver with intense, leap-off-the-pages sex. I enjoyed it, devoured it really. The plot was well written, conflicts heart-wrenching and seemingly insurmountable. I liked that I couldn’t pin down Alexei until almost the very end. He could be good and soft when he’s with Patrick, but he is a member of the Russian mafia. That in itself made him a very bad person.

These two men were strong willed and very passionate. I found myself anticipating their scenes together. Their tangible need for each other was pure palpable heat. The sex wasn’t too much, but I’ve always preferred a good sex to story ratio. Ms. Bennett and Ms. Tachna deliver exactly what I like in Under The Skin. The end was so sweet, so satisfying; it brought a big smile to my face.

The two strong men from Under The Skin stayed with me long after I’d finished reading and that, I think, is the biggest impact. I’ll be reading this story again and again.

Rated 4 1/2 Ravens by Layne!

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Author Review: Packing Leather by Kim Dare

Packing Leather by Kim Dare
Sea, Sun and Submissions Series Book 1
Publisher: Resplendence Publishing
Genre: M/M, BDSM, Erotic, Contemporary, Romance
Length: Novella

Summary:

Sun, Sea and Submission Series, Book 1

When Darren wins a trip for two to an exclusive holiday resort and invites his work buddy Jamie to share it with him, they are the only two men in the office who know they won’t be enjoying a typical lads weekend away.

Neither of them has any intention of chasing after girls—or even chasing after any guys other than each other. After months of subtle flirtation, Darren and Jamie are finally ready to do a hell of a lot more than stare longingly across the office.

They both know they’re going to get laid, have a laugh and maybe even fall in lust. But neither realizes the weekend has other surprises in store for them—perhaps lust won’t be the only thing they fall in. Especially when one of them realizes that the other man doesn’t just have swimming trunks in his weekend bag—he’s packing leather.

Lea’s Review:

Packing Leather is, at its core, a story of longing and fulfillment. The plot is the journey from the one extreme to the other. In this first story of Kim Dare’s Sun, Sea and Submission Series, we are presented with two men, having worked together platonically for some length of time, deciding to take a holiday to a gay resort. Each has great hopes for what the other man might be interested in pursuing on this vacation, but neither is at all sure what will actually work out.

Like most really good authors, Kim Dare writes stories with layers to be explored and examined. In Packing Leather the interaction between the main characters can be taken at face value, and the story is a fun male/male romance. But to pay attention to the little tidbits that give clues to what each man has struggled with and overcome to reach this point in his life, is to discover a story about hopes, experiences and insecurities that leave them each questioning how lovable, how desireable they really are, and to feel the heat pounding fear of rejection that is bubbling just barely below the surface for both. Each man takes a huge risk with this holiday, and each is carrying extra weight on his shoulders. One has some extra weight in his suitcase, as well.

A special little gift of the story is a very attentive employee of the resort who pops up for a few lines in a couple of chapters. Once again, the writer’s skill with character development shines through as she shows in so few lines the compassion and wonderful sense of humor in this character. I hope to see him in additional books of this series.

What’s not to like about this book? Beautiful location, good plot, excellent characters. There we go. For all Kim Dare fans and for all who love reading m/m BDSM, Packing Leather is a story showing the vulnerable, emotional underbelly of both positions in BDSM, that of the Dominant and that of the submissive. Nice job, Ms. Dare!

Rated 4 1/2 Ravens by Lea!

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Author Review: Switch by Claire Thompson

Switch by Claire Thompson
Publisher: Romance Unbound Publishing
Genre: M/M, BDSM, Erotica
Length: 145 pages / 65400 words

Summary:

Two Doms, but only one Master: Dane Bishop is reigning king in the Austin BDSM scene. A chance meeting with a sexy local artist named Nathan Levi turns his world upside down. Nathan can see beyond Dane’s swaggering persona to the untapped submissive streak beneath the leather and chain. As each struggles to gain and maintain control, the sexual sparks fly. It’s only a matter of time before a spark catches and bursts into flame.

Kalyko’s Review:

Wow. Just WOW! Switch by Claire Thompson was amazing and I’m still going over the story in my head… and I finished it a week ago!

The incredible connection as well as the outright and very immediate sizzle between Dane and Nathan was wonderful and definitely indicative of the excellent story laid out before me. And I am completely taken with both men. Following along as Dane had to make some radical—and they were radical—mental changes was compelling; at the same time, though, it was often quite painful. I got very caught up in the emotional and mental turmoil in which Dane was caught; the emotions were percolating and then roaring off the page as his relationship with Nathan progressed. But if you’re thinking that Nathan was forcing this on Dane, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Nathan is something else. He’s a little younger than Dane, but you’d never think that once you get to know him. He’s incredibly tuned in to people and it’s just utterly amazing at how quickly, and how well, he understood Dane. But it’s Nathan’s philosophy that I really like: he doesn’t see himself as Dom or Dane as submissive. For him it’s more a matter of what works for them individually as well as together. He’s not someone that gets all tied up with labels, and I think that it’s this that finally gets to Dane.

Whatever it is, the relationship and the romance between Dane and Nathan in Switch is stunning in both complexity and power. And yet again, Claire Thompson has hit all the right buttons and continues to prove herself a consummate storyteller. Bravo!

Rated 5 Ravens by Kalyko!

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