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A.M. Riley

REVIEW:  Son of a Gun by A.M.Riley

REVIEW: Son of a Gun by A.M.Riley

amr_sonofagun

Stefan Sanchez’s number one reason to flee Boerne, Texas, twelve years ago, was closeted deputy Chet Blain. Since then he has lived in Los Angeles, become a successful author of children’s books, and managed his sexual relationships with a certain cool cynicism.

When Stefan returns to Texas for the funeral of his best friend, Tommy, he is confronted by painful memories: His infamous father, shot as a traitor, his alcoholic mother, and Chet, who seems to want to start their old, painful relationship all over again. Added to this is a missing widow, drugs in the trunk of his rental car, and a hunky Secret Service agent who seems determined to make Stefan’s business his business.

It all ends in a mad chase across the infamously haunted Devil’s backbone where ghosts from the past and personal demons in the present all conspire to give Stefan a chance to close the book on his childhood forever…or die trying.

Note: This book was previously released by another publisher but has been re-edited and substantially rewritten for Loose Id.

Dear A.M.Riley,

When last year I saw the second edition of this book I hesitated to buy it. I was not sure what “substantially rewritten” meant for this book, and more importantly, except for adding more certainty about the romantic angle of the story I did not think I wanted to see this story rewritten.

I finally caved in. I am still not sure how substantially the book was reedited and rewritten (I did not reread the first edition before starting this one), but I am very pleased to report that the ending is now definitely leaning towards possibility of new romance for the main character. Please beware though – the story was not a romance in its first incarnation and it is not a romance now. It is a gay mystery and at my most generous I can grant that it has some romantic elements. And now I am pretty certain that we are leaving Stephan Sanchez with a good chance of starting a new romantic relationship that hopefully is happier than the one he had in his past.

But let’s start from the beginning. As the blurb states, Stephan is a successful writer of children’s books who returns to Texas for the funeral of his best friend, Tommy. Stephan and Tommy grew up together, literally as close as brothers and their relationship in flashbacks is portrayed so well that my heart was breaking for Stephan more than once. Tommy belongs to one of the richest and powerful families in Texas – politics and law seemed to be their primary choice of careers for generations. Stephan basically grew up in their house and the family seems to call Stephan one of their own when he arrives for Tommy’s funeral.

Very soon Stephan notices that the circumstances of Tommy’s death are not as straightforward as he initially thought. His death was likely not an accident, and Tommy’s widow Samantha (Sammy) left town instead of being present at her husband’s funeral. To Stephan’s absolute dismay he learns that police suspect Sammy of killing her husband. Considering that she was his second dearest friend and a childhood’s playmate, he does not believe that she was capable of that. He quickly realizes that Sammy may be in danger and tries to find her before the real villains do. Meanwhile, there is a special agent named Evans who is present at Tommy’s family house, and whose agenda is not clear from the beginning, but who seems to want to take a very close look at Stephan and tries to stick very close to him. Finally, let’s add to the mix Chet Blain who is in charge of the local police. Chet is a very closeted guy with whom Stephan was in love for years, and because of whom he left town.

I thought it was very clear that events were going to get out of control very fast and of course they did. The story was very well paced for the most part – Stephan’s desire to find the truth, the villains’ strong motivation to stop him and hurt the innocents, all of this made for some excellent action. I have to say that when I was reading the story for the first time I could not guess the villain, not till the very end and when I was rereading it for the preparation of the review I did not remember. I managed to refrain from looking at the last page, which was hard, but I have to say I was fooled all over again. I mean there were not many candidates of course, but till the very end I thought that the main villain was the person who served as the main red herring. I am always pleased when this happens in the mystery.

What I also liked is that the rich and powerful in this book did not come out as stereotypes or caricatures at all. There are good people, bad people, hard-working people, a little lazy people amongst them – they felt like human beings to me and I liked that.

The main character Stephan Sanchez was great. The man tried to convince people around him and himself that he did not have a “heart of gold” and he was just a cynic.

“I get that. I am one of the good guys, Mr. Sanchez.”
“Now there’s a popular myth.” Stefan limped to the sink. “There’s no such thing as good guys. There’s only varying degrees of self-interested egotists. I’d be more inclined to trust you if you’d just fess up and tell me what you want.””

Maybe he was a cynic, but I personally had no doubt that Stephan also felt the injustices of the world very deeply, was ready to protect those who needed protection and could love a person who would be deserving of his love. I guess to me Stephan was the example of a “his actions speak louder than words” type.

One of the reasons I like this writer’s books so much is because at times she able to create a perfect blend of mystery and romance. In this book it’s not guaranteed that Stephan will continue his acquaintance with somebody whom he meets in this book – they are too busy saving themselves and other people from bad guys to have much time to get to know each other better here. But what they had, even in the first edition was enough for me because the story was mostly a mystery. I did want to feel a little more confident at the end that Stephan gets his chance at happiness and in this version I do.

The only thing that did not work for me all that well were the additions in which Stephan writes for kids, which were interspersed throughout this book. I mean, I understand what the writer was trying to achieve because Stephan based his characters on himself and Tommy, but I got enough of a feel for what his and Tommy’s relationship was like through the flashbacks. The parts of the kids’ book from his imagination became a little annoying after a while. It was not added when the action was happening, so I did not feel that it threw the pacing off much, but I still got tired of it eventually.

Still, I really liked it overall.

Grade B/B+

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REVIEW: Goldilocks and His Three Bears by A.M. Riley

REVIEW: Goldilocks and His Three Bears by A.M. Riley

Dear Ms. Riley.

I requested this book by saying, “I’ll trust A.M. Riley to take me anywhere.” I was not blown away by the blurb and the excerpt looked flippant so if it had been anyone else, I would not have requested it. But you? I trust your writing (despite not being able to finish Immortality is the Suck). And wow, am I glad I did.

AMR_GoldilocksandHisThreeBearsBrian wakes up in bed with Scott, with former lovers Paul and Jim staring down at him. Paul, Jim, and Scott are all roommates. The first part of the story tells how Brian slept with them all, leading up to the wake-up. He’s new to LA and rather lost and lonely. He’s a regular at a leather bar, where he meets Paul:

He was enjoying the Faultline’s traditional Tuesday night happy hour when a hand appeared on the bar a couple of customers down.

The hand was like one that might have been seen on the Roman god Vulcan: calloused, muscled and thick across the middle. It slid money across the bar and received a longneck in return. Brian?s eyes fixated on that hand, then traveled past a three-inch-wide studded wristband to follow a complicated nest of snakes twining and winding their way up a muscular arm, over shoulders as thick and succulent as a roast ham, to an inked neck.

Trying to get a closer look, Brian squeezed his way past two guys who reeked of new leather, looked up, and saw a tattoo ad spray painted over a bodybuilding commercial.

Six feet three at least. Bald as an egg and inked on practically every inch of exposed skin. His Roman god stood out from the crowd, even in a room full of big burly men.

The man took a long drag on the bottle of beer, and thick throat muscles worked. There was a black adder tat that started at the back of his shaved head and circled his thick neck until it ended close below his earlobe, venom-dripping fangs gaping wide.

The man twisted his torso away from the bar, and Brian saw the tat that undulated over the man’s six-pack. D.A.D.D.Y. it proclaimed in letters four inches high.

Brian and Paul establish a relationship, but then Paul leaves for business for a few months, without establishing any expectations. So Brian starts fucking Jim without realizing that he’s Paul’s roommate. When Jim goes away, he asks Brian to take care of his marijuana plants, so Brian starts fucking Scott, their other roommate. At which point, Paul and Jim come home.

Paul is Brian’s Daddy — yes, this is Daddy kink and it’s very well done. Jim is very hairy and very maternal and his knickname is, yes, “Momma Bear.” Scott is bisexual and a cock-slut, bottoming to everyone, including Brian. So there you have the “three bears” part. Brian is, of course, blond, so he’s Goldilocks.

So the first third of the book, then, is this rather flippant memory of Brian’s past sexual escapades. Once these escapades become known to all three of the roommates, however, the story gets really interesting. Because Brian’s still mainly drawn to Paul and doesn’t want to lose him. When he’s discovered, they take their relationship to a different level. It’s always been leather and slightly kinky, but Paul spanks Brian and they enter a power exchange relationship. Jim understands it, but Scott’s pretty freaked out having to listen to Brian’s cries and screams when they’re scening. And then Jim and Scott establish their own primary relationship, above and beyond the sex they have with Brian and Paul:

“Jesus.” Scott stopped dropping cookie dough onto the sheet and looked sideways at Jim, his ears bright red. “Are you sure that?s okay?”

Jim blithely kept beating dough. “Haven’t you ever known anyone involved in a Dom/sub relationship?:

“I’m a simple boy from Georgia, Jim,” said Scott, shaking his head. “Man lays a hand on another man there, and we call it something else.”

“I am absolutely positive that Brian wants what’s happening in there. As a matter of fact, I believe he instigated it,” said Jim calmly.

A particularly loud wailing cry echoed through the house. Scott paled. “I don’t know, Jim.”

“Listen…” And Jim wrapped a big comforting arm around Scott. “You talk to him about it, okay? He’ll tell you. Brian is running that relationship, Scott. He really is. Paul is completely under his control.”

“You sure?”

“You’ve been with us, Scott. You’ve seen how much Paul cares for him. How careful he is with him.”

Scott poked at the cookie dough with one finger. “Brian’s my friend, Jim.”

“I know,” said Jim, and he kissed Scott on the top of his head. “Mine too.”

Scott turned into his arms, let himself be held. It was very quiet in the house.

“It’s stopped.” Scott?s voice was muffled against Jim?s chest. Jim ran his hand up and down Scott?s back, into his hair. He kissed him on the head again. Scott tipped his head back to look at him, and Jim kissed his nose…his mouth. Scott’s mouth opened under his, like a hungry baby bird’s, and Jim folded the shorter man up in his arms and bent into the kiss.

“Man.” Scott’s voice was breathy when they separated. “Want you.”

“C’mon,” hummed Jim.

Most of the rest of the book actually depicts Jim and Scott’s relationship and their interactions with Brian and Paul. And although Brian is the linchpin of the relationships, that’s not the heart of the book anymore. It sounds complicated and it’s difficult to explain, but what I loved about this book is how organically these relationships grow together and apart and together again. And it all ends up being much more profound than the book looked at first glance. It’s a safe gentle examination of a power exchange relationship told from both the inside and the outside, which makes it a great book for people who are interested in learning more about BDSM without being utterly freaked out.

All in all, I’m glad I trusted you to take me there, because this book is really great.

Grade: B+

Best regards,
-Sarah

Book Link | Amazon | nook
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This is a Loose Id book thus it isn’t available on third party sites until next month or so? The story is also originally 94 pages according to goodreads.