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Harper Fox

What Sarah was Reading in September

What Sarah was Reading in September

Like Jane, I’ve been reading a lot of ARCs for November and December, and wow, you’re all in for some real treats.

Riptide Publishing opens its door on October 30. It’s already open for pre-orders and sending out review copies. Almost all of the initial offerings so far listed are under 30K words. And honestly, $2.99 for 10K words seems utterly ridiculous to me. $4.99 for under 30K words$10 for 100K words? I mean, 100K words is a great story, but $10? Really?! While the stories are great and the idea behind the new press is admirable, with price points like that, I can’t see it getting very far.

Rachel Haimowitz’s Master Class is a fabulous (short) look at the beginning of a very intense BDSM relationship. It does an amazing job at getting at the psychology of both of the dominant/sadist and the masochist/submissive. I loved it. It was super-hot. It was super-intense and really heavy BDSM, but very well done. Review on release. Apparently I talked about this one last month. I’ve skimmed it since then too which is why it’s on this month’s list too. That’s how good it is.

 

Peter Hansen’s First Watch: Tentacles. This book comes highly recommended, but it’s got tentacles and I haven’t actually managed to get past the first scene with tentacles. I’ll let you know if I ever do. Just…tentacles!

Aleksandr Voinov Dark Soul Vol.1 is about the mob. And I love Voinov’s writing, but I really really REALLY have a problem with heroes who are part of a crime organization and have no intention of getting out of it. So…I’m having a hard time with this one too. No tentacles, just criminals.

Of the three Riptide books I’ve flipped through or read so far, the writing is exceptional, but the subject matter is very dark, very different. That could be a good thing and could gain the press a reputation very quickly. But I still think readers are going to balk at those price points.

I also received the Carina Press m/m holiday shorts. And OMG guys, these stories are amazing. Perfect novellas that tell wonderful heartwarming stories. More extended reviews on release for all of them.

K.A. Mitchell’s Christmas Proposition: Small town guy trying to keep his family Christmas tree farm afloat gets back together with former lover who owns a natural gas company. Told from only small-town guy’s perspective, but you see the vulnerability of both characters. And groveling on BOTH sides. :) Wonderful, as always.

Harper Fox’s Winter Knights is a ghost story about Gavin, a man whose Catholic lover Piers breaks up with him because Pier refuses to come out to his family and Gavin had issued an ultimatum. Gavin then meets some ghosts who save his life and help him find his way back into a better relationship with Piers. What I LOVED about this story was how Gavin and Piers’ relationship was actually bad for both of them and they both learn how to improve it in order to find their way back to each other. For how short the book is, it’s brilliantly constructed and I loved the characters.

Josh Lanyon’s Lone Star was like a What If? story: What if a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger fall in love? Except they fell in love before they were a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger and get back together right when both their careers are taking off and that’s the barrier between them. It’s a cute story but I didn’t 100% believe that their careers wouldn’t pull them apart again.

Ava March’s My True Love Gave To Me is the historical of the bunch. It starts the story when the two men are 19, very much in love, but one of them’s too scared to pursue the relationship and runs away to America, away from his own feelings and his lover. Four years later, he’s back, determined to win his lover back. Much MUCH groveling ensues and there’s an utterly black moment when all hope is lost. I love stories in which one character has to admit how much wrong he’d done and the other character seriously has to just…forgive him.

These four stories from Carina were unbelievably good. They’ve done a brilliant job gathering these amazing writers together for these novellas.

L.A. Witt’s The Distance Between Us and The Closer You Get are two books that follow a couple through a threesome in the first book and then the third of the threesome in the second. TDBU is about a couple who have broken up but are stuck living with each other because they can’t offload the house they bought together. They bring in a roommate and both end up sleeping with the roommate, then sleeping all three together. This allows the couple to work through their issues so that they can get back together. TCYG (releasing in November) tells the story of the roommate, a self-described slut, who goes out with the friend of one of his lover’s daughters. His blind date is a virgin and they slowly figure out how to fit together, with the help of the characters from the first book. I adore Witt’s writing — love love love it. And these books are just about characters falling in love, getting past their own emotional barriers, and finding their way to each other better than ever before. Wonderful. I’ll review both when TCYG releases.

Distance Between Us: Goodreads | Amazon  | nook

The Closer You Get: Goodreads | Amazonnook

Kari Gregg’s I, Omega was so full of WTF that I honestly don’t know if I can bring myself to read it again to review it. Three months ago, Gabriel had been bitten by a werewolf who fucked him and he’s been on the run ever since. Even though he wants desperately to be with this werewolf, he’s terrified of him too. The werewolf finds him, fucks him, and kidnaps him, taking him back to the pack’s house. He forces Gabriel into a heavily D/s relationship, collaring him and tattooing him without Gabriel’s permission, waiting for Gabriel to give his final surrender, but he never TELLS Gabriel anything. And he won’t let anyone else tell Gabriel anything. So a lot of the conflict in the book comes from Gabriel’s fear and mistakes because of his utter ignorance. It made me NUTS! It’s the total and direct opposite of Safe, Sane,and Consensual. And the sex wasn’t even that hot.

Goodreads | Amazonnook

I read S.A. Reid’s Something Different twice through, the second time right after the first time. It was a self-pubbed book sent to DA for review. I *loved* it. Review here.

Goodreads | Amazon | nook

I’m flipping through a few other books, not actually settling down to read anything because (1). I have a book I really need to review, and (2). I’ve got craploads of grading to do. I’m skimming through an ARC of Sarah Wendell’s EIKAL until I can get my hands on a paper copy. I’m having a lot of fun with it (and feel extremely honored to be quoted twice, so can’t really comment on it further with too much impartiality — see how easily I can be bought?). J.L. Merrow’s Wight Mischief – I adore Merrow’s voice. I’m about 10 pages in and love it so far, of course. Cara McKenna’s Curio – another story about a prostitute. This is the only m/f romance on this whole post. Looking forward to it. Lynn Lorenz’s Bayou’s End – I enjoyed the first story in this series, but I’ve read the introduction to this one and was seriously unimpressed with the writing, so I’ll probably skip through the rest of it and see if there’s anything worth reading.

So, anyone else reading any good m/m that I’ve missed? Any prostitute/sex worker stories that I’ve missed?

JOINT REVIEW: Driftwood by Harper Fox

JOINT REVIEW: Driftwood by Harper Fox

Dear Ms. Fox,

We enjoyed writing our joint review of K.A. Mitchell’s Life, Over Easy and, individually, both enjoyed your own Life After Joe so much that we thought we'd double the fun and repeat the experience. Driftwood shares some of the characteristics of your debut effort, Life After Joe. It features flawed, self-aware, and angst-ridden central and supporting characters; a rich, atmospheric context which engulfs the reader; beautiful writing which leavens the angst with a wry wit; and a plot centered on the sea and those who work and live in and around it. But Driftwood also diverges from your previous novel by focusing on characters who are either serving in or are veterans of the military, and by including a mystery subplot.

Driftwood by Harper FoxThomas Penrose is a former army medic who served in Afghanistan and then returned to his native village in Cornwall to set up a practice as a GP. He lives in a derelict lighthouse/watch tower with his wolfhound, Belle, as his only companion. Thomas avoids everyone except his patients and tries to keep from drinking himself into oblivion on a regular basis. When he rescues a gorgeous young surfer, Flynn Summers, on the beach one day, he is drawn into contact with villagers and with servicemen at the nearby Royal Naval Air Service base, and he is enmeshed in a triangle with Flynn and Flynn's lover and former copilot, Rob Tremaine. Both Flynn and Thomas carry deep scars from their military experiences, and Flynn's bond with Rob is destructive and complex. The combination of the characters' military back stories, the abusive nature of Flynn and Rob's relationship, and the way the mystery unfolds ratchets up the angst level to such a high pitch that it is difficult for the reader to see how you will get them to an HFN, let alone an HEA. But the writing is so strong, and the evocation of the Cornish coast is so vivid, that it is difficult not to be swept along to the somewhat over the top resolution of the mystery and the absolutely over the top final pages.

Sunita: I loved Tom's voice and felt as if we really got inside his head. But the single POV, again, meant that Flynn was a lot harder for me to read. He's so beautiful and so screwed up, which the writing makes entirely believable and sucks me in, but in real life I think I would run far, far away. Nonetheless, I thought the way the relationship developed, and the way Tom tried to stay firm in his unwillingness to become part of a triangle, was effective.

I have no personal experience so I don't know how accurate this part was, but I thought the depictions of varied types of PTSD were excellent. I am so glad to see a sympathetic but unflinching description of what the lingering effects of war and conflict are. If anything, I thought some of the characters (like Victor) recovered a little too quickly.

Joan/Sarah F.: I don't have any experience with PTSD, either, thank heavens, but Thomas was brilliantly written, in all his fucked-up glory. I read this book because of the excerpt online. But especially this:

First, do no harm. Thomas, about to walk away, shivered to a halt. Eight bitter years since he had taken his Hippocratic oath, and he was certain he had violated it in a dozen ways. The war his nation was waging in the far-off desert he had left behind to come home and fit himself into the shape of the man he once had been-’that formless, limitless, probably endless fucking war-’it hadn't been conducive to good and dignified medical practice. Hippocrates probably had not foreseen the necessity of punching a wounded soldier unconscious to silence his raging objection to the failed Afghani suicide bomber being treated in the next bed. Of taking a rifle from a corpse and sniping off a bunch of gun-toting local kids across a wall of sandbags to defend the bleeding and helpless survivors at his feet. First, do no harm- It made Thomas want to laugh, or throw up, but he knew that to turn his back on the ocean now would be a harm his own fragmented soul might not survive.

I loved Flynn, too, because I could see him trying so hard to be normal, to make the expected gestures, and just repeatedly getting it wrong. I thought the slow reveal of his trauma and how it worked in with the mystery was very well done, no matter my issues with the mystery itself.

Sunita: I think the context is a character in and of itself. The depictions of Cornwall made me feel as if I were there, and the scenes on the ocean were really well done. To be able to move from the urban setting of the first novel to the rural village environment of the second without missing a beat is impressive. And the writing is once again top notch.

Joan/Sarah F.: I especially loved the watch tower that Tom lived in. I could feel Tom's relief when he was able to step over the threshold, but could also feel its desolation and emptiness that matched Tom's internal landscape so perfectly. I think the ending — after the mystery was wrapped up, the very last chapter — was perfectly done (and no spoilers here), precisely because of how it demonstrated the changed internal landscapes of both Tom and Flynn.

Sunita: I was less taken with the mystery subplot, and with Rob as a character, especially in the later parts of the book. He came across as too villainous. The prior connection between him and Tom which was eventually revealed was clever, but instead of providing a way to make Rob more complex, it didn't really go anywhere, and Rob wound up becoming more and more evil. And with the intensity of the mystery storyline, it was hard to come back to the HEA/HFN of the final pages. Given what has gone before, can we really believe that Tom and Flynn can settle into a relatively peaceful, angst-free life?

Joan/Sarah F.: It wasn't only Rob's character, but the over-the-topness of the mystery itself. Rob's crime was particularly heinous and his attempted cover-up with the hit-and-run on Tom was a little unbelievable, as was Tom's physical ability to do all that he did during the climax of the plot after being in a coma. I just kept thinking, “Okay, he needs to collapse now,” rather than focusing on the resolution of the mystery.

Sunita: Overall, the mystery and the angst were a bit too much for me. But I was so taken by the writing and the Cornish setting that I can see myself rereading this. And the sex scenes were really good; they were integrated into the story and they helped us understand the characters and their relationships. I will definitely read your next book.

Joan/Sarah F.: While the mystery and final suspense was a bit silly, to my mind, I adored the attendant angst, of course, as is my wont. I think the characters of both Tom and Flynn were wonderfully done and I loved seeing them both coming to life a little bit at a time through each other. Stay away from the grand gesture at the end and stick with the emotional introspection and your books would be perfect. For me. :P But I'm also very much looking forward to your next book (from Loose Id in November, apparently).

Grade: B

Best regards,
-Sunita and Joan/Sarah F.

Book Link | Kindle | nook | Sony| Samhain