Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

m/m romance

REVIEW:  Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

REVIEW: Murder on the Mountain by Jamie Fessenden

MurderontheMountain

When Jesse Morales, a recent college grad who aspires to be a mystery writer, volunteers to work on the summit of Mt. Washington for a week, he expects to work hard. What he doesn’t expect is to find a corpse in the fog, lying among the rocks, his head crushed. The dead man turns out to be a young tourist named Stuart Warren, who strayed from his friends while visiting the mountain.
Kyle Dubois, a widowed state police detective, is called to the scene in the middle of the night, along with his partner, Wesley Roberts. Kyle and Jesse are instantly drawn to one another, except Jesse’s fascination with murder mysteries makes it difficult for Kyle to take the young man seriously. But Jesse finds a way to make himself invaluable to the detective by checking into the hotel where the victim’s friends and family are staying and infiltrating their circle. Soon, he is learning things that could very well solve the case—or get him killed.

Review:

Dear Jamie Fessenden,

I really liked your earlier works, but then your books started cranking up more and more angst and I parted ways with them. I was intrigued, however, when I saw that you wrote a mystery, and book buddy from the discussion board I frequent was kind enough to loan this book to me. I decided to review it at DA as well. The blurb describes very well how our main characters meet. Jesse discovers the body of the victim, Kyle and his partner arrive to investigate the murder. Eventually Jesse becomes a helper of sorts and he and Kyle are almost instantly attracted to each other. The book is first and foremost a mystery, romance (or should I say the beginning of romance?) is more of a secondary storyline, but it is visible in the story and I want to talk about it first.

I think that I liked it well enough. I mean the attraction was very fast, true – but I do not necessarily see anything strange about two people finding each other attractive right away and even though I usually prefer slow burn romance, I was more forgiving here because the book is mostly a mystery. I am not sure about “I love you” that fast, but at least they did not decide to move in or get married right away. Kyle is portrayed as a bisexual character which I appreciated very much – and no, the reader does not need to read that he is bisexual between the lines. Kyle clearly identifies as such and actually says the word. Of course his wife is dead, but he is very clear about the fact that he both loved her (as in he was “in love” with her) and always fantasized about men and his wife knew about his fantasies and found them sexy. Kyle never acted on his fantasies though, not till he meets Jesse when five years have passed since his wife’s death. It is also made clear that even if his romance with Jesse will work out, his attraction to women is a part of him.

I was not sure about the fact that the guys say “I love you” knowing each other for only three days, especially when Kyle has never before pursued a relationship with a guy. My interpretation was that both guys felt strongly about each other and felt that it was something worth pursuing, but the possibility that Kyle was in awe of the first guy he met was also raised. In other words, for me it worked as the beginning of a romance, which, may or may not work out.

The story is not heavy on sex – it has two sex scenes, and again because the story is mostly a mystery it worked for me very well. I did wonder about the almost immediate joy of anal sex for the guy who never had anal sex with a guy before in his life, but again, it looks like this is a mandatory addition to almost every m/m book.

I also thought that the mystery was really well crafted – I mean of course we have a civilian interfering in the investigation, but this version of the genre requires an amateur sleuth and at least the issue is addressed, and multiple times at that. Kyle is constantly worried about how much he should satisfy Jesse’s curiosity and, how much he should allow Jesse to get himself in danger and he knows he is being unprofessional. But Kyle also realizes that there is also only so much he can do if Jesse is persistent in getting himself in danger. In addition, Jesse actually manages to be helpful with some of the information he discovered. I can suspend disbelief when the issue is not being ignored and I liked the additional smacking Kyle’s partner delivered. And even at the end, Jesse checks with Kyle before he takes action, and Kyle realizes fast enough that this was too dangerous for Jesse. I liked how the demands of the story were balanced with believability.

And I actually did not guess the motive – *at all*. Of course the suspects were limited, clues were provided, and they all had motive, but I did not guess the real motive and when it was revealed, it was so heartbreakingly sad.

Grade: B-

AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle

REVIEW:  A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

REVIEW: A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

22913988

Dear Ms. Andrews:

Ah, star-crossed love. I adore romances in which “forbidden” isn’t just a buzzword in the title.

After rumspringa rebelliousness left three teenagers dead, Issac’s family left their Amish community in Ohio to begin a new one with a much stricter Ordnung. (Regulations about every aspect of life, down to the exact size of bands on hats.) In his previous life Isaac could use a mirror, take a shower, and occasionally get to eat at MacDonalds. (There was even buggy parking.) But in the new Minnesota community, anything with the slightest tinge of “worldliness” is frowned upon. The atmosphere reminded me of the movie “Office Space,” in which a restaurant employee was chided for wearing no more than the required amount of decoration — even just abiding by the actual rules isn’t enough, you have to go above and beyond.

For most youngies — young adults who have yet to officially join the church — having a chance to enjoy some free time with the opposite sex is a bright spot in their hard-working lives. But at 18, even with pressure from his family to settle down, Isaac can’t seem to get interested in courting.

Isaac glanced at Mary Lantz again. She was pretty enough–more than enough, with her kind smile and her big blue eyes that were darker than her brother’s. There was nothing wrong with Mary. But Isaac was beginning to think there was something very wrong with him.

The problem is, Isaac is far, far more interested in Mary’s brother David, who’s teaching him woodworking. The growth of this unspeakable attraction is shown deliciously in many small touches and glances. At one point, David sneaks Isaac into the “English” world to watch a movie, and gives him jeans to wear, with an unfamiliar and forbidden zipper.

‘Do you want me to do it for you?’ David asked.
Isaac could only jerk his head in a nod. He held his breath as David reached down and ever so gently zipped the fly of Isaac’s English jeans. He did up the button at the top, his knuckles brushing against Isaac’s trembling belly. They were standing so close that Isaac could see the flecks of grey in Davids eyes…

But once the first move is made, they quickly move past kisses into an explicit sexual relationship. I found this a little unconvincing; David seems awfully sophisticated and commanding for a virgin, even one four years older than his lover, and with some experience in the outside world. (And he better not be lying, since they know nothing about safe sex!) The emotionalism of the sex scenes sometimes felt overdone, but the tenderness is palpable, focusing on their blissful freedom to be themselves and to adore each other’s bodies. The worry about discovery and hellfire taints everything, of course, as does the increasing yearning for the ability to share their lives completely. Suspense mounts as David insists that once he joins the church, he’ll be able to put these feelings aside and be at peace.

The story is rich with descriptive details that immerse the reader in the unfamiliar environment, and also with moments that highlight the emotional realities of this kind of life — for example, when Isaac inadvertently mentions his excommunicated older brother’s name at the dinner table, and his youngest brother asks, “Who’s Aaron?”

It was like a physical blow to to Isaac’s gut, the realization that of course Joseph didn’t even know of Aaron’s existence. Katie watched them all with big eyes brimming with tears. She’d only been a baby. Had Isaac and Ephraim really never talked about Aaron with them? He wasn’t even sure if Nathan knew his name, but judging by the tension in his frame, Isaac thought he did.

‘No one,’ Father answered.

And that was that.

I’ve never read an Amish romance before, unless you count Sunshine and Shadow, but I have the impression they tend to be idealized portraits. This is very much the opposite, which made me slightly uncomfortable; I felt there should be a little more balance when describing a religious community. The acknowledgments thank “the ex-Amish who so generously shared their stories” but it would have seemed respectful to have a little insight into why some people would want to stay, other than fear of the modern world and the pain of losing their families.

There were parts of the narrative that feel a little too pat, particularly towards the end, but they’re always well set-up. For example, a early scene in which Isaac describes Amish life to a conveniently curious quilt-buyer is interspersed with his uncomfortable realizations about how attractive the man is. Overall this is a very well-realized, touching story, with plenty of heat. (It is also well produced, with nothing that screams “self-published.”) As with many New Adult books, the end leaves plenty of unanswered questions and there will be a sequel, but there’s no relationship cliffhanger, thank goodness. B

Sincerely,
Willaful

AmazonBNKoboAREBook DepositoryGoogle