Reading List by Sirius
Into the Divide (The Divide Universe Book 1) by Sandra Bard
Nullands: Sections of a series of planets sealed off by an energy barrier, called the Divide, filled with danger, where technology does not work.
Tarn is part of the Death Squad, a criminal given a second chance by agreeing to risk his life over and over again in the Nullands. His latest mission is the kind he usually avoids: babysit an inexperienced lab tech while they hunt down the dangerous creature that escaped a research lab.
Calvin is the lab tech given the unenviable task of hunting down the creature that escaped his lab, after it killed his friend and five others. An assignment he mostly landed for refusing to sleep with his boss, he knows damn good and well he’s being sent to die. What he doesn’t expect is Tarn, or how far he’s willing to go to survive.
This book sounded like a story I was predisposed to like – an SFF adventure with a secondary romance storyline, which promised initial animosity between the characters (a trope which if done well I always enjoy, or run away from very fast if it is not done well). The blurb gives you a decent set up – Tarn’s work usually involves guarding science teams or rescuing them, with the constant risk of his own life. Apparently he had been a criminal back on Earth who might have been executed if his current commander had not offered him this job. I found Tam’s offense to be surprising – not the offence itself, but why he did it, and to say more would be a spoiler. I still liked him, though.
Now Tarn is risking his life in the dangerous world of the Divide, where high technology does not work and his skill with sword and his intelligence is what he is relying upon to survive.
At the beginning of the story, Isaak, the commander to whom Tarn owes his life and who has become a dear friend, tells him about a mission (the one described in the blurb). Isaak is reluctant to ask Tarn to do it, but Tarn insists and off he goes.
Calvin is a nice guy who really is not suited for dangerous missions (simply because he does not have the training and experience), but his awful boss has decided that Calvin will go. Initially Tarn does not care much for Calvin, but I thought that was mostly because Calvin was so inept in the beginning (he did not become an awesome fighter at the end, thank goodness but he certainly showed some skills in unexpected areas). I did not think that them going from mild animosity to lovers was unbelievable, quite the contrary.
The book also delivered an adventure – with fighting, real danger and all that follows. I have to admit that the ending of the adventure was unexpected – good unexpected, but I am not sure if it was foreshadowed or came out of nowhere. Maybe the author was shooting for a surprise, nothing more than that, and I am overanalyzing. The book does not end on a cliffhanger, but there are two more available in this world and I believe the second one has Isaak playing the main role.
“The Music of the Spheres” by Chase Potter.
An athlete and introvert from a family touched by loss, Ryan Mattson splits his life between reading and spending time with his dad and precocious younger sister. With the wounds of Ryan’s past almost healed, high school is simple, and so is everything else.
But that changes when he’s paired with Adam for a class project. Adam, the guy with birthmarks like flecks of mud and compost-brown eyes that hide behind dorky glasses. Grudgingly, the two young men work together, and as they do, an unlikely friendship is formed.
With the passing college years, their bond deepens and grows. Even Ryan’s sister and dad take a liking to Adam, and the family – always missing a voice – seems to gain another. But just as Ryan is forced to confront what Adam really means to him, his family is dragged toward crisis. And beneath the silent snows and starlit sky of a Minnesota winter, their friendship will be tested more than ever before.
I really liked this book. I have read previous books by this author and liked them too, but I think this is the first one which can be categorized as a genre Romance. I usually prefer books with more complex plots than this one – I adore gay romance, but I usually like for the guys to be actually *doing something* besides falling in love with each other. But you know what they say, there are exceptions to every rule, and good writing can make us love almost any storyline. This is a very intimate book – there are four characters in this story and that’s pretty much it. We have Ryan, Adam, Ryan’s dad, and his sister Emma – there are no other characters of significance. Surprisingly, it worked for me very well. It is a very character-based book, and the character interactions carry the narrative. To a degree this is a coming of age story too, but it is equally (if not primarily) a story of friendship. The romance is between Adam and Ryan, who meet in high school, and the story takes place during next five years of their lives, although at some point the narrative jumps two years ahead in time.
The romance was a bit unusual for me, and not because there were few sex scenes (and none were very explicit). Regular readers of my Dear Author reviews know that more often than not I prefer romances with less explicit sex rather than more. No, it is just that for quite a while in the story I thought that the guys (mostly Ryan) were clueless as to what they wanted, especially whether they wanted their relationship to advance beyond friendship. But then I realized that Ryan craved emotional intimacy with Adam more than he craved sex with him, and only when he was satisfied with where their friendship had gone was he shown to want actual sex with him. That was my interpretation, anyway. Of course then there was a crisis during which Ryan seemed to put everything else on a long hold, and that made sense to me.
I really do not want to give away what the crisis was, because this is the only thing in the story which could be considered to be something other than character-based plot development, but it made me bawl my eyes out. In fact let me do spoiler tags because just reading about it did a number on me.
I really loved these guys, but I have to admit that despite the excellent writing and a believable happy ending, I doubt I will be rereading this book anytime soon.
“A Solitary Man” by Shira Anthony and Aisling Mancy
Sparks fly when Chance meets tall, sexy Xav at a Wilmington bar and they have the hottest one-nighter of their lives. But Chance doesn’t do repeats, Xav seems detached, and they go their separate ways without a word. Later, when closeted Assistant District Attorney C. Evan “Chance” Fairchild meets Dare’s Landing’s newest deputy sheriff, Xavier “Xav” Constantine, Evan isn’t only wary. He’s irritated as hell.
Xavier is a former FBI agent turned deputy sheriff who is hot on the trail of a South American child prostitution ring. Evan is fighting to put an end to rampant cocaine trafficking and chafing under the thumb of an election-hungry boss. When someone tries to kill the eleven-year-old witness who holds the key to both their investigations, they’re forced to work together as they put their lives on the line to protect him. As Chance and Xav collide in the heat of a sweltering North Carolina summer, dodging bullets and chasing bad guys isn’t the only action going on.
I really liked this book. Yes, romance is definitely a secondary storyline, but sometimes I am bored by the pure romance storyline where the guys have nothing else to do in their lives except to think about each other :-). This is a police procedural story that deals with the subject of child sex trafficking and the brave people who try to fight the monsters engaged in it (yeah, I know we all have capacity to do evil in us, but there are a very small number of crimes which puts you in the monster category, and child sex trafficking for me is one of those crimes). The subject was heartbreaking, but there was also kindness, touches of humor, and people trying to do police work as best they could.
And there is some romance in there. Xav and Ethan’s meeting reminded me of how romance characters meet sometimes, but that’s really the only part that reminiscent of genre romance. For the most part we see them communicating with each other while they are doing their work. I liked how much Xav wanted to help those kids and how he learned to be grateful if he could save even one child. The sheriff and his people in the small town were very impressive – I loved that for once our hero did not have to face a homophobic welcome, as it often happens in mm romances. I loved that he was so eager to teach his fellow law enforcement officers how to do their jobs even better and they were eager to learn.
Besides the external circumstances there are not many obstacles for Xav and Ethan – they realize quickly that they want each other but as I said, romance is a secondary storyline here. It does have a happy ending though, do not worry.
I would have given this book five stars easily, if not for a bizarre passage, no more than *one page,* of insulting the transgender villain. I mean why? I doubt that the authors wanted to be so insulting on purpose. Ignorance?I was not triggered, but I am not trans. Still, l loved this book minus that page, which had no purpose in the story whatsoever as I could see.
“Clockwork Pirate” by Lyn Gala
Alex hid his unnatural attraction to men for many years. That changes when the pirate Beche takes Alex after capturing his ship. At first Alex believes his fate is death and the only question a matter of how he might die. However, the longer he is on the ship, the more he realizes that Beche hates the world because it is unfair in ways Alex never understood. As Alex begins to respect this strong, independent man, Alex’s dormant desires begin to reassert themselves.
Beche hates the titled classes and their government enforcers. They might have outlawed slavery on paper, but they never came to the islands to free him or his family. Since his skin is black, society has little respect for him. Beche expects no more of this latest captive, but soon Beche begins to realize that Alex is a naïve and beautiful man who values family and struggles with his own place in society. That poses an even larger problem because Beche does not want to send Alex back to a world that will mistreat him, but he has no place for a lord on a ship full of pirates.
SPOILERS IN THE REVIEW BEWARE BEWARE BEWARE.
I hesitated to include this mini review here because I felt weird when I wrote it and still kind of do. Do not get me wrong – the visceral negative reaction I felt towards one of the main characters is my honest reaction and I stand by it, but it bothers me when I can clearly see that I am supposed to have an entirely different one given the narrative, and for me it just did not work.
I bought this book soon after it was out, because I have enjoyed so many of Lyn Gala’s stories, and it is steampunk! But for some reason something stopped me from reading it right away, and almost a year passed before I picked it up. I actually read a steampunk book recently that disappointed me a great deal and I figured Lyn Gala’s would help me enjoy one of my favorite settings once again.
Alas. Basically, while IMO this is not a “master/slave” trope, it is definitely “Captor/captive” trope and I have had, eh, should we say varied success with this trope. It is funny that I read that another reviewer did not see what Beche saw in Alex. I did not see what Alex saw in Beche – that he decided not to brutalize him and not to use him as badly as he could and as badly as some of his other prisoners were used? Um, yay?
Yes, yes, I get that he and his crew experienced horrors in their past. Of course pirates killed people, but this is a historical fantasy and if the writer would have spared me the hero of the romance novel giving his prisoner to his crew for “sport”, I would have been so happy. And the cold execution at the end of the very terrible person just clinched it for me. Nope, don’t care about the all the great reasons he had. Run Alex, please run.
His sisters were fantastic characters though, so an extra half star for them.
I guess the writer just did not convince me that Alex could fall so fast for somebody who took away his liberty? And quite frankly I just consider Beche to be a horrible person.
“Stolen Suitor” by Eli Easton.
His future was set until a thief stole his heart.
All of Clyde’s Corner, Montana, knows local dandy Chris Ramsey will marry Trix Stubben, young widow and heir to the richest ranch in the area. But one woman isn’t too keen on the idea. Mabe Crassen wants to get her hands on that ranch, so she sets her older son to court Trix, and her younger son, Jeremy, to distract Chris and lure him astray.
Jeremy Crassen thinks his mother’s scheme is crazy. But he wants desperately to go off to college, which Mabe will agree to—if he seduces Chris. How will shy, virginal, secretly gay Jeremy attract Chris, who seems determined to do the right thing and marry Trix? Jeremy can’t compete with a rich female widow. Or can he?
When I saw that Dreamspinner had started a line of books which closely resembles Harlequin category romances, I was not planning on reading them. However I’ve enjoyed most books that Eli Easton has written and I figured why not try this one. What can I say? I liked it better than I expected, considering the ridiculousness of the setup. To be fair, the writer tried to mitigate that as much as she could, but for me a believable setup is very important and I did not think that she completely pulled it off. While I was reading I always felt that she was struggling to stay within constraints of a Harlequin-type story and trying to do something more believable with it. You would go and try to seduce a woman because *your mother told you so*?! Even better question – would you go and try to seduce that woman’s fiancé because your mother promised you could go to college then? Very impressive – NOT.
Of course not everything is as simple as it seems from the blurb and even the scheming mother had her reasons, which are better than one expects but still come out of Telemundo telenovellas. And I appreciated that there was no transformation from the straight man to a gay man anywhere in this story – Jeremy really is a gay man who is deeply in the closet, but he never doubts that he prefers men. Chris is a bisexual man who thinks of himself somewhere at 80/20 in terms of where his preferences lie. I really appreciated that and I liked that Chris for once kept no secrets from Trix as far as his sexual orientation was concerned.
Basically I think that if you like Harlequin , you will enjoy this book more than I did, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to.