Ice Cream On The Side

icecreamontheside_coverlg_1Title: Ice Cream on the Side
Author: Wren Boudreau
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary M/M, Murder Mystery
Length: Novella
Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Dylan Forest is really pretty happy. He’s a successful architect, lives in a great little town, and has good friends.  More than ten years ago, Dylan’s first boyfriend betrayed him.  Since then he’s learned to appreciate men briefly and intensely, with no lingering complications. But Dylan finds himself wanting something more with Michael Gilmore, the new art teacher in town.

Michael moved to Raven Pass to get away after a bad break-up.  He just wants to teach and he’s got an exhibit of his own work coming up. He doesn’t expect to find himself attracted to anyone just yet. He has to give up his fear so he can explore a possible relationship with Dylan.

The guys manage to get past their insecurities and into bed, where they find out just how compatible they are. Before their romance gains momentum, however, life gets complicated. An old dead body and a new murder are both connected to Dylan’s love life, and it appears that Michael will be next.

What’s going on? And can Dylan and Michael stop it before it stops them?


Ian Gallagher and Dylan Forest had been a couple many years earlier while they were in college, until Dylan found out that Ian had been cheating on him when he was away studying for his degree in architecture, so he dumped him. Since that time Dylan hadn’t had any serious relationships, and played the field with his ice cream guys as he called them, until he met Michael Gilmore, an artist and art teacher, who had just moved to Raven Pass to get over a bad breakup. They hit it off immediately but neither Michael nor Dylan was really looking for a relationship. However they couldn’t resist each other, and soon they were having hot and heavy sex with the possibility of a  long term commitment.

Then Ian came for a visit and it was clear that his reason was to try and get back into a serious relationship with Dylan, more than 10 years after they had parted. When Dylan turned him down he became unreasonable, extremely emotional, and even displayed violent tendencies. After he left town Dylan knew that the problem with Ian was only delayed because he would have to see him again in Philadelphia at an art exhibit where both he and Michael were showing their paintings.

Soon, however, Dylan had bigger worries than Ian. The first indication was the discovery of a body on one of his work sites which had been there for some time. Dylan identified him as one of his many temporary lovers who had been missing for a while, but who everyone assumed had left town. He became the prime suspect in what soon turned into a murder investigation, but as there was no evidence linking him to the crime he was released.

Shortly after the murder Dylan received a serious threat against his life and it appeared that Michael’s life was also in danger. To compound their problems, when they arrived in Philadelphia for the art exhibit, Ian had obviously not changed his mind about pursuing Dylan, and in fact he seemed more determined than ever to win his prize when he realized that he had a rival in Michael. Things came to a head after the exhibit when he again became violent, and the next morning another dead body was found. Dylan and Michael were the likely suspects and the murderer upped the ante by making it clear that someone wanted Michael dead. Things went further downhill after they returned to Raven Pass as the danger to Michael intensified and the police set up a sting operation in hopes of catching the murderer.

 There were a few cliff hangers and the adrenalin and excitement kept the pacing of the story at a high level until the murderer was revealed.

What worked for me

Dylan’s and Michael’s relationship was not “slam bang thank you man” as they both had issues to work through, but when they decided to go for it the sex and the emotions seemed to be in sync. They were three dimensional and most of the secondary characters were as well.

The murder investigation and the way it tied into Dylan’s previous relationships was well done, although at times I thought that there were far too many complications and clues for such a short story. 

What didn’t work for me

The character that I had the greatest difficulty with was Ian who changed drastically from the urbane, creative professional into a man who lost all control over his emotions, and his behaviour was so extreme that I wondered if this was the same man or if he was schizophrenic. There was no explanation for the 180 degree turnaround other than he claimed to still be in love with Dylan, and I couldn’t rationalize his obsession with Dylan with whom he had had no romantic or sexual relationship for over 10 years. One explanation could be that he was tired of running after younger men and wanted a stable relationship, but there was no explanation for his fixation on Dylan after all this time.

The second issue I had was with the murderer and the big reveal. There was a plausible explanation for the killer’s actions and I didn’t guess who the person was and their motivation, until close to the end of the book, which shows that the author thought this through by throwing up many false leads. However, I was somewhat surprised at the killer’s identity and I did wonder about the characterization, as a few of the clues did not seem to fit and left unanswered questions, for me anyway.

This story was a pretty ambitious effort for a first book, with the mix of murder most foul and romance and I did have a bit of difficulty with a few characters; at times I couldn’t figure out their purpose in the story.

Despite the issues mentioned above I do recommend this book because it was well written, the protagonists were three dimensional, the pacing was right, and the author is obviously talented. I look forward eagerly to other books by Wren Boudreau.

 If you’re in the mood for a murder mystery to go with your next romance novel, Ice Cream On the Side should be on your TBB list.


  • MaDonna
    Like you I prefer the mysteries with a little love interest, the way Josh does it. However many of the newer writers are trying to emulate him but don’t have either the talent to thoroughly think through and plan the mystery and therefore the ending is not credible, or the mystery is a sideshow to the romance and that doesn’t work either.

    Josh is just one example of an excellent writer whose forte is mysteries, but even in his books most of the time I solve the mysteries(a couple of them were really tough to solve until almost the very end) before the big reveal, but it’s still a lot of fun. He and I joke about whether I’ve read too many of these books or he has to be really sneaky to trip me up. One of the reasons I love mysteries is that, like you, police dramas have always interested me, or the military, or firemen ….. :)

    Re the covers I, too, love Josh’s AE covers. The artist is Croco Designs – I think this is a European firm but I’m not sure. Covers are difficult because many of the artists use stock photos and you see the same faces all the time. I’m not sure if I like that but I much prefer it to the “torsos” which were all that we used to get a few years ago on M/M books. At least now they hire artists. One artist whose work I like is Paul Richmond and he actually draws his own artwork. I interviewed Paul last December. He probably has a lot more covers now (he does a great deal of work for Dreamspinner) but the interview might give you a sense of his style. Here’s the link

  • Thanks for commenting MaDonna

    I think many new authors feel compelled to insert mysteries in their romances when they are totally unnecessary. Most of the time there aren’t enough words in a novella for a fully fleshed out mystery and a romance, and usually only an experienced author such as a Josh Lanyon can manage both equally well. Typically one suffers.

    I think Wren did a credible job on her first book which I liked a lot except for a few niggles. She hasn’t released another book as yet and I’m anxiously awaiting her newest story.

    The cover art is by P.L. Nunn whose style is very popular. She does a lot of YAOI covers including Jet Mykles’ Heaven Sent covers. :)

    • <

      Hi Wave! See, I’d actually prefer a balance or more mystery/suspense with a little romance on the side. Nobody does it like Josh Lanyon. A plain romance isn’t my cuppa, whether it be het or m/m, however, a m/m romance wrapped around a wickedly wonderful contemporary or historical mystery or police drama is right up my alley. I like my guys, or at least one of them, to be dangerous, flawed, with a tender edge.

      I don’t get the YAOI popularity. Most of the depictions of characters all look the same to me. I love Josh’s film noir covers. I was just browsing the “coming soon” novels on this lovely site (can’t wait for most of them!) and saw a beautiful cover for a novel by Eden Winters titled “Duet.” Now, I’ve never read anything by that writer but the cover totally draws me in and I want to read it. That’s the power of a classy illustration. If I hadn’t read a blurb from Ice Cream on the Side I would never have bought it because of the cover.

      • Also on the topic of cover art, usually the characters on the cover look nothing like the characters I’ve drawn in my head, with a few exceptions of course. Besides, I prefer to “draw” them myself:)

  • I do agree with your review of this first novel and I too think perhaps there were a few too many red herring thrown in for such a short novel.

    And I always groan out loud when I see this type of cover. It just seems so ‘comic book’ and I’m not a fan of anime type covers. I’d much prefer a classy cover, perhaps with a concept of what the novel is about. That’s what draws my eyes.

    But I got past the cover and really enjoyed the novel and read it in one sitting. I liked the characters of Dylan and Michael and the dialogue was quite good and, at times, very clever and funny. The mystery did have me guessing.

    I wish it had been longer and the supporting cast fleshed out and a little more ‘show’ rather than ‘tell.’

    I’m always on the look out for new writers to discover and enjoy. “Ice Cream on athe Side” left me wanting to read more by this author. A little rough around the edges but I think this writer has a lot of talent and I like her style.

  • Hi Wren
    I try to review each book using the same frame of reference, whether it’s written by an experienced author or a newbie, and I must say you exceeded my expectations. You did very well throughout the book and except for a few niggles (because I’m such a murder mystery addict) I found Ice Cream on the Side a very good read. I can’t wait for your second book. 😀

  • Hi Wave! Thanks for your lovely comments and thoughtful criticisms. I’m going to have the next-to-last paragraph framed, or maybe transferred to a t-shirt (the one where you say “the author is obviously talented”). ‘Cause that just made my day.
    LadyM: I’m glad you didn’t figure out the murderer too soon (I hate when that happens)and that you enjoyed the funny bits. It would’ve sucked if you’d won a book you hated on your birthday…
    Erastes and Tam: I like to think that all of PL Nunn’s beauties are at least distant cousins *g*. Tam, thanks for having the book in your TBR pile already!

    • Tam
      You will enjoy it. Just remember it’s a first novel but notwithstanding that, the book is excellent. I had fewer quibbles on this book than on many others written by seasoned authors.

  • LadyM
    I really enjoyed this book and, other than the comments in the review, I think this was an excellent first book. The writing sparkled and Wren obviously put a lot of work into Ice Cream on the Side, especially on the mystery and the characters.


    I look forward to future books written by this author because she’s obviously very talented.

  • I was very curious about the story and I started reading it almost as soon as I got it. ^^
    I had a difficulty relating to Dylan in the first 10 – 15 pages, he seemed to be all over the place for me, jumping from one thought to another. But, then the story drew me in and these issues disappeared and I really enjoyed it. I felt that dialogue also got better as the story progressed. I thought I knew who was the murderer, but I was wrong and I was glad, because I can usually solve the mystery half through the book. Also, sometimes it’s difficult to know other characters well when the story is told in first person, but Wren did a good job, especially on Michael. I liked description of his paintings and other art in the book.
    There were a couple of funny moments (a screaming match XD) I really enjoyed. The interaction with detectives was also interesting. I agree that Ian’s behavior was unexplained (although Dylan’s friend offered one explanation). All in all, it’s admirable first book and I am really glad I had the opportunity to read it. Once again, thank you both for the book. I enjoyed it (all that ice cream made me hungry though) and I’ll be looking forward to other Wren’s books. And if P.L. Nunn does the covers for them too, all the better. ^^

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