Today’s post is all good and there are no rants. 🙂 This is the third post of M/M books that resonate for me and I hope that they will for you too. Here are links to the first post and the second in case you missed them. In this installment I tried to give you a broad spectrum of books which should satisfy most tastes – from serial murders to steampunk to fantasy to an old style cowboy romance. Most of the books are 2 – 3 years old except for Almost Like Being in Love which was written in 2004, so this post is mainly for those of you who are new to M/M.
On top of my list is Almost Like Being in Love by Steve Kluger, my No. 1 book of 2009 and here’s why –
This is a story about a high school jock and nerd who fall in love in their senior year, only to part after an amazing summer, to attend college in different States. They keep in touch at first, but then slowly drift apart. Twenty years later they meet again after one protagonist, Travis, decides there is something missing in his life and that “something” or someone is Craig, his long lost love, so he puts his life on hold and sets out to find him.
The book is very funny, but it is also poignant. The ending was the right one and I was pleased that Kluger was able to find a way for everyone to be happy, without creating heartbreak for someone else. Almost Like being in Love is one of the most memorable books I have read and it will bring tears to your eyes as you travel with Travis in his obsessive compulsive search for his one true love, Craig.
ALBIL was my first experience reading an entire book written epistolary style and if you’re put off at the thought of a story made up of newspaper articles, letters, emails, diaries, posts, etc., don’t be. Steve Kluger is master at his craft and you will be sucked into this story from the first chapter.
Ultimately the story is about love, getting second chances, and the loyalty of friends who endure just about anything in the name of friendship. It’s also a truly wonderful, unforgettable story. Run, don’t walk to buy a copy of Almost Like Being in Love. The full review is linked at the top.
Next is Ginn Hale’s masterpiece Wicked Gentlemen, which is probably one of the first M/M steampunk books that I read.
This debut novel is told in two parts and it’s first of all about the search for and apprehension of the culprits responsible for multiple gruesome murders, including Captain William Harper’s sister, and the deal that Harper made with his own personal demon, Belimai Sykes. The story is also about religious extremists who make up a corrupt authority that will stop at nothing, including torture, to achieve its ends – to terminate Belimai and as many of the Prodigals as possible, in the most horrible and painful way.
If you’re looking for a book that has all the elements that make up a truly extraordinary adventure you can’t go wrong with Wicked Gentlemen. There are no real heroes in the book – Belimai has many secrets and so does Harper and neither one trusts the other not to betray him. This is an extraordinary book but is not for the faint hearted, so be warned.
Wicked Gentlemen is a wonderful dark fantasy with all the elements I look for – devils and demons and magic as well as totally corrupt humans – which combine to make this complex story really scary. The book is relatively short (217 pages in print) and proves that a blockbuster can be contained within the pages of a very slim novel.
Wicked Gentlemen is now available in ebook format here and Ginn is writing a sequel.
Faith & Fidelity by Tere Michaels is a book that I had in my TBR pile for months before I read it because the blurb was so full of angst I didn’t know if it would be to my taste. When I eventually read this book I could have kicked myself for waiting so long – it’s one of the best “Gay For You” romances I have ever read.
Evan Cerelli never expected that a year after his wife’s accidental death he would meet and fall in love with someone else. Most of all he never would have dreamed that the new person in his life would be a man. The first few pages of this book were very sombre and depressing and I almost didn’t continue reading. Evan was burying his wife of 20 years who had been killed in an automobile accident; he had been in love with Sherri since high school, had never been with anyone else, and it was heartbreaking to witness the grief, not only Evan’s but also that of his four children.
Fast forward one year later. Evan is at a retirement party for another cop and he meets Matt Haight, a former detective. Matt had left the department under a cloud because he had broken ranks with his brothers in Blue by reporting another cop who was dirty; after that his career was basically over as he was reduced in rank from a New York Police Detective to a Staten Island beat cop. He and Evan hit it off at the party and spent the evening talking to each other, finding out that they had a lot in common. After the party they met regularly for weeks in a bar just to talk and have a few drinks, while underneath their new friendship a sexual attraction was growing and other, softer feelings were beginning to emerge. Neither man knew what to do about this new development and phase of their friendship and each one avoided the elephant in the room until they could do so no longer. Faith & Fidelity is about love, life, death, family and the impact each has on the other. This is also a powerful story about love and loss and loving again which is moving, emotional and poignant. The portrayals were intelligent and did not veer off into fantasyland, and while there were many opportunities for the story to become a real tearjerker, the author avoided that trap.
I highly recommend Faith & Fidelity as well as the sequel Duty & Devotion. I have linked the full reviews for both books which include the “buy” links..
Next up is Cut & Run by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban and it’s fitting that I should highlight this book because it started out as a standalone and is now the first in a memorable series by this writing pair, with the third book due to be released December 6 by Dreamspinner Press.
This is a story about serial murders. Are you getting the sense that I love this type of book? LOL. As expected the murders are gory and gruesome, and you need a very strong stomach to read about some of them. Obviously the book is not light and fluffy but there is a good deal of humour to lighten the dark theme even though the action hardly lets up as more and more bodies are strewn in the path of the unwary reader until you wonder whether anyone would be left standing at the end of the story.
This is another book that it took me a while to read because I am not fond of reading ebooks over 300 pages on a computer and C&R is almost 400 pages. I’m sorry to say that Cut & Run languished in my TBR pile for months but when I started reading it I couldn’t put it down. This was one of the best, most enjoyable stories I have read in a long time because it actually had a plot and complex characters, although at times Special Agents Ty Grady and Zane Garrett got on my last nerve because they were so exasperating! Initially it was tough to get to know Ty and Zane as for the first 30 or so pages they were constantly trying to set boundaries and prove why they hated each other’s type and each other.
Our heroes are bisexual, not gay, but even though they had sex with women it was usually one night stands and was off-page and did not interfere with their chemistry. However, both characters had major personal issues which impacted their relationship as neither one could be considered prime material as a love interest — too much baggage! There is not a whole lot of sex in the book but when the guys get together it’s sizzling, emotional and fun, and the sexual and emotional tension is off the scale. There is one downside and that is, the authors had difficulty staying in one POV at a time so if that REALLY bothers you Cut & Run may not be the book for you, which would be a pity because you would miss one helluva kick ass series since you need to read C&R before you get the other books, Sticks & Stones and Fish & Chips which will be released December 6.
If an author manages to keep me entertained and on the edge of my seat until the very end of a book, which was the case in Cut & Run, that to me is the sign of a story that passes the test of ‘keeper’. The emotional rollercoaster of the investigation and the number of bodies, together with the personal issues around love and togetherness made this a really enjoyable, tension filled read. I have read a number of stories about serial killers and this is one of the best.
Following is a duo of Josh Lanyon books which are completely different but at the same time incredible reads.
Out of the Blue is one of my favourite Josh Lanyon stories because of one character, Cowboy.
This is a World War I adventure which should be depressing because of all the casualties, but strangely I found this story to be uplifting. Here are some of the reasons why I enjoyed it so much:
Have you ever felt so immersed in a book that it seemed you were part of the action? Out of the Blue will have that effect on you. The adrenalin of the suicide flights, the courage displayed by the airmen in rescuing their comrades while under heavy fire, the firefights in the air, the drone of the aircraft, the crashes as planes went down in flames with their pilots still shooting at the enemy, the camaraderie among the pilots — the battles were all too exciting!! Yes men were killed, but we all have to die and what a heart-pumping way to go, knowing that your comrades-at-arms have your back.
The era seems to have been accurately described by Lanyon – the music, the atmosphere, the clothing and the speech were all wonderfully depicted and there wasn’t anyone who was a caricature. Of all the characters in this book the most remarkable and memorable for me was Cowboy who made the other protagonist Bat seem like a pale reflection, even though Bat was the captain in charge of this band of flying aces and was just as brave. The irrepressible Cowboy was the only member of the group who was confident he would come out of the war alive and return home. Somehow I believed that he would make it.
Strange Fortune, is a departure for Josh Lanyon as this book is his first speculative fiction/fantasy adventure, and to be truthful I wasn’t sure if he would be able to pull it off. Fantasy is probably the first genre I ever read and I wanted to see if the author could do what he has done in murder mysteries – give the story its own stamp – and did he ever.
This is what I said, in part, in my review: “Strange Fortune is a tour de force that demonstrates this author’s superb writing skills and imagination in a story that is so engrossing and layered that it reminds me of such fantasy classics as Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein which, although flawed, remains fresh today almost 50 years after it was released. Lanyon was able to get this reader to care about his two flawed protagonists, one of whom is not exactly the kind of character that would endear himself to me, but Aleister is so sensitively drawn, so delicate, losing his mind right before my eyes, that it was impossible not to care about him. The other protagonist, Strange, is charming, resourceful, someone with an eye to the main chance who is not above manipulation to achieve his objectives, yet he too sneaked into my heart. Josh Lanyon built an incredible alien world in such wonderful detail and proportions in this book that it seemed real, and I wondered at times if the magic that wove through the story was being used to seduce me.”
“In Strange Fortune the reader enters a civilization steeped in tradition where the past is as relevant as the present. Some of the action sequences, especially towards the end, are horrific and involve powerful dieties who have their own agendas and are blinded by power. You need a strong stomach for the big ending, but if you love adventure, especially of the epic variety, you will definitely love Strange Fortune. As always, even though the plot is complex, Lanyon’s strength is in his characterizations and he excels here as the characters are all well drawn.”
“For Lanyon fans accustomed to his detective /murder mysteries, their logical minds may not be open to imaginary worlds and the strange creatures that inhabit them. Would some of Lanyon’s more traditional fans enjoy Strange Fortune? My answer to that question is, it depends … on the extent to which they want to remain earth bound. Fantasies are all about letting your imagination soar with no safety net.”
Strange Fortune is a different kind of adventure for Josh Lanyon fans and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The question is, can his other fans who love logic, clues, finding the perpetrators, etc. open their minds to another type of adventure?
A.M. Riley’s Amor en Retrogrado is yet another wonderful story – about amnesia, but not really. Jenre did a masterful job in her review of this book and here’s part of what she had to say:
“The book begins with a crime. Two men are shot in the parking lot of a gay night-club. One is killed the other injured. The two detectives on the scene are Kate and Bill, newly partnered and hungry for a decent case to get their teeth into. The scene then moves to an expensive house in LA where Robert receives a phone call from the hospital to tell him that his ex-lover, JD, who he still loves deeply, has been beaten and shot. Robert rushes to his bedside only to find that JD cannot remember anything that has happened in the past few years and more importantly is unaware that a year ago he left Robert for good.”
Could this plot get any thicker? It did …
Jenre concludes her review by saying “I said at the beginning of the review that this is an ambitious book, and I’ll stick by that assertion. With at least four different viewpoints, a wealth of secondary characters, two concurrent plot lines as well as many themes alongside the mystery and romance, then this book could have seemed overcrowded. It wasn’t at all. It was instead a marvellous study in how to effortless interweave several complicated plot threads whilst retaining complex characterisation. I highly recommend Amor En Retrogrado to those readers who like a good mystery and who are interested in reading about two men fighting to prevent a self-destruction of their relationship.”
The full review is linked above.
This list would not be complete without a cowboy story and this is one of my favourites – Longhorns by Victor J. Banis, an old time western: Here’s part of the blurb:
Forty-year-old Les, the trail boss of the Double H Ranch ……….rides herd over a crew of rowdy cowboys, roping steer and sleeping around prairie campfires. Young drifter Buck, part Nasoni Indian, catches up to them on a roundup. After proving himself an expert sharpshooter, rider and roper, Buck celebrates his initiation to the group by luring one of their number, Red, into his bedroll. But Buck is really after Les, sandy-haired and significantly endowed.
This introduction tells the reader that Longhorns is a classic western about real cowboys, similar to those in a Zane Grey novel, only old Zane and his cowboys never had it so good. 🙂
Les was out on the range the day Buck showed up looking for work. He didn’t think much of Buck at first because he was at least a head shorter than Les and small built, but he had a knack of talking his way into and out of any situation so he gave him a trial because one of his men was injured and he needed an extra hand. This decision was proven right when that same evening Buck stopped a longhorn stampede at the risk of his own life.
He was an enigma to Les who had never met anyone quite like him. Buck’s overt sexual overtures were unmistakable as he was always checking out Les’s crotch and commenting on its size, and the “package” in question invariably sat up and took notice whenever Buck was around, which made Les madder than hell that he would even dare think of him in those terms. But Les was more upset that his body betrayed him time and again by showing how much it wanted Buck. After all, he was not gay – he was a cowboy! This quote perhaps best describes Les –
“Les was a loner. Cowboys were , despite the camaraderie of the campfire. When you got down to it, a man sat alone in his saddle.“
I loved this book for the exquisitely drawn characters, the pacing of the story and the superb writing about a time long gone. In addition to Buck and Les, the cowboy I was most fond of was Red to whom Buck poured out his heart and shared his bedroll a time or two or three. 😉 The prose was eloquent, powerful and moving and the dialogue seemed authentic especially when Les and Buck rode the range together. I felt like I was living this adventure with them. This is not a modern M/M cowboy romance – far from it – it’s a story about life on the range where the men had to be as tough as nails to survive, and even then it could be touch and go. These were the days when men would do each other because women were not readily available, especially since they were away 3 months at a stretch.
I hope you enjoy these stories if you do get them.