Mummy Dearest (The XOXO Files #1)

Title: Mummy Dearest (The XOXO Files #1)
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: JustJoshin Publications
Release Date: September 12, 2019 (Reissued February 12, 2020)
Genre(s): Mystery / Suspense
Page Count: 100
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

Professor Drew Larson is trapped in the jaws of "publish or perish" needing to authenticate what may be an Egyptian mummy in a small Wyoming museum. His boyfriend and boss ("a 55 year old anthropologist whose idea of a rip-roaring time is his mother’s garden party," but, hey, he happens to look like George Clooney) is expecting him back in San Francisco in 24 hours.

But Drew's plans are sidelined by Fraser Fortune and his film crew who have plans of their own. Fraser is host of:
“The Mysterious. It’s only one of the top-rated documentary series on TV right now.”

I snorted. “You mean that thing where they supposedly investigate ancient, weird or paranormal phenomenon and then wrap it all up in half an hour for the at-home viewers?”

“Yeah. That long-running, top-rated, award-winning thing that I produce, write and host.”
What follows is a fun romp involving a Halloween curse, a museum mystery and the start of a deliciously sexy relationship between Fraser and Drew.

"Mummy Dearest" was reissued in the fall of 2019 and the second book in the series, "Bite Club," is in the works. I'm looking forward to reading more about Fraser and Drew and their next adventure! 4 stars.

IM

Title: IM
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: February 10, 2020
Genre(s): Horror
Page Count: 250+
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

Rick R. Reed is a successful author with over 35 books (and counting) and his book list is an interesting mix of M/M romance ... and horror.  Yup,  horror.  Reed addresses this interesting dichotomy in his blog, noting "I think that sense of emotional vulnerability applies to both romance and horror. Vulnerability is universal and that’s why people enjoy reading about it."

IM gives us that vulnerability in this tale of Chicago men using Men4HookUpNow and finding death at their door.  We really get a sense of what each man is hoping to find (love, romance, sex, kink) and these richly-detailed vignettes make the horror that comes much more terrifying and poignant (although I found the deaths very disturbing).

However, I didn't get as clear a sense of the book's main character Ed, gay former Chicago police detective who seemingly meets a dead man at the scene of the crime and is fired for falsifying his police report.
The unfolding of the intricate plot definitely held my interest throughout, and the victims broke my heart, but the POVs from a multitude of characters seemed like overkill (no pun intended). 3.5 stars for IM. YMMV, so read it and let me know your thoughts!





See the Light

Title: See the Light
Author: Kate McMurray 
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: January 28, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Second Chance
Page Count: 206
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

"See the Light" started out strong for me - best friends-to-lovers? Check. Theatre setting? An enthusiastic check! A behind-the-scenes feel of life as a Broadway actor? Yup, sign me up!

But, then around the middle of the book, I just could not get past the rampant lack of communication from Max and his total unwillingness to pull his head out of his arse. I can see how Max is having a hard time switching from unrequited love to having a relationship with Jeremy, and how Max is stuck in the mire of his worries that his feelings aren't completely reciprocated, that he needs to hold a part of his heart back in case this all falls apart .... but dude, maybe use your WORDS.

I think if we had a better sense of the MCs personalities and backgrounds, it would be easier to stick with them through the bad times in their relationship. Yes, we get a lot of information about their shared interest in theatre, but their childhood friendship is very much unexplored and even their young adulthood. I didn't ever feel I knew these characters.

3.5 stars for "See the Light" because I loved the premise of the musical that Jeremy is starring in, and the epilogue was all sorts of satisfying, but all the miscommunication drove me batty.

I received an ARC from Carina Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln

Title: The Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln
Author: C.A. Tripp
Publisher: Free Press
Release Date: January 11, 2005
Genre(s): Biography
Page Count: 396
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

Well. I appreciate that Tripp gives us a heavily researched and deeply nuanced study of Abraham Lincoln's intimate history .... but honestly I must say this book is rather dry and does go on, and on, and on.  However, the author died just a few weeks after completing this book back in 2005 so I suspect it would have benefited from some heavy editing had he had the chance. Also, I will readily admit that I'm not the ideal audience for this purely academic work, so please take my review with a grain of salt.

Tripp, a psychologist, writer, and researcher for Alfred Kinsey, presents his belief that Lincoln was at least bisexual and probably homosexual. As evidence, he extensively analyses contemporary reports of Lincoln's very close relationships with a large number of men which may or may not have been sexual in nature, but relationships that were - none the less - very intimate and important in Lincoln's life. He contends that Lincoln reached puberty very early which can be an indicator of homosexuality, and also highlights Lincoln's love of very dirty stories and his lack of any interest in women as potential partners. He also thoroughly debunks the story of Lincoln's supposed love for Ann Rutledge.

Tripp forces readers to examine Lincoln's relationships without all the prejudices of past historians. "They were just close friends .... they only slept together because of necessity .... their relationship was more father/son ......" Presented as a whole over Lincoln's lifetime, it does appear that where there is smoke, there is fire. Or at least, we can't ignore evidence that Lincoln had deeply intimate relationships with many men over his life. 3.5 stars for very academic and long, but ultimately eye-opening, biography.

GUEST REVIEW: The Lightning-Struck Heart (Tales From Verania #1)

Title: The Lightning-Struck Heart (Tales from Verania #1)
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: BOATK Books
Release Date: November 12, 2019
Genre(s): High Fantasy
Page Count: 451
Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

Thank you so much, ParisDude, for allowing me to repost your exceptional review of TJ Klune's amazing "The Lightning-Struck Heart."  The review was originally published by ParisDude in French on http://livresgay.fr/verania1 and I encourage you to visit http://livresgay.fr/ 

I have often wondered from where my fascination and love for fantasy novels stemmed—those books that describe imaginary realms, inexistent lands, kings, princes, magic, elves, witches, and enchanted forests. When these books are well written and their universe is well constructed, I think they simply remind me of the fairy tales I read in my childhood; reading them is thus a means as good as any other to keep in touch with my inner child.

Now imagine a world with a good and just king; with a handsome but haughty prince, his son Justin; with a shady, powerful wizard, Morgan; with the latter’s young apprentice, Sam, to whom we can already predict a glorious future; with magical and loyal creatures that surround the young man, namely the unicorn Gary and the semi-giant Tiggy; and, of course, with a valiant knight, Sir Ryan Foxheart, young and handsome and strong. That’s the kingdom of Verania in a nutshell—the fictional setting of T.J. Klune’s four-book-series.

But. What one doesn’t imagine straightaway is that this imaginary world with all the heroes and villains it comprises is not like in any other “fantasy” series. Not. At. All. Because Klune adds an essential ingredient without which all this wonderful construction would crumble: gay attitude. Well, he adds it and doesn’t pull his punches, either; no, he pours it into his books by the ladle. And the most beautiful thing happens: Kulne’s stratagem works. The readers might be a little disconcerted at the beginning when they note that more or less everyone is gay in these books. First of all: Sam, the main character, who tells his adventures in first person. Of course, he has a crush on knight Ryan, the handsome, muscular and dark dream-hunk; he’s as love-struck as a gushing teenage girl.
Unfortunately for him, the knight is already the very official fiancĂ© of crown-prince Justin. Yes, in the wonderful kingdom of Verania, whether you’re straight, gay, bi, pan or asexual (to name but a few of the major variants), not only nobody cares, but people find it perfectly normal. Even the old king (apparently still a striking and tasty sugar daddy) often drops hints which suggest the late queen wasn’t the only person he “honoured” in his youth.

So, everyone is gay. Maybe not Tiggy, the semi-giant, a rather simple-minded but endearing lad, nor the great wizard Morgan, who we guess is asexual. But Gary is—you remember, Sam’s friend, the hornless unicorn. Very gay, mind you, a true Queen, colourful, uproarious, bitchy, spiteful, and completely obsessed with sex. He would make a drag queen on acid look like a poor debutante. The plot of this first volume revolves around a quest, as is wont in this kind of book. A dragon kidnaps the crown-prince; Sam, Tiggy, Gary, and Ryan are sent to rescue him. This first venture is a page-turner, especially since the romance between Sam and Ryan starts to get more and more precise (and how cute those two are!). Then, you discover that… even this dragon is gay! And about as sex-obsessed as Gary!

That’s the moment even the dimmest-witted readers would get it: this is a parody of the genre, a caricature as good as they get. I’d even add that you can’t get any better. Because what a riot! What a laugh! Yes, I laughed, and laughed, and laughed, giggling wile reading and bursting out laughing at the most hilarious passages. For a starter, the characters are a hoot; they’re all a bit “crazy”. Alright—they’re complete nutters. They say out loud whatever crosses their minds, loads of pointless rubbish more often than not, but funny, bitchy, salacious rubbish. Highly enjoyable. The dialogues between Sam and Gary in particular are priceless. All they ever think about is “it”, if you catch my drift, so they talk about “it” all the time, up to a point where I sometimes wondered where this whole badgering would take me. But Klune knows what he's doing, he leads his story with firm movements and makes the reader reach the end without actually getting lost.

So, in a nutshell, this is a book that I read with immense pleasure and that I will surely reread more than once. Now, good news: as I mentioned, this is a series, so I’ve got three more books to read.

Boiling Over (Caro Mysteries #2)

Title: Boiling Over (Caro Mysteries #2)
Author: Thea McAlistair
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: January 6, 2020
Genre(s): Historical Suspense / Mystery
Page Count: N/A
Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Read book blurb here

In this second book in the Caro Mysteries series, Alex and Sev have fled to rural Vermont to lay low after the murderous events of the first book.  But they leap from the frying pan right into the fire when there's a murder in Chickadee, Vermont just as they arrive in town. Sev's mob boss / cousin Bella arrives in town, gets promptly tossed in jail, and Alex has to find the killer in order to clean Bella's name.  The only problem is the bodies start to pile up, as well as the suspects.

The author does a good job of slowly unfolding Chickadee - where everyone knows everyone AND all their secrets. McAlistair gives us vignettes of secondary characters that are nicely fleshed out and the murder / mystery plot really holds my interest throughout.

Against this backdrop, Alex finds himself more confused and conflicted about his relationship with Sev. After all, they've only been together a matter of weeks and there are years (and years of experiences) separating them. At times Alex spends far too much time pouting in his room, avoiding Sev and as there is no on-page intimacy, I miss not having a better sense of the full dynamics of their relationship.

However, by the end of the book, Sev and Alex are on firmer ground, and solve the murders .... except for a cliffhanger that leaves us wondering if there is a larger game being played, and if so, who is the ultimate target?

All in all, I liked the mystery, liked the characters and the setting, and definitely like the way this book develops the series.  After the first book in the series, No Good Men, I was on the fence about this series, but I am definitely looking to read more Caro Mysteries!  4 stars.

I received an ARC from NineStar Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Hard Ride (Clean Slate Ranch #5)

Title: Hard Ride (Clean Slate Ranch #5)
Author: AM Arthur
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: February 17, 2020
Genre(s): Contemporary Western Romance
Page Count:
Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Blurb: Read book blurb here

I have not read other books in the "Clean Slate Ranch" series so I was at a disadvantage at times reading this book which references couples from past books, and I would have liked more character development for Derrick, but overall "Hard Ride" works as a stand-alone.

Derrick and Slate meet one hot summer night after a wedding at the Clean Slate Ranch and literally go to the mats in the ranch gym for steamy no-holds barred omigawd hot sex. When Slater falls off the side of a mountain to save a young rancher, Derrick offers him a place to recover near city medical facilities ... and act as his fake boyfriend in a series of family weddings over the summer.

I'm a fan of the "fake boyfriend / marriage of convenience" theme, but it's hard to get involved here with two men who bottle up just about everything and can't communicate their way out of a damp paper bag. As their relationship moves from convenience to real emotion, each man's unwillingness to speak honestly makes it difficult to ultimately care about them getting their HEA.  3 stars.

I received an ARC from the publisher Carina Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.