You Should Be So Lucky

You Should Be So Lucky 
Author: Cat Sebastian 
Publisher: Avon 
Release Date: May 7, 2024 
Genre(s): M/M Sports Romance, Historical 
Page Count:  400 
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5 

I've read several Cat Sebastian books, and hold a particular fondness for The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, but this book? Sebastian knocks it out of the park (yup, a baseball metaphor). 

I loved this book in a way that makes me ponder the philosophical meaning of baseball (despite not being a huge fan of baseball).
It's slow and often seems pointless. It's beautiful, when it isn't a mess. There's a vast ocean of mercy for mistakes: getting hits half the time is nothing short of a miracle, and even the best fielders are expected to have errors. The inevitability of failure is built into the game.
It's 1960, and Eddie O'Leary, a sunny shortstop with one of the most beautiful swings anyone's ever seen, sure hands and excellent fielding, has been traded by the Kansas City A's to the New York Robins, a new expansion team scrapping the bottom of the league. He's experiencing a slump, the likes of which is hard to even watch, and the Robins aren't speaking to him because he insulted everyone on the team when he learned he was traded. 

Mark Bailey is in the midst of a slump as well, a gray miserable half-life of merely surviving a tragedy that is slowly revealed over the course of the book. He's a writer at the Chronicle assigned to write a weekly diary of Eddie O'Leary over the course of the season. 

The stage is set, and what unfolds is gloriously elegiac as the two men move from reluctant collaborators to a sort of friendship and then into a relationship. The book is short on explicit sex scenes, and long on matters of the heart. Here are two men who form a relationship that works in the midst of a time where being gay is something to hide, something to deny. 

Eddie and Mark are beautifully articulated, and even the secondary and tertiary characters are fully fleshed out. You end the book caring these people. At 400 pages, I could have easily read another 100 pages and still want more. 

And I love the way Sebastian give us deeper things to ponder than merely a meet/cute, fall-in-love relationship. There's the nature of fate, the idea that statistically statistics don't really matter at all, and sometimes ....
Rooting for a team doesn't always mean that you need them to win; sometimes you just want to see them fight, do their best, or even just showing up. Sometimes you want to look at a guy and say: Well, he's fucked, but he's trying.
5+ stars for this book. You should be so lucky to pick up this book! 

And a final wonderful thought from Eddie: "I'm not saying things happen for a reason - I hate that. I'm saying that things happen. And it doesn't have to mean anything except what it means to you. Nobody else gets to decide. "

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

A Death at His Majesty's (The Simon Simpson Mysteries, #3)

 A Death at His Majesty's (The Simon Simpson Mysteries, #3)
Author: David Dawson
Publisher: Park Creek Publishing
Release Date: April 18, 2024
Genre(s): Historical Murder Mystery
Page Count: 280
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 

Read book blurb here

The first two book in the Simon Sampson Mysteries series are set in late 1932 and 1933 in London and Berlin, respectively, featuring political conspiracies and high intrigue. The main character, Simon Sampson works for BBC news and his close friend Bill (Florence Mills) manages the BBC library, although they are each equally comfortable in the arena of spies and espionage. 

A Death at His Majesty's serves as a prequel to the series, set in 1929 London when Bill was Noel Coward's beleaguered assistant and Simon worked as a journalist for the Chronicle. They meet when the prop girl, Maureen Lyon, Bill's former lover, is founded murdered by the stage door of the Majesty, when Noel Coward's operetta Bitter Sweet is set to open. A second death leaves Bill and Simon searching for a common thread to the death and uncovering a killer that may have connections to those in powerful places. 

As always, Dawson does an exception job of setting the scene with historic details about the era, and the gay men and women who lived in an other version of London. Ironically, "it's not even illegal in this country for women to be ... Sapphic ... as far as I know. The law's just obsessed with buggery, you know. Between chaps. The ladies are left alone." Yet this did not prevent women who frequented bars such as Paradise Regained, the Cherry Tree or the Honey Pot from pressure from the police. 

We also get Bill's POV throughout the book and get more of a glimpse into her background, and her acerbic personality. But we also see all the societal pressures that Bill fought against; Simon's Aunt Cynny, who has an important job in the Home Office, serves as an example of the few women who managed to overcome these assumptions and pressures. 

Personally, I didn't think the mystery and conclusion as gripping as the end of A Death in Berlin (but then, it is hard to top that ending!) and some characters like Darling were sort of shoe-horned in without a lot of depth, However, learning how Bill and Simon became friends and getting more pieces of the history of pre-WWII, I did like this installment in the series. I think the author has definitely found his niche, and as always, I'm looking forward to the next book! 4 stars. 

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Death in the Spires

 Death in the Spires
Author: KJ Charles
Publisher: Storm Publishing
Release Date: April 11, 2024
Genre(s): M/M Murder Mystery, Historical
Page Count: 273
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

Jem, Nicky, Aaron, Hugh, Toby, Ella and Prue - The Seven Wonders, or at the start "Feynsham's set" - Toby's curated collection of fellow students who met their first year in Oxford, becoming fast friends, until Toby's murder in the spring of their third year, 1895. Ten years after, Jem loses his lowly clerk job because of a note sent to his employer: 

Jeremy Kite is a murderer. 
He killed Toby Feynsham. 
Ask him why. 

Following Toby's death, they never told the police what really happened earlier that horrid evening and they went on with their lives, with varying degrees of success. Jem, who fell perhaps the lowest in the aftermath, decides once and for all to uncover who murdered Toby ... and why. 

 KJ Charles gives us the world of Oxford seen in a hundred movies (The world was before them, a great sunlit path through pleasant meadows with a glittering city at its end ready for them to conquer.) - Hugh Grantesque boys in long robes on the quad, friends arm in arm walking down the hallowed paths, student theatricals, etc.: 
"They were facing south, looking over Front Quad and Broad Street and toward the main spread of Oxford, and the setting sun turned everything before him to glowing rose gold. The domes and spires rose like masts from the sea, like prayers to heaven, a glory of human brilliance in stone ..." 
But it's also a world where while there is love and friendship, there is more. "Ah, British friendship ... Tolerance as long as everyone knows his place, but God forbid your subjects should declare themselves your equals." As Nicky says "So: all of us could have, none of us would have, one of us did." And while we ponder Toby's murder, we are lead to ask if murder can ever be justified and if worse crimes have gone unpunished. 

It's all deep, heady stuff and KJ Charles shepherds us through the discoveries, the abject sadness, the philosophical and the practical, all the while giving us a small M/M romance (with absolutely no hint of a HFN or HEA). I found this book deeply moving, completely engrossing and 5+ stars and a Recommended Read if you have the heart for it. 

I received an ARC from the publisher, Storm Publishing, in exchange for an honest review.

Blackmailer's Delight

 Blackmailer's Delight
Author: David Lawrence
Publisher: Broadbound Publishing LLC
Release Date: February 12, 2024
Genre(s): M/M Historical Romance
Page Count: 325
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 

In the midst of the French Revolution, the English "Revolt of the Housewives" erupted in 1795, whereby the mostly female rioters redistributed food stores to those in need, after one of England's coldest winters, setting fair prices for the food and paying the proceeds back to the original owners. I love how the women strived to give all involved a good outcome, and in a sense, this reflects the overall tone of David Lawrence's book. 

Throughout the course of Blackmailer's Delight, we find, yup, blackmailers, some perfectly horrid characters, miscommunications and misunderstands galore, and situations where there seems to be no good outcome. And at first, the tone of the writing - for me personally - was a bit much to really digest. There's a certain formal tone and a huge amount of descriptions that bogs down the story and many of the actions and events in the book are told after the fact, or recalled as a memory, resulting in a lack of immediacy. 

But once the plot is fully in swing, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it all. Daniel Thornton goes to Grantham to care for his ailing uncle, declaring that he wished to find the goodness in the world. Yet when confronted with Luke Morley "this young man I've joked with, caroused with, argued with, f@cked with, and tried to emotionally blackmail. Everything, it seems, except to speak to properly.") he believes the absolute worst of him, and yet believes most of what his ex Clarence tells him. 

Clarence starts out as a simply horrid character who I was eager to write off, and yet Daniel manages to find a good resolution to their former relationship. He manages to circumvent the supposed blackmail plan for his marriage to Luke's sister, and the solution is really a stroke of genius all the way around. The secondary characters are well-developed and fleshed out and as the book come to an end, there is a world of possibilities for all the characters. 4 stars.

I received an ARC from the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Author: CS Poe
Publisher: Emporium Press
Release Date: February 5, 2024
Genre(s): M/M Contemporary Romance
Page Count: 60
Rating: 5 stars out of 5 

Llewellyn Cooper (Lew) and his aunt Julia ("Remember the summer you took up performance art in the park and destroyed all your panties in front of picnicking families?" "It was art, Lew. I was making a statement.") run the Curio Cabinet in NYC's West Village and have lately been fascinated by Professor Bow Tie (Henry), a natty dresser (albeit with thick thighs and a lumberjack beard) who sorts endlessly through old photos in their shop, occasionally buying a photo or two.

Julia insists Henry and Lew would make a great couple. And even after a somewhat fraught first date ("I started to giggle. And not in a cute way either - but in a hysterical way that'd have had a nineteenth-century woman locked away."), Lew and Henry find they are, indeed, a good fit. 

This novella packs in a lot - quirky well-developed characters, an Easter egg (or two?), and the start of what looks to be an interesting relationship. Toss in a robbery, a WWI-era mystery, a steamy sex scene (and, yes, this all fits nicely into this 60-page novella) and you have a thoroughly enjoyable story that I personally loved. 5 stars.

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.