Review: Ten by Tia Fielding, Love By Numbers 1

TiaFieldingTen
Cover Art © 2019 Garrett Leigh

I would rate this 4 stars.

After ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, Makai heads to Acker, Wisconsin to start his life over. There he meets Emil, still suffering his own PTSD from his ten day ordeal at the hands of drug traffickers. The hurt/comfort trope is high with this one as they stumble into a relationship while Emil’s father Kalle, the Sheriff, tries to keep them apart. We get to see both sides of law enforcement here, from Makai’s conviction for being brown, to an honest small town sheriff trying to protect his son from heartbreak and conquer his own prejudice (about excons, not because Makai’s a POC), and deputies Erin and Jason, who show Makai kindness. Unfortunately another deputy, Mark, is concerned with everyone’s sexuality and gender instead seeing them as people.

Watching Makai emotionally and mentally navigate being out of prison is sad. I am not usually a fan of so much inner musing, but with Makai fresh from prison and living alone in a sparsely populated area, it is appropriate to the story. Emil has trouble being around people too, so his POV is also self contained. Yet, when the dialogue happens it is real and pertinent, it helps paint a picture of their lives. Here the slow burn is entirely necessary; there is no other way for these men to interact. The bravery, the honesty they share is astonishing but in their excitement to have found someone who understands, they get too close too quick. As with all mental health issues, it’s a few steps forward, a few steps back. The sex is a natural extension of their relationship, but not eroticized for the reader. They are building a life together and that is just one small part of it as they struggle to be healthy.

The vet Doc, Emil’s shrink Evy, Emil’s mom Nora, the grocery store owner Mr. Miller, Joy/Joie and their mom Lotte–this is loaded with caring characters that feel real because they are described and their interactions with each other feel real. Joy/Joie is a wonderful 5 year old age appropriate character exploring their gender. It’s heartwarming to see the effort some of the town members take to welcome Makai, encouraging his integration–yes, some are bigots and homophobes, that’s just life. The small town feel is well written and surprisingly diverse. The whole town is invested in Emil because they had to share in his tragedy, so they want share in his happiness also. I do think Makai has to go above and beyond to prove to everyone, especially the sheriff, he is a “good guy” even though we was exonerated of the crime he committed and was unjustly convicted. This makes me wonder what kind of reception Kaos, Makai’s friend from prison, will get when he arrives for book two. Over all this is a well done, low angst for the subject matter, solid romance.

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**This book was previously published by Dreamspinner Press and has now been self-published by the author. I have an older edition of this book and it is exclusive to Amazon at this time.

Review : A Fluid State by Rob Browatzke

I would rate this 4 stars.

In the beginning, Patrick is seeing his son Peter for the first time in two years after coming home from Afghanistan. Patrick’s ex-wife Christy really drop kicks Patrick into the deep end, and expects him to adapt and act appropriately without any frame of previous reference for how to deal with his new gender bending, vegetarian, 11 year old son who loves Saturday morning Drag Queen Storytelling at the local library. Of course, the idea that Patrick’s ex is a POC, that he acknowledges the issue for his son, was the only thing that made me give him the benefit of the doubt. Then, it switches to Andrew’s POV: he is lonely and having trouble dating. At first most of his personality is funny and snarky asides, which come from his drag persona Ann. When they meet while Andrew is out of drag, Patrick realizes maybe it’s a good idea to get to know who his son spends time with. If this keeps him from looking like a bigot, then all the better.

Being inside Patrick’s head and listening to what is coming out of his mouth at the beginning is cringeworthy. All anyone has is what they are taught until they know better, then they need to do better, and he does. Patrick’s most important consideration seems to be for Peter be happy, but Peter is still figuring things out and the effects of bullying are difficult to read. I’m not a huge fan of babies or kids in books, but Peter is a huge part of why this all works rather than just an excuse for Andrew and Patrick to get together. I like that Patrick likes Andrew, and isn’t just attracted to Ann. Although that can be hot too when written right, the author is clear that Patrick isn’t ever pretending Andrew is Ann or fetishizing Ann in any way. In many ways Andrew is too good to be true: always patient, kind, understanding, good with kids, and good natured in general.

The timeframe is a bit too short to believe the 180 Patrick does from the beginning of the book to the end because there’s nothing gradual about this, but I remember seeing an episode of a show called Faking It on Channel 4 in the UK in 2002. It was about people who have a complete career change in four weeks and a heterosexual ex-navy officer learns to be a drag queen. Not that Patrick goes that far (lol), but that someone really can learn to have empathy, respect, and integrate into a new way a thinking, a new community, if they make the effort.

As for the bi for you and first time tropes, Patrick reads demisexual to me, having only been in two prior relationships, one of which was his wife. This is a heartwarming story of a father who discovers who he is and what he wants for himself later in life. While it has all the feels and hot love scenes, it’s because I wanted the fairytale, rather than it was entirely realistically fleshed out–it’s an easy read with surprisingly low angst. But, sometimes life does slot into place just like it ought to and those times are magical whether real or on the page.

The cover design is by Alexandria Corza. I think it’s striking, but it doesn’t show the family aspect of the story.

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review :A Fluid State by Rob Browatzke — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Review: Love Is All: Volume 2 edited by Xio Axelrod

LoveIsAllVol2
Copyright © 2019 by Xio Axelrod LLC

I would rate this whole collection 3.75 stars.

This is a charity anthology, so I tend to think of the stories as a thank you for donating money. All anthologies are a mixed bag and people will like different stories than I do, but here are a few of my favorites from this collection. There is a variety of combinations (M/M, F/F, M/M/F, M/F) with bisexual, trans, and ace represented. They are all contemporary except for the one historical, paranormal romance. The foreword by Roan Parrish is quite eloquent.

R.L. Merrill, Pinups and Puppies (F/F, 4 stars)

This is told from the first person POV of Marianne, who is struggling with grief and reintegration after her retirement from the Air Force. She owns a vintage plane and volunteers to transport dogs to help shelters who find them homes. That’s how she meets Dinah, who co-owns the shelter. They both seem to have great support systems filled with family and friends. With great chemistry, their lives and interests slot nicely together, making them a cute couple.

Susan Scott Shelley, Sugar Crush (Bliss Bakery Series) (M/M, 4.5 stars)

Jack, a horror novelist, gets to know a baker named Gabriel when he joins a softball team to help his friend Shane. This has an opposites attract trope with great sexual tension and friends as extended family. This is about fitting into someone’s life and making room for them to fit into yours–giving each other a safe space and carving out shared time, while still having their own interests. Also, not letting fear or the past get in the way of the future.

Xio Axelrod When Frankie Meets Johnny (M/M, 4.25 stars)

DJ meets contractor/teacher in this hurt/comfort tale with an age gap. This story is what you make it. I highly recommend listening to all the songs that he plays for a hell of a good time. If an artist is mentioned, but not a song, pick one that has a title that fits the scene. I would have rated this higher, but I couldn’t tell if this was Johnny’s first time with a man or he was demisexual? There is certainly a misunderstanding I think could have been handled better, but the story is charming.

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Review: Trusted (Until You #3) by Karrie Roman

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

This starts three days after the events of the previous book and focuses on Zach, the cult leader’s son, who was rescued during an FBI raid on the compound. He may have had a crush on Ben for helping rescue him, but it’s Ben’s brother Cameron who is helping him now by giving him a place to stay. Since he’s grown up in a cult, he really doesn’t know how to deal with the modern world and needs help navigating his new reality. Also, the legal issues are just beginning as the FBI questions all the cult members in order to get evidence on the men they arrested, including “Father” Piper. Many of the cultists are brainwashed and hate Zach for trying to help save them from being killed.

The fun parts of this book are really all of Zach’s firsts: candy, popcorn, movie theater, plane, ocean–yes, other firsts too. This will appeal to readers who like the hurt/comfort trope. Often, it’s Cameron who seems most hurt by some past event. Having Cameron be the one who is scared, unsure, and flustered by Zach’s advances makes it work for me in a way it wouldn’t if Cameron were the aggressor. It would be difficult to get past the idea that Zach was being taken advantage of. It also helps there’s only an 8 year age difference. I like that Cameron trusts his brother Ben enough to talk about his past: that this book can portray a strong, successful rescue pilot without the toxic masculinity. I liked them both as characters, but I felt Cameron was not as well written as Zach. I wanted them to have their happy ending because that’s what you expect in a romance, but I wasn’t really emotionally invested in it. Both Cameron and Zach fight their own demons, which is as it should be–no one can fix everything for you.

Cameron tries pushing Zach away, but when Cameron’s past has come back to haunt him and Zach is in danger all bets are off. In comparison with book two, the action sequences are contained here. The story really splits nicely into three parts: Zach adjusting to the world while Cameron fights his attraction to Zach, Zach’s rescue, and then the conclusion of Zach dealing with his mother and father. This works well and flows nicely. This book also does a better job of recapping in a way that you could read it as a standalone, but it is really a continuation of book two. In fact, at this point book one is the anomaly except that Lucas and Ryan are funding the adventures.

Lucas, Ryan, Ben, and Ethan have started an investigation firm to help find missing children. Zach wants to work with them to help, so I expect Cameron will too. The next book seems like it’s going to feature Alec finally, the now former FBI agent we met in book two. This series seems like it will go back into the action adventure mode previously established, but it was nice to get a bit of a breather here–there was action, but it was a smaller part of the overall story about two men who want to move on with their lives and leave their bad past behind.

The cover art is by Natasha Snow. The models’ pose with the jacket is a little strange but I like the rest of the cover. The bottom has echos of Zach’s nightmares. With Cameron being a helicopter pilot and Zach wanting to learn, it has the look of them flying off into the sunset together.

Sales Links:  NineStar Press | Amazon

Book Details: ebook
Published October 29th 2018 by NineStar Press
ISBN139781949909081
Edition Language: English

Series: Until You

via A Chaos Moondrawn Review: Trusted (Until You #3) by Karrie Roman — Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words