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The Tipsybibliophile

I love cheap and tasty wine, reading stories about men falling in love and making good food…Here is where I mix all three.

Currently reading

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A Case of Possession (A Charm of Magpies #2) by KJ Charles and a Javaliscious South African Pinotage

A Case of Possession - K.J. Charles

 The level of awesomeness that is this series, really, truly, I can’t put into words. A Case of Possession, the second installment in the A Charm of Magpies Series by KJ Charles is just as good as the first, and  THAT is one hard act to follow. In this story we go back to 19th century London, and immediately set off in another fast paced adventure with Lucien Crane, Stephen Day and Merrick, Lord’s Crane exceedingly efficient henchman, and sidekick extraordinaire. This trio did not give me a second of down time during the story.  But we didn’t just get action and adventure, with just a bit of smexing to whet our appetite…No, Oh no…Because Lord Crane he is a MAN with a plan, and all of it involves Stephen Day being his. ALL  his…SO! There was quite a bit of romance in this story and I gulped it down like it was All You Can Drink Day at the pub, and I was first in line at the bar…It was DEElicious.


Before I get into things…The wine. This post will be food-less since the rats in book, (as KJ warned me they would!)  suppressed my appetite a bit. So, just wine on this one, but I promise I have a WINNER for you.  As I’ve mentioned,  I can’t get enough of Lucien and Stephen, if I had it my way, I’d get a book a week. Alas, KJ Charles does not live to write me books, which  means anticipation was HIGH for this one. I had to pair it with something extra special, one of my most favorite reds. I selected the  2011  Barista  Pinotage from South African wine maker Bertus Fourie. This wine. THIS WINE.  It’s a HUGE splurge for me, it’s close to $16.00 a bottle, about $7-$8 above what I normally spend. Which makes it PERFECT for this story, because anything I read with Lucien and Stephen is exactly that, an absolute treat. The strong coffee tones, and hints of cherry in this wine make it decadent and unique. The coffee angle is also very much apropos, since the story is linked in a way to the land of Sumatra, a close neighbor of the island of Java, which is known by most of the world as one of the finest producers of highland coffee…Ok enough with the wine, back to the story.



We catch up with Lord Crane and Stephen about four months after they barely escaped with their lives in the English countryside. Lucien and Crane have continued their affair, and things have gotten very deep for Lucien. He is far gone on Stephen. The little witch mystifies him, and frankly he can’t get enough of the man. Stephen though, he’s elusive, he comes and goes without notice and it’s KILLING Lucien…I mean they are both free men, there has been no talk of commitment, and given that the danger of being caught engaging in ‘unnatural acts’ could cost Stephen dearly, Lucien does not want to push…But god, HE WANTS TO.

Stephen is stubborn and prideful,  he has learned the hard way too many times that he can only rely on himself. So, he is independent,  he asks for nothing. They enjoy each other very much, but Stephen keeps his distance. It’s frustrating because in their time alone they are like two halves of a whole. They come together so exquisitely, and Lucien KNOWS they can be so much more. If only Stephen gave in a little, let Lucien in his life just a bit.


Lucien’s time to prove himself to Stephen comes as a result of a strange and terrifying pest wreaking havoc in Limehouse (the Chinese slums). Rats. BIG, enormous rats, the stuff of nightmares are showing up and doing harm…Some occult forces are obviously at play. Stephen and his team are on the case, and when their usual Mandarin translator is no longer available (he has apparently taken extortion and blackmail as his new enterprise) Stephen asks for Lucien’s and Merrick’s assistance. Things go south fast, but they are in it together, and Lucien WILL NOT let Stephen or his colleagues down.


This story has many twists and turns, there a two overarching stories  that meet right in the middle of the rat mess, and both Lucien and Stephen are right at the center of it. The mystery and the horror that were so well done in The Magpie Lord  are just as thrilling this time. In addition we got some fabulous lore from the island of Sumatra, making for an even more intriguing and complex adventure. Lucien and Merrick had to call upon on their experiences and contacts from the Far East to come to Stephen’s aid, which made for some excellent storytelling. I love that we see another side of 19th century London and not just, The Ton, that is revisited   again and again in period novels. I loved the time in the Trader’s club that Lucien frequents, his old stories from the years in China, as well as the tales from all the former China ex-pats that Lucien socializes with.


We also got to meet Stephen’s other associates in the practitioner’s league, and I REALLY hope we get more of them. They are like some sort 19th century Britain version of the Fantastic Four…Stephen, the young but undeniably superior sorcerer. Esther the older and resolute partner. Ms. Saint with her disguises and fast moves, and finally Janossi, the junior magician who makes up for his inexperience with a lot of courage. This group was outstanding and gave me some of the most exciting moments of the book.


There is horror and there is fine mystery here to be sure, but the romance was  powerful here as well, and there was NO holding back with the erotica either. I LOVE Lucien’s character, there are so many dichotomies to him, it’s almost like he thrives in the grays. Black or White are just not part of his landscape, and that makes him SO WILLING to be a better man for people he finds worthy. So even though he is a LOT jaded and cynical, with Stephen he is tender. Stephen does not want the tenderness mind you, or the care taking, but Lucien wants to give him softness and hotness and happy. His little witch’s life has too many sharp edges already. I LOVE them together, and look forward to much from this fabulous world Ms. Charles has created.


Absolutely recommend, and if you have time take a moment to read Interlude With Tattoos (a short which is free on Smashwords)  before reading this one, it will give you valuable insight.

Fishs & Ghosts by Rhys Ford

Fish and Ghosts - Rhys Ford

This book is for sure one of the most outrageously entertaining reading experiences I’ve had in this genre, and for sure one of the best books of this year for me. Oh baby this was delicious! Fish and Ghosts the first installment of the new paranormal Hellsinger Series (THANK GOD THERE ARE MORE!!) by Rhys Ford is creative, funny, rich with wonderful action, and just an overall seriously entertaining read from beginning to end. Think The Sixth Sense and Ghostbusters have a gay baby, which is a book.

To me the key thing about this book was that it felt UNLEASHED. I feel like Rhys went where she wanted to go on instinct, and what she wrote was whatever the hell she wanted. Something different, colorful, humorous, with a touch of darkness, a strong, yet tasteful dose of weird that all came together as a fantabulous read. Trystan Pryce and Wolf Kincaid LIT UP MY LIFE…For real.

Trystan Pryce…He talks to dead people. Or at least that’s what he’s been telling his family for years. He is the guardian of his family’s ancestral home, and after his uncle Mortimer died and left his as sole heir of the home. He assures his relatives that he MUST stay at Hoxne Grange and serve as a portal to the souls that move on through the house…I mean SURE, maybe it sounds a little weird to other people that he is basically running a B&B for dead people, but it is, what it is…Not so much though…His other uncle is pissed he got yipped out of the family’s home and he’s sending in the big guns to finally prove that Trystan is one big box of fruit loops. In comes Wolf Kincaid *swoons*…Wolf goes into homes with “other worldly” activities and pretty much debunks myths…There are lot of people taking others for rides, and his job is to find these con men out. He’s good at it too. He’s got his team and his equipment and if there is anything that is not on the up and up, he’ll find it. He is more than a little curious to see what the heir of Hoxne Grange is up too, and cannot wait to make the guy come clean.

Only thing is, Trystan is delicious. All Wolf wants to do is tackle them man and make him sweat and pant for hours…Also he doesn’t really seem crazy or at least he REALLY believes the whole “Ghost B&B” deal is for real. Pretty soon things start getting strange. Wolf isn’t sure about much anymore, and the thing with Trystan is getting serious…When his crew members make a dumb move and hell starts breaking loose, Wolf has to face the fact that he might have been wrong about Trystan and Hoxne Grange. Then the worst possible thing happens…He has to call his mom for help.

Ok here’s the deal. This right here, this book, it’s Prime Time reading. The characters are fabulous, story solid. From Wolf’s cynical sexy beastness, to Trystan’s prickly hermit thing. Their romance made for a great slow burn, they were explosive together.The erotica was first rate. I had a lot of fun watching these guys make their way to each other. I enjoyed the secondary characters as well. Rhys built a wonderful cast, who brought a whole hell of a lot to the story. Wolf’s mom was phenomenal. Wolf’s crew gave us the sinister part of the strory. And that’s only the characters that were alive! The paranormal angle was OUTSTANDING. The entire thing was highly entertaining, Rhys took me somewhere unexpected and a bit scary, but I have to say I was right there with her the whole time. The action scenes were fun, fast and VERY VERY well rendered. It is easy to confuse when so much is getting built in one’s head from scene to scene, but the writing held here, and I was able to just enjoy the ride. The horror, the mystery, the lore, they were all fantastic. Being the first in a series, this book gave me enough to want the story to continue, but I did not feel like I was being set up. No delayed gratification here, just good reading.

I can’t say enough good things about this book, I LOVED it. Rhys is already a well established writer in this genre, with good reason, she rocked the house with this one.

An absolutely fabulous book, recommend it effusively.  

Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

Reblogged from The Tipsybibliophile:
Chase in Shadow - Amy Lane

I had three thoughts when I finished this book:

1. I LOVED this book too much, and damn I'm a glutton for angst, because I'm actually giddy.
2. Amy Lane may not be for everyone, but her books ROCK MY WORLD
3. I wonder when the next one is coming out?

Now the story...

The Broken Boy
...Self-Destructive Fuckery, thy name is Chase "Chance" Summers

Chase Summers is a young man who has been tampering with the reality of what and who he is his whole life. A horrible childhood, a mother who took her own life, an abusive, bigot father who probably drove her to it. Not nice things to remember. So, he stores the bad stuff in a place in his mind, where he can keep it from touching anyone else in his life. It's killing him sure, every day he's closer to just coming apart. But he sticks to his plan. He has it all worked out, and he has a lot of duct tape.

Chase has a "life" , beautiful fiancee he loves, best friends who are loyal, he's a good athlete, makes a lot of money, and he's in school to be an engineer. From the outside it all looks shiny and perfect. Well, it's all built on lies. Doesn't matter though, he has plan for the future all worked out in his head. All with the appropriate figures, girl, boy, babies...It's all a charade. He is not happy. He is not straight.

What he actually is, is a man in the closet, working as a gay porn actor, lying to his fiancee, his friends, being incredibly unfair to his lover. HE IS MISERABLE. We meet Chase at his lowest, when the stitching of all the webs he has woven have begun to come apart. He has come undone.

The Warrior...Tommy "MOTHERFUCKING PERFECTION" Halloran

Tommy "Tango" Halloran, is an actor for Johnnies the same porn studio that Chase works for. From the first moment Chase sees Tommy, he wants him, to know him, talk to him, touch him. He just WANTS. They meet, and they fall in love. In the midst of the clusterfuck that is Chase's life, Tommy and Chase fall in love, and make a home. Chase is selfish with Tommy, demands from him things that he can't give in return. But Tommy gives them anyways, because he may not be broken, but he has cracks, and the only thing that has ever felt like it can fix them is Chase.

And they hurt each other, but they fix each other too, and those really fucking great moments they have of outrageous love, are just amazing. They manage to build something strong, even while Chase is living what sometimes seems like a dozen lives. Tommy doesn't give up on Chase, he knows what Chase needs to do, he has to let the walls down, and that poison that is inside him needs to come out. Tommy doesn't stop pushing and fighting. He knows, HE KNOWS that Chase can be the man he wants to be, he can have that future he has planned, he just needs to adjust it a little.

The Cavalry...Who said the good guys can't be porn stars?

In true Amy Lane fashion there were plenty more characters to fall in love with in this book than I could manage. In this story she gave us a look in to the porn industry that was very benevolent. Healthy work environment, with good guys that were good friends. There was drama of course, but their role was to be Tommy and Chase's support system. It worked well, I think adding more to the crazy stew that was Chase would have been too much. I loved these guys. Dex the responsible one, the leader, Kane the crazy hyper bunny, Ethan the guy that just wants to be loved, John the porn mogul that was a really great guy. They were awesome and added a whole hell of a lot to this story. They are all a bit frayed, but they were also good people.

There were also Chase's childhood friends Donnie and Kevin who were strong and THERE. The therapist, and even the fiancee Mercy ,who was a strange character for me, but ended up being someone really important.

I know this book may not work for everyone. Chase is difficult to figure out. I just didn't understand what he was doing. He was a living contradiction. He didn't even know what he was hiding from. He just wanted to be loved, and he WAS, just not by the right person. It's hard to like a guy who is blatantly duplicitous and hypocritical.

But Chase is so broken, and so exposed it's hard not to care for him. I just wanted him to get better. He couldn't do it on his own though. Tommy, he had to help him. It'll be hard for some readers to stomach the way Tommy just let Chase get away with EVERYTHING. He hurts him bad. But hey, who the fuck am I to judge how a guy that lived with what Chase had to live with dealt with his shit? Chase's story is not pretty, but in all his lying the his tale is honest. He figures it out, he does. It's just ugly, no way a shit storm like the one Chase had been brewing could happen without taking a few towns out in the process.

Apart from that in terms of format, this story is jumpy, we get a lot of glimpses from different times, that kind of go back and forth. Worked for me, but it is different. The opening for every chapter was really different, and for me a cool fucking trick...Felt like an opening scene of a film and we're kind of zoomed into the moment. That was BADASS.

There was an unexpected surprise, which threw me off for like a second, but Tommy and Chase got me back on track almost immediately. There were also some strong similarities in the way things evolved in some parts to another book by Ms. Lane.

It's a big story this one. Like an onion. Layers and layers of drama, angst, lies, deception, grief, frustration, joy, sexyness, outrageously strong love, endurance, bad shit, good outcomes, happiness, redemption, resilience. It's got it all baby.

HAPPY ENDING YOU ASK? Get your hankies ready, because this boys will have you singing HALLELUJAH by the time it's all said and done. I was anyways.

Do I recommend? Three words: It's. AMY. LANE.

Wild Onions - Sarah Black Robert Mitchell is arriving back to the cabin in Salmon River, Idaho which belonged to his lover Val. One year has passed since the accident that took Val’s life, and left Robert seriously injured, and now looking to loose his home from crippling medical bills. His life that was radiant and full just one year before seems like it’s falling apart all around him, and he’s feeling low. Things have been grim, and he’s thought that selling the cabin might be a way to at least relief some of the pressures in his life. The thing is once he gets there and he remembers what that cabin meant to him, to THEM, to Val who had it in his family for generations, he just couldn’t do it. He’d stay for awhile and think of where to go next.

Things become even ligther when he meets Cody Calling Eagle a tall, strong, Blackfoot man who’s been fishing in the Salmon River right by Robert’s cabin. Cody is young, magnetic and there’s something about his open eyes and heart that makes Robert want to hope a little. He wants a taste of that goodness. Things are so good with Cody, so sweet, he’s sad that he can feel like this when Val is not in the world anymore, but Cody he’s like a big open heart calling to Robert to kiss him, touch him…FEEL HIM.

Things become a little confused when Cody and Robert start having shared dreams about the history of the cabin, and the dark things that happened there. Bad things happened in the past, evil men came to the cabin to hurt Val’s and Cody’s ancestors. The two men in Robert’s live where connected by an ancient bond. Cody’s great-great-uncle had been Val’s great-great-grandfather’s lover. Things from the past come back to haunt them and the love that is blossoming between Robert and Cody is in danger. Robert won’t let this lover go though, he will do what he has to, so that he can get back the future he was beginning to glimpse in Cody’s eyes.

The romance in this story is one of the more intense ones I’ve read of Sarah, there was nothing subtle here. It’s literally a coming back from the dead. Total submission to love. The history lessons and the ghosts where fascinating, and as always I feel a bit smarter.

Lovely. Would like some more please.

ALSO...Sarah Black is donating a meal to the Boise, Idaho Food Bank for every copy of this story sold...GO BUY IT!!! HERE IT IS!
Northern Star - Ethan Day EEEEPPP!!! Gimme.Gimme.Gimme!!!!!!!!!
The Door Behind Us - John C. Houser This cover!!!!
Omorphi - C. Kennedy I stopped reading at about 22%. This book I think could have been a lot better for me if any editing would have actually happened. There was way too much going, of going on and on and on... The subject matter at the heart of this book is very very delicate, and the tone of the book seemed almost counterintuitive. Like I was being "told" that it was serious, but what has happenening didn't make me "feel" like it was.

The characters' voices where also hard for me to connect with, and I was having a hard time with some of the vernacular and the repetitiveness. I just felt there was too much of too much.

Better editing would have gotten this book to be a much more solid read. There was a lot of good stuff in there, but it was bogged down. I have an issue with books for young adults that are, for lack of a better word, too "bubbly." Young people in my experience are sophisticated enough to appreciate a subject that is heavy and difficult with maturity and sobreity. So consistency and coherence are important, heavy books, should BE heavy if they need to be. I'm not sure how to explain this, but I just felt that I was getting mixed signals.

Anyways, I was looking forward to this, and it just didn't work for me. It is getting high reviews,so that is not the case for everyone, which is a good thing.

I get a lot out of books that approach these kinds of subjects, for now Crush by Laura Susan Johnson remains the best book I've read on recovering from the crippling trauma of extended sexual and physical abuse.

I will still be on the lookout for more from this author and I hope in the future his editors help him shear of the excess so that his stories can shine.
The Magpie Lord - K.J. Charles Lived up to the HYPE and then some!

Let's see what can I say that already hasn't been said already? First off, this book REALLY IS a great read. It's a fabulous mystery/horror story with all the elements that I look forward to when I open up a thriller. The author HAS to be a Sherlock Holmes/HP Lovecraft fan, because the mix of disturbing/creepy, fast paced adventure, humor, with an engrossing complex mystery that spilled into an, for lack of better words, extremely appealing horror story was absolutely top notch...And then the romance. That's where this author went for "builp-up" that crescendoed to a breathless love scene that left me equally satisfied AND wanting more. The coming together here was TOTALLY worth waiting for. Perfectly timed, it wasn't a distraction from the mystery (which was the real meat of the story) and didn't at all feel gratuitious it felt like a REWARD!

It had been a while A LONG WHILE since I read a book in M/M that I had this much fun with. The setting was fantastic (so creepy and interesting). The writing superb, the characters palpable and very much alive on the page), the pacing just right...Everything made for a real treat.

Lucien Vaudrey has come back to the UK after 17 years in China to deal with the aftermath of both his father and brother commiting suicide. Leaving him as sole heir of their estate and righful owner of a Lordship. Lucien is not up to this, his relationship with his family was not a good one. His brother was a monster and his father his enabler. He hates the home he grew up in and to make things worse he is pretty sure someone has put a curse on him...That's where Stephen Day comes in. Day is "practitioner" of magic and has come with high recommendations...Lucien is not a fan of witches or sorcerers but things are getting weirder and he's afraid for his life.

Once Day helps with the immediate curse on Lucien he quickly realizes that there are powerful things in motion that are threat to Lucien, and even though Stephen should hate everyone with the Vaudrey last name he is a man who believes in justice and he cannot walk away from the evil that he sees sorrouding the man. Stephen wants to stay in Piper (the Vaudrey family estate) and figure what is with the Magpies ALL OVER THE PLACE and what's more there is way too much juju going for a little country town. There's also the fact that EVERYONE hates the Vaudreys...And that Lucien's advances are getting harder to resist.

Once Lucien starts getting under Stephen's skin he is drawn to the man more and more...After all just because he's fair minded doesn't mean he can't fall for the charm of the rakish Lord Crane.

So yeah this book was entirely enjoyable in every sense of the word. I loved every second and I'm super excited to hear there will be more from Stephen, Lucien and Merrick the valet/sidekick extraoridnare. I look forward to more intricate, fast paced adventures with a HEALTHY dose of hard core toppy smexin...Seriously what more could a girl ask for?!?!?!
Ethan in Gold - Amy Lane Please October 4th BE HERE NOW!!!! EEEHH!! That cover!!!!
Beyond Duty - S.J.D. Peterson Loved. For my complete review The Tipsy Bibliophile
His Roommate's Pleasure - Lana McGregor This was a cute Jock/Geek college dormmates romance.

Adam one day discovers Josh's porn stash and the realized they have a lot more in common then they though. They both get turned on by kink and why not explore those urges? They are in the same room after all!

Sweet and very sexy. Tasty little snack.
Left on St. Truth-be-Well - Amy Lane AH-Mazin! My complete review at The Tipsy Bibliophile
Love, Like Water - Rowan Speedwell 3.75 Stars

Joshua Chastain is a Federal agent that has just come out of a three year undercover assigment a completely broken man. He was in deep with one of the Latin gangs in the inner city of Chicago, he did what he was asked, he got the bad guys and enough evidence to put them away forever, but in the process he totally lost himself…At 28 he’s a recovering addict, just getting out of the rehab he had to go through for heroin. The nightmares from the things he had to do on the job are slowly driving him insane. The guilt is almost unbearable. He’s going to succumb to all that despair, all that darkness if something doesn’t change soon. His mother who can see that she’s going to loose her son if she doesn’t do something drastic, calls her brother in New Mexico and asks him take Joshua in he needs to be somewhere different, somewhere new. Tucker Chastain is happy take Joshua in, he’s very proud of his nephew and having no children of his own he’s happy to teach the ins and out of running a horse ranch to Josh so that one day he can continue the family business. So Josh goes West.

There are complications though, the main one being that Eli Kelly the foreman of The Triple C ranch is handsome, too handsome really and kind, and he makes Joshua want things that he knows a man like him with innocent people’s blood on his hands has no business wanting. Eli is a man used to working with broken animals, and he knows despair and a crushed spirit when he sees one. As soon as he lays eyes on Josh he knows that it’ll be his job to make that man feel safe adn whole again. Something about Josh makes Eli want to make him better, to protect him. Show him that he has someone to hold him up, when he can’t do it himself. Josh is so broken, he is skin and bones, and it seems like even making it through the day is a struggle. Ely and Tucker, and the other people on the ranch don’t give up on him though and despite the setbacks and Josh’s stubborness, they are able to make him see that he deserves the love that is being offered to him. That he deserves a home.

This is a pretty simple romance in many ways, which I appreaciated, there is enough angstyness in the story to make the reader savor the happy ending without the wrung out feeling that books with a premise like this one could leave you with. There were some pretty spectacular moments of delicious intimacy between Eli and Josh, those two are sizzling hot when they get in on. There are also beautiful scenes of the New Mexico landscape that really enriched the story. On a personal note I must say that the Spanish was very accurate, bad Spanish is a sticking point with me, and I have very little to complain this time. The use of the expression “mijo” did bother me a bit, but I got past it.

I loved the role the horses had in the story as well as the secondary characters. All and all this was a pretty complete love story, straight up “traditional” romance for those of us who call M/M our romance home. Humor, love, some angst, and hot cowboys having hot sex…What more can you ask for really?

My complete review with recommendation for the perfect wine to sip while reading this book at The Tipsy Bibliophile
Parting Shot - Mary Calmes Mary Calmes’ books are a hell of a drug…Seriously, who can resist them? I mean they’re like a delicious helping of lovely mac and cheese with a huge slice of slutty apple pie! She’s very much one of my for sure authors. This is the seventh book in the Matter of Time . I must admit I lost some steam with the 5th and 6th installments in the series. For me with Mary’s books it’s ALL ABOUT the powerful almost nuclear chemistry that happens with her couples. Her stories place her two men at the center of a tornado of circumstances and characters, and how they gravitate to each other is primary to pretty much anything else. Where they go, and how they get there is not as important as how they CAN’T STOP the avalanche of what they are feeling for each other. So for me her stand alone books always work better, the momentum is intense, but contained and structured and even if the stuff that happens gets a bit crazy at times, when the ride ends I am satisfied because I get the big happy ending. The end.

That being said I could NOT wait for this one. I really wanted a story for Duncan (who we met in Acrobat). The love interest she came up with for my guy was a combo I could not resist! Aaron Sutter the arrogant, sort of stalker hote mogul ex of Jory’s in MoT and my Duncan the closeted cop and ex of our beloved Nathan from Acrobat…WINNER COMBO on aisle AWESOME!… Acrobat was one of my favorite books from last year and I’ve gone back to it many times. Every single time I’ve read it I have wanted to see where Duncan ended up. I have a soft spot for the characters whose hang ups and fears make them a little self-destructive, Duncan seemed so lonely and so full of yearning to find love. I wanted him to get his man and his happily ever after badly.

Mary Calmes likes to use the first person POV in her stories, and what we get is the ability to be up close and personal with her characters, what they feel, their reactions to the person they love and the world around them…One of the things I love love love is just how much I get out of the intimate scenes, they are not just carnal and hot, but they are so vivid and in your face, the possesive, rabid “I want to crawl inside of your skin and burn” kind of passion, Mary writes that like no other author in this genre. She has a pattern no doubt about it, she is an author that definitely subscribes to the idea of “if it’s working, JUST KEEP DOING IT” and that my friends is a damn good thing. With her stories I ALWAYS know what to expect. There is something to be said for being able to sit down with a book an knowing what you’ll get. Parting Shot like many of her stories had two men who are INTENSE about each other in every way, it’s always a frenzied thing what happens between the men she writes, and I kind of love the complete irrationality that her characters have. This book was chuck full of the alpha (borderline cray cray) crack Mary delivers. Two things surprised me though. I didn’t expect Duncan’s voice to be so naked and vulnerable ,and I certainly did not expect this book to be so much FUN!

So we meet up with Duncan Stiehl in New York City he is on an undercover assignment, it has not been long since his night with Aaron Sutter and he’s feeling like finally he might have just found the guy that will make the dreaded ”coming out of the closet worth doing”. From the moment that they met it was like everything fell into place for Duncan, and finally he felt like the found someone to belong to. Duncan has always had a lot of walls around him, and a lot of that had to do with his painful childhood. He had to be hard and closed off to survive and keep his sanity. Once he was out in the world and in police force his career just became the most important thing, but lately he was feeling like he was cheating himself of something, happiness seemed like something that was not as improbable as he thought it had been, when he met Aaron everything just started making sense.

Things get off to a great start with them and then after a bit of a dicey situation while Duncan is undercover some external factors keep Duncan and Aaron apart for a time. They both have situations in their lives that are getting in the way of being together, but Aaron wanted Duncan in his life, in his bed, in his heart NOW NOW NOW and he ‘s not a guy to just take no for an answer. So all kinds of growly “I need you now or I’ll die” sex ensues and in the process we go on a few adventures with these guys until they arrive at their happy ending. I completely enjoyed the way things happened for them, it was just on the edge of total FUBARness but Mary kept things in check and the ride was pretty damn smooth!

What more can I say? If you are a Mary Calmes fan you know what to expect, you know what you’ll get, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Another crackified delicious shot of goodness from Ms. Calmes. I hope she keeps them coming because they are always good to the last drop!

My complete review including the perfect wine and food combo to enjoy this book at The Tipsy Bibliophile
The Return - Brad Boney The Return, Brad Boney’s sophomore effort complete with an extended visit with all the guys we got to know and love in his first book [b:The Nothingness of Ben|16125587|The Nothingness of Ben|Brad Boney|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1351956849s/16125587.jpg|21920750] is completely brilliant, a fun, unique book with some heavy themes and strong writing, but even more than that it’s a beautiful and hopeful tribute/eulogy to the men who died and survived the AIDS epidemic, it’s an amazing lesson in music and it’s trascendence, it’s an optismistic and crafty story about the power of love and friendship. Yep, I loved this book.

I’m going to just start by saying that this book had me at Hello. I mean it was maybe at 3% that the Love Fest for Bruce Springsteen began and I was a GONER. Bruce Springsteen...SIGHS…I am a FAN, like stone cold, die hard, rabid FAN. One of the best nights of my life was seeing Springsteen in New York City in October of 2003. I get chills just remembering how magical that night was. The thing is, Thunder Road, it’s my Battle Song. When I moved to New York City from Dominican Republic in 2002 (my homeland) for graduate school, Thunder Road was the only thing I listened to on the plane. It’s my BATTLE SONG. So with the Bruce Love, Brad went straight for my soul.

In reality, this book is four stories that kind of combine into one. We have two love stories, and two stories of powerful enduring friendship, all over one lifetime. The story of Today, Stanton and Topher and their best friends. The story of Yesterday, Stanton and Chris and their best friends.

Topher Manning is a musician (mechanic by day) who can’t get his songs out of his head, and into the world, he loves what he does and he loves his bandmates though. His bandmates and very best friends, Robin, Maurice, and Pete, with whom he left his hometown of Dime Box, Texas and came to Austin with to pursue their dream. Time is passing though and they’re going to need something spectacular to happen soon, he is going to have to unlock those songs from his head somehow or their band just won’t make it…

I give you a song and open a door
And from the shadows you come through
I give you a song at dawn
When I most need your light…

…I give you a song like a gunshot
Like a book, like a word, like a guerrilla:
Like I give love.

-Silvio Rodriguez, Te Doy una Cancion

The extraordinary thing Topher needs one day literally walks into the auto shop he works in and his name is Stanton Porter. Stanton Porter the legendary music critic for NPR. Stanton is in town to cover the South by Southwest music festival and the car he borrowed has died before he got to pick up tickets he needs to get into the Springsteen concert that evening. Since the guy is in a jam and none to happy, Topher offers to drive Stanton to get the tickets. Fast forward to Stanton asking Topher to come to the show with him as a thank you. Best frigging day of Topher’s life! I mean SPRINGSTEEN, with Stanton Porter who he completely admires, and for some reason finds incredibly hot (even though he’s straight and Stanton is waaaaay older), if only his phone would stop buzzing in his pocket (for no reason! What the hell?!) the night would be pretty much be perfect and then…Then the opening notes to Thunder Road begin, and Topher is taken over by this feeling, this BIG feeling, like nothing he’s felt before, and the only thing he can do is kiss Stanton…Wait what?!…THAT’S when EVERYTHING gets a whole lot more interesting.

I’ll work for your love dear
I’ll work for your love
What others may want for free
I’ll work for your love
-Bruce Springsteen, I’ll Work For Your Love

Topher throws Stanton for a loop, he doesn’t know what to think when this 26 year old hot as hell kid, just comes on STRONG. Stanton has not done this in awhile, he’s fifty years old for goodness sake, he doesn’t know how to do “in love” anymore. He lost the love of his life long ago, and his heart never got up to trying again. But Topher he’s bringing those feelings back and Stanton’s scared. He’s scared of getting hurt, he’s scared of looking ridiculous triying to date a younger man, he’s scared of the weird signs everywhere, he’s just plain scared. But Topher is TENACIOUS and PERSISTENT, he’s only ever wanted two things this badly, and with this much clarity in his life, being a musician and Stanton. He’s going to do whatever it takes to convince this man that when something feels this RIGHT, not age, not distance, not anything should keep two people from love. He’s got faith enough for both of them.

Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night
-Bruce Springsteen, Thunder Road

Brad Boney wove two tales in this book that are intertwined in Stanton and his best friend Marvin. In the 1980′s Stanton and Marvin while spending a weekend in Fire Island met Chris (Hutch) Mead and his three best friends, Michael, Robert and Paul. From the moment Stanton and Chris looked at each other, they were one. Chris and Stanton fell hard and strong. Chris and his friends took Marvin and Stanton into their fold, they started a friendship that could never be broken. That first summer of youth, freedom and forging bonds that revolved around a common ground, passion for music and living openly was just the beginning. Life could not get better, Stanton and Chris were in love, deeply , completely, and their friends were there to share their lives, and for a few years “they had roses” and then things fell apart.

Mary you’re covered in roses, you’re covered in ruin
you’re covered in secrets
Your’e covered in treetops, you’re covered in birds
who can sing a million songs without any words
You cast aside the sheets, you cast aside the shroud
of another man, who served the world proud
You greet another son, you lose another one
on some sunny day and always stay
-Patty Griffin, Mary

The AIDS epidemic is a history in this country that is tragic, not only for the loss of lives, it’s particularly heinous in how shameful it is to remember how people tunred their backs on what was happening. Such an awful time to live through and to remember, so many men cast aside, so many regrets from the families that turned their backs on all that hurt. Normally when an epidemic strikes it hits EVERYONE men, women, children, young, it’s where a society bands together, to fight it, as ONE. With AIDS, no one cared, they kept quiet…It was only gay men dying, and who cared about them? Who cared about thousands of men in the prime of their lives dying within months of getting sick? Who cared about men who in many cases had been outcasted from their families, left alone living in fear of dying next, of having to see the people they loved most die? Who cared right? THEY did, they who died, they who survived…And THIS is what I loved, LOVED about this book, that little shining light…What if all those lives that were gone too soon, and those love stories that were cut too short could get a another chance? What if Stanton got a second chance at love and happiness with Topher and a bit of Chris’ soul in the mix?

Tonight this fool’s halfway to heaven and just a mile outta hell
And I feel like I’m comin’ home
These are better days baby
There’s better days shining through
-Bruce Springsteen, Better Days

The premise for this book is not going to hit the spot for everyone, it’s different, and it’s not your regular Gay romance, but man if it resonates with you it is AN EXPERIENCE. To see a man’s history and his present blend so that he can have the future he lost once. So CLEVER.

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm going to try with a little help from my friends
-The Beatles, With a Little Help From My Friends

Topher and Stanton, they have a bit of a rough go. There are stumbles and a lot of what happens to these men is WAAAAAY out there to take in stride. But they have their friends, the old, and the new, and the rely on them to help them navigate the strangeness of it all. They manage to come away with faith in what they have, and trusting that fate really is smiling upon them. Once they choose to see these things that are happening to them as the gifts that they are, they jump with both feet.

Stanton finally is able to look back on his past and heal the wounds he had left open for too long, and what he was left with was a full free life, with love and friends, and sex and fun and Topher…Topher…And even a bit of Chris.

Let’s fall in love again with music as our guide
We’ll raise our ready hands and let go for the ride
Down into unknown lands where lovers meet and hide

We got these lives for free, we don’t know where they’ve been
We don’t know where they’ll go when we are through with them
The starlight of the sun, the dark side of the moon

And in the air the questions hang
Will we get to do something?
Who we gonna end up being?
How we gonna end up feeling?
What you gonna spend your free life on?
Free Life…
-Natalie Maines, Free Life

I had a great time with this book, it was fun, sexy, sad, uplifiting, hopeful…I got to visit with some of the guys from The Nothingness of Ben which was FABULOUS…What else can I say? So much of this story resonated with me from NYC, to Springsteen, to friendships that are so good, and so right, and so big, and so solid that they are trascendental…Eternal.

Totally and completely recommend.

For my complete review complete with wine and food to go with this gorgeous book... Go to The Tipsy Bibliophile
Forever Promised - Amy Lane Amy Lane is a fucking CLASSY LADY, I mean finesse and elegance in telling a story, this lady HAZ GOT IT, no florid writing, no cheap outs of happy sappy walking into the sunset. Nope, the last installment in The Promises Series was true to itself and to its characters from the first page to the last.

This was, Promise Rock: The Self-Actualized Edition…This book begins two and half years after we left our guys, Collin and Jeff are just married, things are getting along, they are all a little older and whole lot wiser, mostly though they are tightly knit as they ever have been. But keeping this family that they have has always come at a cost. Jon and Amy have an amazing professional opportunity and will be moving to Washington DC to work as LGBT rights advocates. Drew and Benny are finally ready to get on with their lives as a couple, but the ties that Benny has to Deacon might prove to be too intimidating an act to follow and even though Drew loves The Pulpit starting their life as a family might mean being away from their people.

Deacon as the patriarch is feeling a little adrift, even though him and Crick are finally feeling like they are whole. So when Benny offers the ultimate gift, to be a surrogate to Deacon and Crick, it is such an absolute act of selflessness and complete love that it’s almost too terrifying to consider despite how much they want a child. A child that would have a little bit of each of them, borne from Benny the little girl that arrived in The Pulpit so that things could be held together at the lowest moment in Crick and Deacon’s lives, it was too much of a miracle to turn down, specially once Deacon understood that it was as much a gift for them to recieve as it would be for Benny to give it.

There is so much to this story, but what I loved the most about is that we get to visit with every single one of the gang, each one gets to tell us a part of the story, and it’s like we get a chance to have a private final chat and a hug goodbye with each one before we have to see them go.

Amy Lane’s books affect me deeply, always they resonate with me, because they are so HUMAN so harsh so times, but it’s what always makes the good moments so joyful. These guys are special and I was scared that this last chapter would be a soft ball, a light happily ever after, nothing too upsetting or hard. I should have known that Amy Lane was not going to cut us any slack AT ALL, because what has made this series the special thing that it is, is precisely that we’ve seen these characters hurt and struggling so that when the good moments come, when the lightness and laughter hits they are seen and embraced as the gift that they are.

This book is about absolution and reflection. It’s about moving on soberly, being able to let go of the past with a clear understanding of just what a fucking miracle it is that even after the valiant efforts at self-destruction they all made, they got their bright future anyway. Many are not so lucky, so many people never get a second chance, but those who do they need to look at that miracle in the face and be nothing thankful.

I probably could talk about this book for 12 pages, but I can’t really go on forever, so I will talk briefly about the things that I loved the most.

Mikhail…He was the catalyst for the most powerful emotions in this book, he was mighty, in good ways, in terrible ways…He was atonement.

Benny and Crick, looking back on their lives and the good fortune that they had to have found a home and love in Deacon, it was wonderful to see them look back, to see what they had arrived to, after such a difficult beginning.

Jeff and Collin still in love, and still against all odds daring to be hopeful, and telling the world that they were brave enough to want more out of life than people would probably allow them to.

Deacon and Crick…These guys. So wonderful after so much hardship, such heartache, such fear…They made it. They were together and whole (even if baring the scars of harder times) they were still in love and still saw in each other’s eyes that there was always something to hold on to, something to live for…Something to try to be happy about.

“Sometimes you just got to be happy, and worry could happen tomorrow”

This book could have been too easy, or too hard, or too angsty or too long or TOO MUCH. But it wasn’t, it was just right. There were moments that cut to the bone, followed by momenst of unapologetic lightness and absurd humor that could only make me laugh and shake my head. Like life. Like people. We are sad and we are bad, but then we turn to the people that can still see the best in us, and let them try to coax it out of us with a joke or a hug…or an emergency knitting project.

So many sad things happen in this life, every day to good people, but so many good things happen too. People move away, and people come back and people stay…But when there is love and goodwill every day brings what it must, and we can face it because we know that there will someone there to walk with us through whatever we must to do.

Fantastic final installment, I was left smiling, and weepy and secure in the bright future of my guys and gals in Promise Rock. What a joyful journey this has been. Thank you, thank you, thank you Amy.

Completely recommend this book and this series. I will miss my guys.

My review complete with Crick and Deacon's Champagne cupcake recipe at The Tipsy Bibliophile