Happy New Year, everyone, and many thanks to Mary for giving The Novel Approach the chance to share some of our favorite books with you month after month. Putting our favorites out there January through December isn't nearly as difficult as it is to come to the end of the year and narrow our choices down to just a select few titles out of the hundreds we've read and reviewed throughout the year, but somehow we manage it, and that's what we bring to you today, our Top Reads of 2014.
There are fifty-five titles in total, a lot! But if we help you find even one new book or author to love among them, then our job is done here.
As a special part of our year end celebration, we're also offering one lucky reader the chance to win a $25 Gift Card for Amazon or All Romance eBooks, winner's choice, so be sure to enter here:
And now, here they are, Simply the Best: 2014
Going the Distance by John Goode: "I wish my review could give you some small idea of how gifted this author is—give you just a glimpse at how much you are going to love meeting Danny. But, alas, I am just a reviewer with few and simple words. Go buy this book. Read Going The Distance. You will be so glad you did—so delighted by this story, and I believe you, too, will find an author to add to your auto-buy list."
Then the Stars Fall by Brandon Witt: "Once in a while, a novel comes along that simply stuns you with its capacity to move you. Then The Stars Fall was a gorgeously written, lush novel that flowed with such grace and beauty onto the page. I highly recommend this novel to you. It is a remarkable piece of literature that you will not want to miss."
Hidden Gem by Lissa Kasey: "There was just so much to author Lissa Kasey’s novel, so many layers of subtext and plot twists that left me racing to learn more about Shane and Aki, Candy and Paris, and, yes, just who was torturing, dismembering, and killing the poor victims. Shane, so gruff and aloof, yet so determined to see justice done, to save his precious Aki and to maintain some semblance of his own humanity when the beast inside threatened to consume him every moment. The gentle and loving way he thought of Aki, the deep desire to save him, see him pampered and taken care of, kept safe, was so lovely. This was not your typical romance."
Rainbow Connection : Volume 1 by BJ Sheppard: "Oh, BJ Sheppard, what have you done? Once again, the characters in this ongoing saga crash and bumble their way through life with such genuineness it makes your heart hurt to see them suffer the pitfalls of life we all must endure. I really wanted to wrap Liam up and take care of him, particularly as he watches the man he loves being drawn away from him piece by piece. But Manny, so stalwart, so loyal, surely he can be strong against the horribly vile and smarmy machinations of Rory? The sheer genius of this story is the author’s ability to give us this unique window into Liam’s troubled and oft times hilarious inner dialogue."
Stranger on the Shore by Josh Lanyon: "With every turn of the card, Josh Lanyon pulls us more deeply into Griff’s psyche and, in doing so, invests us emotionally in Griff’s well being.
With an amazing cast of secondary characters and the coolly aloof yet intensely smoldering love interest, Pierce Mathers, Mr. Lanyon once again produces an intricately woven plot with mayhem and murder afoot that captures your imagination and leaves you breathlessly racing toward the finish."
Strain by Amelia C. Gormley: "Amelia C. Gormley artfully creates a cast of supporting characters to guide Rhys and Darius in the right direction. Sometimes they provide a gentle nudge, other times a swift kick in the ass. The way the soldiers all come together to protect and care for Rhys helps them find hope themselves. The way Rhys and Darius come together foretells a future for mankind. If these two men can find their way to one another, anything is possible.
I’m so glad I chose to read Strain to rediscover my love of science fiction. I recommend that you infect yourselves immediately."
The Red Sheet by Mia Kerick: "The Red Sheet is something I’ve not found very often. It is a story that I haven’t read. I couldn’t predict what was going to happen. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. But I couldn’t wait to find out. Mia Kerick unfolded Bryan and Scott’s story the same way one unfolds a new sheet fresh from the package. You open one fold at a time and use your hand to smooth out the line made from the sizing applied at the factory before it was packaged. In doing this, Mia re-emphasized the good and bad in all of us. She smoothed her hand over the belief that we have the power to overcome high hurdles, even if we are mere mortals. That smoothing reinforced the truth she was imparting."
Beneath the Stain by Amy Lane: "Unlike the amazing Amy Lane, I have a limited supply of superlatives. There are only so many times I can say her books are good, great, amazing, astounding, etc. At some point, you all just have to know what my bottom line is: read this book."
Bliss by Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau: "The amazing skill with which Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau develop these characters and let them reveal and see just the tiniest glimpses of truth, which enable them to realize all may not be as it appears, is a beautiful thing. I loved Rory and Tate! I wanted to see them triumph over the evil and prove that appearances ARE deceiving.
The secondary characters are as loveable and loathsome as they are intended to be. Rory’s boss is just the polar opposite of what he initially appears to be. It is rare that a bad guy is written to be as bad as this one and doesn’t read like too much of a caricature. This man felt real, and I wanted him to get the same treatment he had inflicted on so many others."
Sex & Sourdough by A.J. Thomas: "A.J. Thomas has done what most writers dream of when they are early into their published career: she wrote a great book that makes me want more. More from her amazing brain and equally amazing computer. If this story was in there, I can’t wait to see what else she has floating around in her head. Sex & Sourdough drew me in with the title (read the book to find out it’s meaning!) and kept my attention until way too late at night because I just HAD to finish it. Oh, yeah, you may need a tissue or two.
This is a must read."
Say Something by B.A. Tortuga: "There is just something I love about romance novels. I can’t pick just one thing. There are the MCs of each story, their struggles, their victories and yes, sometimes their failures. The overall feeling of “Love Conquers All” is usually there by the end, and it just gives me the warm fuzzies.
B.A. Tortuga has done all of this and more in Jenson and Mike’s story, Say Something. This story begins with two young men, just graduating high school. Jensen couldn’t afford to go to college even if he had the grades to do so. Mike, on the other hand, is on his way to college so he can become an actor. This is the first time Jenson has to say goodbye to Mike, but it won’t be the last."
Pulling Leather by L.C. Chase: "Through her writing, LC Chase has opened up the world of the rodeo and the hearts of these men. I hope there will be more to the series, but if there isn’t, I think Scott’s story was truly the gem of the bunch. I highly recommend this title and the entire series."
Names Can Never Hurt Me by Wade Kelly: "Wade Kelly did a fabulous job with this story, and I loved most of the characters by the end of the book. The ones I didn’t like weren’t meant to be liked, and I loved how she made these characters unlikable but realistic. Once Nick realized which friends were good for him and which ones were leading him down the wrong road, he had a decision to make and some serious soul searching to do. I completely believed the struggle he went through, and I believe he is well on his way to redemption. I don’t think he has finished his journey, but for this story I believe he did all he could."
Recovery by Con Riley: "When I finished reading Salvage, I thought to myself, “That was a great book.” Then I read Recovery, and I found Ms. Riley had completely outdone herself. This was not only the story of a recovering alcoholic but the story of a man coming to terms with every facet of his life. Jamie works his steps in the program, and he has to come to terms with the mistakes he has made in the past and find a way not to repeat them in the future."
Love You Forever by Amelia Bishop: "Amelia Bishop has done a fabulous job showing how “forced” closeness can eventually push two people apart, no matter how much they love one another. As human beings it seems that we need free will, even in love, if we expect any relationship to grow and prosper. Cole and Rick find this out the hard way.
This book truly caused me to stop and think about how two people in love can grow apart yet find their way back to each other. It is a true example of letting someone you love go and knowing they will find their way back if it is meant to be."
Spinning the Top: an Anthology by Torquere Press: "All the stories in Spinning the Top were top notch. The writing was exceptional and while these were short stories, they were able to set up the main characters in such a way that I was rooting for the happy ending. Spinning the Top was a hot little read that left me wanting more, more, more!"
Alpha's Claim: an Anthology by Evernight Publishing: "All the stories were good but one stood out for me. Bite Harder by Avril Ashton did it for me in a big way! I think the title says it all. Kellan is a powerful alpha of a pack in upstate NY. He sees Rory, a new wolf in town, and knows that Rory is his mate. He wants him bad and will do anything to get him. Rory has no clue that the local alpha is his mate. That’s when the fun begins. Rory’s uncle steals something valuable from Kellan and to pay him back he offers his daughter as payment. But Rory knows he has to protect his cousin Bre and instead offers himself to the alpha. Kellan is surprised but can’t believe his luck that his mate is offering himself. Man and wolf like that a lot. The heat index goes off the charts after that."
Dr. Feelgood: an Anthology by Dreamspinner Press: "The stories where all beautifully written with humor and heat. I don’t think I can do this book justice reviewing it, because how many times can I say I absolutely loved it?! Dr. Feelgood deserves to be read and savored. The stories also need to be made into full length novels. Reading this book made me feel like I was only having an appetizer and wanting more, more, more!
If you love sexy men who love to give TLC, then this book is for you!"
Faith & Fidelity by Tere Michaels: "Everything in this book was total perfection, from the guys initial meeting to consummating their relationship, which was amazing; from Evan’s magazine cover model partner with a sarcastic personality, to Matt’s one night stand. And let’s not forget Evan’s kids and how they seamlessly took Matt into their hearts like he belonged there from the start. I’m usually not a huge fan of too much kid action in a book, but these kids stole my heart, and I absolutely loved them.
Faith & Fidelity is a must read for anyone who loves to see two hot cops find each other, find love and find their happily ever after. A heartwarming story of love and life!"
Avaritia by Mathew Ortiz: "I love Mr. Ortiz’s writing style. Even though Avaritia is written in the third person, I felt like I was reading William’s and Rush’s inner monologues. Their dialogue and interactions were spot on, and the back and forth between the two made me laugh out loud. The dirty talk was fun too.
I loved Avaritia and was entertained throughout. I know my review is not doing it justice, but it’s a story that needs to be read. It will make you laugh and tug at your heart. A great ball of energy that will make your witch’s senses tingle!"
Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan: "This book truly has it all: characters you will LOVE… and those you will hate. Moments that will have you laughing, cheering, swooning, fanning yourself, and even needing a few tissues. It showcases humor, love, friendship, loyalty, and at times, really tough life lessons. And, music. Always the music. I can’t say enough about how good Fever Pitch is or how much I love it. It’s a must read. And re-read. A desert island book."
The River Leith by Leta Blake: "Honestly, the writing style overall just really spoke to me. I could say so much more about how much I loved this book, but I’ll let you all, discover it for yourselves. I will say, though, that I’ve been looking for a long time for a book to recommend as a first time M/M read to one of my best friends, and I think I might have finally found it. I highly recommend this book, folks. And, I plan to rush out and get Leta’s other stories!!"
A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews: "First, I have to say, I can’t imagine the research that went into writing this book. The work that the author had to have put into this is astounding. You will get sucked into the details from the very beginning, and it never lets up. It was absolutely fascinating to get lost in the world and traditions and mindsets of these people. I found myself so drawn in that I could anticipate emotions and outcomes of certain situations, though not at all because the story was predictable but because I had gotten to know the characters so well."
The Bells of Times Square by Amy Lane: "The writing in this book is stunning. At times both sweet and funny, and also heart-wrenching and emotional, there isn’t a feeling you won’t experience while reading it. Amy Lane is a phenomenal storyteller. She perfectly conveys what the war experience is like, and what being a part of it means for both Nate and Walter. Nate’s Jewish faith is a huge part of the story, obviously, and his reflections on what was happening during the war, and what it would mean to him to help the resistance, in even a small way, were very powerful."
Release by A.M. Sexton: "The world that Sexton has created here is fascinating. Her storytelling and writing are so strong, that even as I was questioning myself for enjoying the book so much, I was incapable of stopping. Some of her prose when describing Misha’s feelings and observations (as in the quote I chose above) is absolutely breathtaking. The descriptions of both the opulence and decadence of the Upper City, as well as the conditions and poverty in the trenches, are also stunning. As a leading character, Misha is likeable, feisty, extremely bright, and also incredibly sexy. Ayo is beautifully heart-breaking and fascinating, and Misha finds himself becoming increasingly drawn to and protective of him as well. The pace of the story was perfect, and the ending was thrilling – and surprising! I can’t wait for Return to come out in the fall so we can see what happened to some of the supporting cast (whose characters were also rich and very well-written), and get the conclusion of the story!"
When All the World Sleeps by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock: "Overall, this is a heartwarming read, filled with sweet, tender moments, as well as some funny ones too, a bit on the dark side with some serious emotional issues, but we do get a HFN ending. I’m hoping the authors plan to revisit Daniel and Bel in the future. Something tells me their story isn’t over just yet."
Guarded by Cat Grant and L.A. Witt: "The authors did such a wonderful portrayal of the BDSM lifestyle. Jase knew exactly what Jordan was needing and missing in his life. Being a former Dom, he was determined to show Jordan how to channel his sexual urges safely. I loved how the authors handled this part of the storyline. It was written so tastefully and so sincerely. I loved the secondary characters introduced here. I felt they added a little more balance to Jordan’s world. At this point I knew they were a perfect fit, sexually as well as intellectually."
The Broken Series by Kol Anderson: "As with all of Kol Anderson books, we’re given just enough information to think we know the where, what, why and when. We then peek around the corner, or in this case, turn the page, and everything we thought to be true is blown to bits and we’re left with our jaws hanging open, wondering where in the hell did that come from. This is what I love about this author, the element of surprise, the mind boggling “WTF?” moments, the “holy shit” endings. It’s what keeps me coming back for more every single time."
This Is Not a Love Story by Suki Fleet: "There aren’t many stories out there that render me speechless, but this one certainly did. The reality of homelessness isn’t pretty and the author doesn’t gloss over that fact. At times this story was really hard to read because of that reality. In our society we come to view the homeless as a nuisance, Romeo and Julian will make you think differently.
I encourage everyone to read this heartwarming story. You won’t be disappointed."
Facing Demons by Lynley Wayne: "While I was reading I could actually see everything happening before me. Great visual interpretation. I don’t know how she does it, but this author doesn’t need a thousand words to explain a situation. We get to know where and what Cam’s been up to all these years without unnecessary drivel. Everything that needs to be known is done so in a brisk, informative way, with no more questions to be asked. We can move forward and deal with what’s happening now.
I can’t say too much more without giving spoilers away. I will say this, though; get ready for a ride. There were so many nail biting moments in this story. Those of you who like fast paced, nonstop action, this one’s for you. For those who want to know if it has a HEA, yes it does. But wow, these guys have earned it.
Let Love Live by Melissa Collins: "Let Love Live is a beautifully written, very emotional book for this author’s first M/M story. She was able to get all the nuances and honest emotions of the characters just right. How what happens in the story shapes who Dylan is, how Conner has realized he wants more from life after his accident, and even dealing with Shane’s depression, self doubt and the final consequences of his actions. All of these pieces intertwined into one very well crafted story. I have to admit that Dylan has quickly become one of my favorite characters after reading this book."
Hook, Line, & Sinker by Piper Vaughn: "Piper Vaughn has always had the ability to make me fall in love with her characters; no matter what book, what setting, or back-story they have, her skills slay me dead. Every. Single. Time. This book was absolutely no different. The further I got into the story, the more I was cheering Blake and Cas on, the more I wanted to see them overcome their issues and make it for the long run. Then, of course, we have a few secondary characters that slipped in, and I wanted more of them, too. Riley and Gavin kind of snuck in, and I’m hoping to see them get a story, either together or separately, in the near future."
Breaking Free by Cat Grant: "I went into Breaking Free not knowing what to expect, other than I had absolutely adored Renee in Guarded. I’d never read another book with a character transitioning from one sex to another. I really felt that the balance in this story of how Renee felt as both sexes, going through the transition, and also the choices she makes as she goes through the transition were very well written and again, handled very well. Robert’s reactions, his feelings for Jase, and how he deals with Renee’s transition, or rather, how he didn’t deal with it. Reading that moment when Jase actually gets Robert to see that Renee is no different than she was when she showed the outer image of Richard, that moment and Robert and Renee reconnecting were perfect moments, the kind of moments you live to read for in any story. Those moments are what I love to share with other readers, so don’t pass this story up."
Let it Be by Cheryl McIntyre: "This novella left me all sorts of shattered as I waited along with Guy as he sat in Ian’s hospital room. I can’t imagine if this had been a full novel just how wrecked I would have been by the ending, watching Guy blame himself for what happened during their last conversation, hearing Ian’s perspective as he continues to fall further down the spiral of depression and is unable to share what he’s going through with those around him. Seeing the impact Ian’s actions have on himself and on those around him will have you reaching for your tissues. Many of us will relate to their story, and that’s what makes this one powerful and, ultimately, beautiful ends to the series."
Strength of the Mate by Kendall McKenna: "I loved that the story is filled with action with the convoys and later, with Adam’s imprisonment. It’s also about the strength of the relationship that Adam and Dawson create and build upon, brick by brick. It’s also about learning to forgive yourself, learning to rebuild bonds with your family after tragedy occurs, and forging new, lasting bonds with friends. I really enjoyed the journey between Dawson and Adam, seeing the bonds develop and also seeing Adam start to believe in himself again. Because Adam starts to forgive himself, he is able to survive imprisonment and find a way to get back to Dawson, and his family and friends."
Dirty Secret by Rhys Ford - Narrated by Greg Tremblay: "Greg Tremblay is Cole McGinnis! Since there’s seemingly no rush to make a movie of Dirty Secret, this audio version is, by far, the best route to my imagination, and to how the scenes should play out. Mr. Tremblay also gets a well done for Jae’s fabulous voice characterization, as well as his narration of the secondary voices. I’d also like to add that there were parts of the story that had me sad, tense, shocked, amazed, and, at one point, gagging. Sorry, I’m a sympathetic vomiter. Even though it was funny as all hell, Rhys and Greg, you did too good a job of describing that particular part of the story."
Shattered Glass by Dani Alexander - Narrated by Joseph Northton: "Thanks to a friend who loaned me the book Shattered Glass a couple of years ago, I haven’t been able to look at a pair of bunny slippers without fantasizing about seeing a pair of legs up in the air, bunny slippers bouncing merrily off the feet of someone who is being thoroughly….
Well…as you can see, Shattered Glass appealed to me and fed my warped sense of humor. It’s also on my top 20 list of all time favorite reads, and now it’s on audio! Woohoo! Did it meet my expectations? Oh yeah!"
Scales and a Tail by Stormy Glenn - Narrated by Johnny East: "The blurb really is good at explaining Beauregard, but what it doesn’t mention is that Sebastian can be a bit of a jerk, and Beauregard is not one to be mistaken as lite and fluffy. This bunny can bite when he needs to stand up for himself.
Stormy Glenn, with the help of vocals by Johnny East, brings to life a rather cute, funny, and sweet tale of two unlikely people meeting and falling in love with each other. I’ve never heard of Johnny East before, but his performance had me oohing and aahing, as well as laughing my fanny off!"
Tell Me It's Real by TJ Klune - Narrated by Michael Lesley: "I absolutely loved Paul’s grandmother’s homophobic parrot, Johnny Depp. He’s just too cute to describe. What can I say? You know TJ Klune. Tell Me It’s Real is a very funny story! If I had to choose between reading and listening, I have to say listening wins, mainly because of the emotion thrown into the narrator’s performance."
Family Unit by Z.A. Maxfield - Narrated by JP Handler: "Okay, so I’d seen Family Unit come out in audio format, and after squealing like a pig, I decided it was a must have! All I can say about the audio version of Family Unit is that I still love it! JP Handler did an excellent job of bringing this story to life! It was a perfect way to re-experience the story and to give it a new perspective."
When Love Comes to Town by Jacob Z. Flores - Narrated by TJ Jamesin: "In this book, it’s all about criteria, or standards, if you must call them something. Brody wants to fall in love, with some expectations, and Eric has no expectations to ever fall in love again. Maddie and the rest of the cast of characters from the series have other ideas, though, and that is the journey we get to read—Eric and Brody falling in love—and it’s so worth it.
The writing is excellent and the narrator is, again, TJ Jamesin. He does a great job giving each character their voice. He especially gets Maddie—just a hint of sarcasm sprinkled with a touch of insecurity. I am not sure how he does it, but that’s the magic of a good narrator and an excellent author."
Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford - Narrated by Tristan James: "I hit the audiobook lottery this week! I listened to/enjoyed the two best audiobooks I have ever! Ever! listened to. But, they were excellent for two completely different reasons.
The first audio I reviewed this week I considered the best because of the narration. This audio, Fish and Ghosts, is one of the best because of the story. Tristan and Wolf are on the ride of a lifetime, filled with ghosts, a poltergeist, all kinds of spirit animals—including a dog with a red ball, an elephant and a camel. Tristan is the caretaker of an amazing mansion, Hoxne Grange, which is described to us in rich detail. As a matter of fact, most of the book’s characters, which includes the mansion, are laid out for us with such care that you feel like you could just walk in the front door and be greeted by Tristan."
Feathers from the Sky by Posy Roberts - Narrated by Paul Morey: "Posy Roberts is an excellent author, and Feathers from the Sky is just another example of the quality of her work. Posy‘s character development, pace of the story, and care for the small details makes her stand out among a growing contingency of authors in the Male/Male genre.
Posy was able to develop Cal and Phillip into likable characters that I could celebrate within the 100 minutes of this audio."
Hound Dog and Bean by B.G. Thomas - Narrated by Charlie David: "We all read or listen to books for many different reasons. Sometimes I want a story to grab me by the throat and scare me, sometimes I want to help solve a murder, and sometimes I want to listen to a romance blossom into love. B.G. Thomas never disappointments me with his stories; gentle romance filled with laughter, some hardships, and sensual love making fill his books.
I’m a big fan of all…"
Behind the Curtain by Amy Lane - Narrated by Hugh Bradley: "Mr. Bradley brought to life Dawson, Jared and Benji. He gave them each their own distinct voice, and it was immediately obvious that he understood the character and their motivation. An example would be Jared’s Voice; as you read the story, you learn that Jared has had to endure a lot of pain for his craft, but I knew that from the minute Jared first talked to Dawson. You could hear it in his voice. If a narrator is good, you, as the listener, will become part of the story. You will share in the pain—Dawson’s as he struggles to understand Jared , of loving someone so much but not being able to protect them all the time; the friendship between Benji and Dawson , as they taunt each other and always have each other’s backs; and Amber with monosyllabic conversational skills, with such a rough exterior and a vulnerability that Dawson will protect to the end; you get to be a part of it and it’s an amazing journey. And that, my friend’s, that is why you buy the audio version of this book. Mr. Bradley doesn’t just tell us the story, he brings us with him on the journey."
Flight of Magpies by KJ Charles: "Flight of Magpies is another brilliant addition to KJ Charles’ magnificent A Charm of Magpies series. Reading the book was one of those instances where I was so deeply immersed in Lucien and Stephen’s world that I actually got upset when I realized how far I’d gone and how little I had left to read. It’s an experience that’s not new to me; it began with The Magpie Lord, and it had yet to show signs of fading or slowing down. That said, I don’t want it to happen, considering how much I adore this series."
Bloodline by Jordan L. Hawk: "Fans of Jordan L. Hawk’s Whyborne and Griffin series are in for a pretty dark treat with Bloodline – with a generous dose of tragedy, at that, but in ways that are a lot more complicated than simply death. As an installment of the series, Bloodline is perhaps the darkest and grimmest so far, but it does end in bittersweet hope that marks a new era, so to speak, for the characters involved.
The stakes in this book are significantly higher because everything becomes personal for Whyborne. We get to see his family’s history, which is intricate and bizarre and is steeped in magic."
Prosperity by Alexis Hall: "The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open Alexis Hall’s Prosperity is that the book’s written in some pretty heavy vernacular. Piccadilly, an orphan and a guttersnipe, narrates the story with so much sass and attitude to spare that his language, if at first a little challenging to get into if you’re not expecting it, almost serves like an emphatic exclamation point to his hilarious commentary. As he’s grown up in the streets of London, he’s illiterate and is sadly hardened for a boy his age (eighteen, he reckons, but isn’t sure), and his interactions with so many different characters – mostly adults who’re educated in varying degrees – are a never-ending source of delight. He’s alternately exasperated, mystified, resentful, contemptuous, and childish in his dealings with his fellow adventurers. And from a hardened urchin who thinks lowly of himself, Dil gradually develops into a cautiously hopeful young man who starts to believe that, hey, he’s got some worth, after all."
Junior Willis by Richard Natale: "Richard Natale’s Junior Willis is a beautifully subdued account of a man’s sexual maturation during some of the most tumultuous decades in the 20th century. The novella begins in the 1950s, when Tom Larson’s first tour of duty in the Korean War places him in the path of Colonel Philip Dore, a married and closeted gay man who awakens Tom’s true nature. From here on, the story follows Tom through the years as he not only falls in love, but also gets himself hurt again and again, the miserable laws of the times compounding the pain by forcing him to suppress his needs and lose himself in work, if not seek comfort and questionable companionship in brief and unsatisfying liaisons."
Mending Him by Summer Devon and Bonnie Dee: "There’s no emotional wallowing in this book, which can be the downfall of historical gay romances, given the outlaw nature of same-sex relationships. Part of the book’s strength lies in the authors’ masterful use of restraint in laying out the complications and the triumphs not only of the lovers, but also of the Chester family, whose loving relationship with the two men shapes painful choices they all make along the way. The resolution to the problem of gay lovers in the 19th century is also plausible; modern readers might grieve over the lack of an out and proud relationship, but in their practical and emotionally rewarding way, Robbie and Charles prove to us that men in their position can carve out a happy life together, regardless of society and, especially, family. There’s defiance tempered by prudence and vice-versa, and one can’t ask for anything more."
Chance Assassin: A Story of Love, Luck, and Murder by Nicole Castle: "I’m in awe of this author’s ability to write a story starring not one but two characters who should be unappealing in every way. Nicole Castle has made Frank and Vincent loveable to a degree that has left me obsessing over this book. It’s a hallmark of truly brilliant storytelling I haven’t experienced since reading Maria McCann’s As Meat Loves Salt and I fell for the insane Jacob Cullen. This author’s writing style is fresh, her characters funny and vibrant, her version of romance refreshing, and this book is one disturbing, endearing, horrifying, and sexy surprise after another."
Wicklow’s Odyssey by R. Cooper: "The timing of this book couldn’t be more perfect, and you don’t have to be a Civil War history major to appreciate the events that build up to one of the more tension filled and action packed climaxes I’ve ever read in a book. You need only know the motives for the war, who fought it, and its outcome to understand how beautifully R. Cooper has twisted it to suit this clockwork, steam driven adventure, where a great iron beast is the Trojan horse that, if not lamed, could bring victory to the South. Every single anachronism purposefully woven into this novel does nothing but add to the sense of intrigue, every single character introduced along the way not only adds to the adventure but also exposes more about Wicklow Doyle, revelations that are sometimes frustrating, sometimes heart-tugging as he tries to understand what he’s feeling, but each and every one is a new layer peeled away from this complex man’s prickly exterior."
Turnbull House by Jess Faraday: "With its (The Affair of the Porcelain Dog) brilliant and stunning sequel, Turnbull House, the continuing story if former rentboy, Ira Adler, and his ex-lover Cain Goddard (the infamous Duke of Dorset) Jess Faraday has done nothing more than secured her place on my must-read-authors list, and did it in little more than the opening paragraphs of this book.
With characters who are layered with charm and complexity, settings that play out visually like a full color series of daguerreotypes on the mind, a mystery that reveals how far apart Ira and Goddard have grown since Ira walked out two years before, and a fluid prose that draws the reader into the lives of the characters and the time of the story, Turnbull House is as flawless a historical novel as I’ve ever read."
Daron’s Guitar Chronicles (Volumes One thru Five) by Cecilia Tan: "As addictive as any books I’ve ever read, as heart-rending as any series I’ve ever loved, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is, if not perfect, the quintessential compilation of music, drugs, sex, love, lust, and pain. My one fear as I got farther along in Daron’s saga was that the author would fail in her effort to keep this storyline fresh and vibrant and emotionally encompassing through its hundreds of chapters. I’m happy to report she damn well did. Daron’s Guitar Chronicles is a brilliant feat in fiction, far too luminous for this simple 5 star rating."
Baal's Heart (Caged and Sacrificed) by Bey Deckard: "Bey Deckard has written a book that’s a study in contradiction and a sublime characterization of three men who will eventually become one, introducing two characters in the dominant Baltsaros and the submissive Tom, two men who should be difficult, if not impossible, to love, but then makes it entirely impossible not to love them. When Jon comes between them, through no fault of his own, and then falls in love with both his captain and with Tom, becoming the foundation upon which both men will anchor themselves, Jon risks not only losing his heart but his sense of self, in the process, and it’s an evolution that’s a glory to witness."
"As impressed as I was by Bey Deckard’s debut, Sacrificed has exceeded any and all expectations I might have had for the follow up to Caged. It’s a grand adventure the author is taking us on, a journey of heart, soul, and imagination that promises, at the end, even more to discover as this extraordinary series continues."