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Book Review: The Back Passage by James Lear

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The Back Passage by James Lear
Published May 5th 2006 by Cleis Press
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 199 pages / 1317 KB
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Gay Erotica, LGBT
Reading Level: Erotica – Adults Only
Goodreads | Amazon

Agatha Christie, move over! Hard-core sex and scandal meet in this brilliantly funny whodunit.

A seaside village, an English country house, a family of wealthy eccentrics and their equally peculiar servants, a determined detective — all the ingredients are here for a cozy Agatha Christie-style whodunit. But wait — Edward “Mitch” Mitchell is no Hercule Poirot, and The Back Passage is no Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Mitch is a handsome, insatiable 22-year-old hunk who never lets a clue stand in the way of a steamy encounter, whether it’s with the local constabulary, the house secretary, or his school chum and fellow athlete Boy Morgan, who becomes his Watson when they’re not busy boffing each other.

When Reg Walworth is found dead in a cabinet, Sir James Eagle has his servant Weeks immediately arrested as the killer. But Mitch’s observant eye pegs more plausible possibilities: polysexual chauffeur Hibbert, queenly pervert Leonard Eagle, missing scion Rex, sadistic copper Kennington, even Sir James Eagle himself. Blackmail, police corruption, a dizzying network of spyholes and secret passages, watersports, and a nonstop queer orgy backstairs and everyplace else mark this hilariously hard-core mystery by a major new talent.

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Book Review: Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman

vintageVintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman
Published January 5th 2008 by Lethe Press
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 204 pages / 317 KB
Genre: Paranormal, Romance, Ghost, M/M
Reading Level: Mature Teen
Goodreads | Amazon

A lonely boy walking along a highway one autumn evening meets the boy of his dreams, a boy who happens to have died decades ago and haunts the road. Awkward crushes, both bitter and sweet, lead him to face youthful dreams and childish fears. With its cast of offbeat friends, antiques, and Ouija boards, Vintage is not your typical romance but does offers readers a memorable blend of dark humor, chills and love.

I love ghost stories and paranormal fiction is one of my favorite genres. Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman is a classic ghost story with added nontraditional relationship. Our main character is never named in the book, not that I can find, so it makes my review writing a little hard. Be patient. Main character (MC) is dealing with a lot in this book, from his parents’ reaction to him being gay to a ghostly romance that’s turning out to not be all that great after all. I have to give kudos to Berman for creating a complex romance that had a completely unexpected ending. With a cast of awesome secondary characters and excellent paranormal themes, Vintage turned out to be an even better book than I was anticipating.

In paranormal fiction, characters often gain the ability to see ghosts after brushes with death. (Trigger warning: attempted suicide spoken about in past tense.) This happens to our MC, opening up an opportunity to meet the ghostly boy of his dreams. But Josh, the ghost, turns out to be a little too good to be true. I have to say, I expected our MC and Josh to somehow overcome all obstacles to be together. (How cliché.) So the path Berman selected was a thousand times better in my opinion. The complex relationships in this book were unexpected and I feel propel Vintage to a level above.

All the characters are exceptionally well-written and I am so pleased to find a book with a gay teen character so well done. My only problem is that the MC ends up starting a relationship with the younger brother of his best friend and while I know there is only two years difference between them, it still weirds me out. The end conflict resolution with Josh, the ghost, feels a bit rushed to me and a bit too neatly tied up, if you know what I mean. I would have liked to see a bit more struggle there. The portrayals of mediumistic powers and paranormal events in Vintage are fantastic and exciting. This book is definitely for older teens and adults due to drug use, sexual scenes, and a great many messed up people and their weird coping mechanisms. Vintage: A Ghost Story by Steve Berman is in turns fun, suspenseful, and exciting and I really recommend it for anybody looking for a great ghost story.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Thank you for reading!

Book Review: Scarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow

scarletwhite wolfScarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow
Published June 28th 2006 by Torquere Press, Inc.
Format: Kindle ebook
Length: 246 pages / 446KB
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, M/M, Adventure
Reading Level: Teen
Goodreads | Amazon

Scarlet of Lysia is an honest peddler, a young merchant traveling the wild, undefended roads to support his aging parents. Liall, called the Wolf of Omara, is the handsome, world-weary chieftain of a tribe of bandits blocking a mountain road that Scarlet needs to cross. When Liall jokingly demands a carnal toll for the privilege, Scarlet refuses and an inventive battle of wills ensues, with disastrous results. Scarlet is convinced that Liall is a worthless, immoral rogue, but when the hostile countryside explodes into violence and Liall unexpectedly fights to save the lives of Scarlet’s family, Scarlet is forced to admit that the Wolf is not the worst ally he could have, but what price will proud Scarlet ultimately have to pay for Liall’s friendship?

It’s Little Red Riding Hood with a … ahem… twist. This isn’t my first foray into m/m relationships but this is the first time I’ve read an original novel with that themes. I mostly read fanfiction and I must admit that reading a proper book with a homosexual pairing as the main characters was a little odd for me. Scarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow adapted a classic fairytale into an adventure story for adults and Crow’s story is detailed and vivid in a way the old fairytale can’t match. (Thank god. I can feel my childhood squirming.) I’m afraid that I might be a little bias because I’ve been reading fanfiction with m/m pairings since I was a teen and actually reading a proper novel with the same subject makes me too happy for words. Plus, I always enjoy classic fairytales being turned on their heads and Crow created a masterful world and characters from the base material.

There truly are no original plots anymore. Scarlet is a stubborn but handsome man that won’t back down from a challenge. Liall is a rouge with a secret heart of gold. Scarlet hates the arrogant Liall at first but then Liall does something to prove he’s more than he seems and Scarlet warms up to him. This is pretty much every love story ever. I pretty much expected that. But it’s interesting because under that overused premise lurks tidbits of a larger story and events that the characters are just barely getting into by the end of the novel. (Woe and frustration!) Those morsels of world building draw the reader in and we all love to watch the train wreck that is the relationship between Scarlet and Liall. Their story spans a whole continent and beyond.

Like I said, I’m probably bias because the two main characters are men and I’m fascinated with nontraditional relationships. Past their love story is a tale involving entire populations, royalty, and a fading goddess. I really want to know what those little teasers will revolve into and how Scarlet will fair in the far north with Liall’s people. I think the series might end up being a nice fantasy epic if my predictions of where the story is going are right. I think this is one novel where the sequel might be better than the first book. Scarlet and the White Wolf by Kirby Crow has the makings of a great series and I think well worth the read. It’s a romance that can be a readers’ guilty little pleasure and will surprise you with how complex it is. There is some petting and smooching between the two main characters but I think an older teen should have no problem reading this book.

Rating 3.5 out 5

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