11.12.14

WINDS OF CHANGE by Lee Rowan - ROYAL NAVY SERIES, Book 2

WINDS OF CHANGE

Lee Rowan

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, October 30, 2014

Royal Navy Series, Book 2

This novel is published in a single edition with EYE OF THE STORM, which I will review in a few days.  Rest assured, you want both, I promise you.

Captain Smith is being promoted to a higher rated ship that has  had a number of odd circumstances occurring of late.  Weapons have been found drenched with mud.  Food in great quantities has been found dumped in a passageway.  Sailors have found broken equipment and more.  The conclusion: there is a saboteur aboard.  Smith takes Marshall and David Archer with him to the new ship to help him identify the saboteur and for whom he is working.  Their first assignment is to act like they are lovers.  Of course, we know they actually are, though they are quite circumspect aboard the ship.  Marshall is quite nervous about playing in to the saboteurs hands.

But this is just half the story, the other half giving the reviewer a headache with one [SPOILER] after another.  When the young men have provoked the saboteur into revealing himself, it is when he shoots Archer right in his chest.  Marshall is devastated, facing the loss of his life’s love.  He is faced with holding his emotions closely in check, not only not to express the depth of his grief, but not to seek a new love and risk losing again.  He arrives in Kingston, Jamaica, just in time to attend Archer’s funeral.  He soon learns that Archer is not dead but living with his cousin on Jamaica, deathly ill but expected to live.  He has the opportunity to spend two weeks alone with him, then faces an end to their love just the same.  The final spoiler is finding out whether the parting is final and irrevocable.  Now aren’t you glad I had to write this and not you?

WINDS OF CHANGE is a remarkably complex and expertly choreographed book.  I was quite astounded at how well Lee Rowan handled all the elaborate plot twists and bits of evidence.  She has a tendency to go a little overboard with the emotions, with Marshall agonizing over his loss and how to handle his future life, repeating himself at least twice, but other than this the story is so well told and so involved that I can’t say much about it except to praise it.  Her knowledge of tall ships seems authoritative to this landlubber’s ear, and the characters are distinctly drawn and credible.  The story will keep the reader riveted to the book, waiting every minute for the next action, the next bit of evidence to be revealed, and to find out just who is committing all these crimes.  Then in the second half of the book there are the heart wrenching sequences, the warm and loving and fairly explicit sex scenes, and watching how the two men will cope with the inevitable.

Read at your heart’s own risk.

And come back in a couple of days for a review of the sequel

, which is included in this publication.

10.12.14

That's All I Read: FINDING FORGIVENESS by Ari McKay

FINDING FORGIVENESS by Ari McKay

FINDING FORGIVENESS

Ari McKay


BlurbBoston in 1888 is quite urbane, but unfortunately for Gil Porter, that isn’t the same thing as being understanding. When his sexuality is exposed by the scandalous suicide of his lover, Gil is exiled to the small town of Mercy, Texas, by his domineering father, George, who believes life on Vernon Porter's ranch will cure Gil of his “unnatural” desires. Grieving and ashamed, Gil is determined to keep his distance from everyone until he can return home. To his surprise, he finds acceptance at Bent Oak Ranch, especially from Matt Grayson, the handsome son of the ranch foreman. Knowing he must fight his attraction to Matt, Gil courts a local girl, but an unexpected encounter with Matt leads to his discovery of Matt’s feelings for him. Torn between Matt and his desire to be “normal," between returning to his old life and building a new one in Texas, Gil is faced with a choice—appeasing his father or becoming the man Matt knows he can be.

This is what you call a period piece in historical fiction.  The atmosphere of the time and place is what’s important, not the actual historical accuracy.  Even so, with some minor details, I’d say this charming and very gratifying story will provide plenty of warm fuzzies for the reader.

Two things stand out as not being my historical cup of tea.  One is that there seem to be a lot of gay men in 1888 Mercy, Texas, who though not out and proud have managed to gain acceptance from a broad number of people.  The ranch owner is gay, the ranch foreman’s son is gay, the ranch owner’s nephew is gay, and, [SPOILER] the ranch foreman is, as I suspected all along, gay.  Oh and one of the hands, too.  This is hardly impossible, but you’d think someone on the ranch would suspect, especially when Gil’s father shows up and starts screaming about his son’s “unnatural” desires.  The worst I would call this is sloppy, but it’s with good intent.

The other thing is that at one point early in the novel Matt tells Gil that the Bent Oak Ranch has 150 ranch hands.  Where do they put them all?  How do they feed them all?  They explain the bunk house is a bit off from the main house and complex, but it must be the size of a Motel 6, and the ranch hands carefully stay away from the rest of the ranch as they never seem to show up and ask questions or for a drink of water or anything.  Yes, a few do make their appearance from time to time, but I have this image of dozens of ranch hands wandering about the corral, gathering in small groups to gossip or drink or eye the daughter of the house or at least try to lasso something.  Some of the ranch hands are of Hispanic descent and it’s nice to see that at least in one pocket of 1888 Texas society Mexicans are fully accepted and integrated.

What this points out more than anything is that there are historical novelists and then there are historical novelists.  Some track down every little detail, as I do, and others just want their readers to sit back and enjoy the story.  This is clearly the latter.  I am the sort of historical novelist this book is not intended for.

However, in spite of these two slight flaws, I did enjoy the book.  The Bent Oak folks are warm and lovely and the work hard and manliness-building, and Jeannie is sweet if  bit doormattish, and Gil really needed a place like this to get over himself.  So close Wikipedia and sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and I don't understand the title.  I guess everyone in the story needed forgiveness from everyone else, but it did not seem especially compelling.

9.12.14

Trans Ponder: Get Romance Reviews Runner Up BELOVED PILGRIM for...



BELOVED PILGRIM isn't just about a transgender man and his exotic lady love in Constantinople.  It is also about Albrecht, whose love affair with the young knight Wlias is tragically cut short, but who meets and falls in love with Andonikos, the Byzantine Emperor's cousin.  This is definitely a well round GLBT novel!  It has a cool fighting horse too.



Learn more at:



Trans Ponder: Get Romance Reviews Runner Up BELOVED PILGRIM for...: What could be better than a novel about a transgender knight heading off to fight in the most devastating of all the Crusades?  How about on...



Elias and Albrecht


8.12.14

NOBLE'S SAVIOR by Jerry Sacher, reviewed by Christopher Hawthorne Moss

NOBLE’S SAVIOR

Jerry Sacher

Buy at Amazon.com *
http://www.amazon.com/Nobles-Savior-Jerry-Sacher/dp/162798450X/ref=as_sl_pd_wdgt_ex?&linkCode=wsw&tag=arsgabo-20

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press, (March 27, 2014)

Blurb:  To purge Benjamin of his desire to join the Army, his father, a senior British diplomat, entrusts him with a mission to Tsar Nicholas II's headquarters. On the way to Russia, Benjamin encounters Sergei Breselov, an officer in the Imperial Army, lying wounded in a field hospital. He persuades the authorities to let him escort Sergei to Petrograd, but their trip is halted when their train is attacked by deserting soldiers. Sergei and Benjamin must band together to survive and make their own way to the capitol. The handsome Sergei Breselov stirs something in Benjamin, and to his surprise, his feelings are returned. Despite the forbidden nature of their association, their bond tightens as Sergei heals, and they are again thrust into the thick of war as the revolution rages around them, threatening to topple the Russian court forever.

Told individually and together, the stories of these two very different men keep the reader constantly on edge and fascinated.  Sergei is from a simple farming family but forced to try to make his way in a changing society that was on the brink of ruin, the Russian economy.  Benjamin, his “Angel”, is from comfort and wealth in a diplomatic family from England.  In spite of their disparities, the two men find each other on a hospital train on its way to Petrograd, and, with no consideration of social standing or rank, fall in love.  There road seems continuously blocked by the circumstances of their times, the Great War, the dissolution of the imperial government in Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution.  All I can say is thanks be it’s a novel or these two men would never have found each other again, but.. there is a psychic connection , of Sergei reaching for Benjamin and Benjamin reaching for Sergei that [SPOILER] explains the inevitability of their reunion.
Along the way the two men have liaisons that in no way detract from their focus on the other.  This was refreshingly real to me, the reviewer, as having them tragically alone would have not felt right.  Benjamin finds colleagues, both well and ill intentioned, seek his company, but he is ready with his arms wide when Sergei steps into them after that fateful wrong turn.  Sergei has a long term affair with a Bolshevik rabblerouser which leads him into danger but ultimately provides him with the shelf where he can wait until time to find Benjamin again.

Along the way one encounters the people of history, in particular Nicholas II, that hapless czar almost too poetically doomed to be believed, though every bit of his description is historically accurate.  The massacre of the workers in 1905, the slow dissolution of society as soldiers in Russia walk off the field after assassinating their officers, all is familiar from numerous account the historically literate has at hand.
Their backgrounds so different the two men are spiritual twins, a condition necessary for them to connect.  The stories of life first on the battlefield in Russia and later in the deteriorating Petrograd and later on the killing fields of France keep one forever guessing what will happen to our boys next.

There were a couple times when the back and forth storytelling styl seemed to get mixed up, particularly when in Petrograd Benjamin is looking for Sergei and just misses him that left me bemused and confused.  Why have Benjamin take the actions that were just described from Sergei’s point of view?  This is a brief sequence that does not take away from the story however.

All in all a fascinating storytelling style from an author who appears to know his history and how to weave it effortlessly for the reader.  Well done.

7.12.14

FINDING FORGIVENESS Ari McKay

FINDING FORGIVENESS

Ari McKay


Blurb: Boston in 1888 is quite urbane, but unfortunately for Gil Porter, that isn’t the same thing as being understanding. When his sexuality is exposed by the scandalous suicide of his lover, Gil is exiled to the small town of Mercy, Texas, by his domineering father, George, who believes life on Vernon Porter's ranch will cure Gil of his “unnatural” desires. Grieving and ashamed, Gil is determined to keep his distance from everyone until he can return home. To his surprise, he finds acceptance at Bent Oak Ranch, especially from Matt Grayson, the handsome son of the ranch foreman. Knowing he must fight his attraction to Matt, Gil courts a local girl, but an unexpected encounter with Matt leads to his discovery of Matt’s feelings for him. Torn between Matt and his desire to be “normal," between returning to his old life and building a new one in Texas, Gil is faced with a choice—appeasing his father or becoming the man Matt knows he can be.

This is what you call a period piece in historical fiction.  The atmosphere of the time and place is what’s important, not the actual historical accuracy.  Even so, with some minor details, I’d say this charming and very gratifying story will provide plenty of warm fuzzies for the reader.

Two things stand out as not being my historical cup of tea.  One is that there seem to be a lot of gay men in 1888 Mercy, Texas, who though not out and proud have managed to gain acceptance from a broad number of people.  The ranch owner is gay, the ranch foreman’s son is gay, the ranch owner’s nephew is gay, and, [SPOILER] the ranch foreman is, as I suspected all along, gay.  Oh and one of the hands, too.  This is hardly impossible, but you’d think someone on the ranch would suspect, especially when Gil’s father shows up and starts screaming about his son’s “unnatural” desires.  The worst I would call this is sloppy, but it’s with good intent.

The other thing is that at one point early in the novel Matt tells Gil that the Bent Oak Ranch has 150 ranch hands.  Where do they put them all?  How do they feed them all?  They explain the bunk house is a bit off from the main house and complex, but it must be the size of a Motel 6, and the ranch hands carefully stay away from the rest of the ranch as they never seem to show up and ask questions or for a drink of water or anything.  Yes, a few do make their appearance from time to time, but I have this image of dozens of ranch hands wandering about the corral, gathering in small groups to gossip or drink or eye the daughter of the house or at least try to lasso something.  Some of the ranch hands are of Hispanic descent and it’s nice to see that at least in one pocket of 1888 Texas society Mexicans are fully accepted and integrated.

What this points out more than anything is that there are historical novelists and then there are historical novelists.  Some track down every little detail, as I do, and others just want their readers to sit back and enjoy the story.  This is clearly the latter.  I am the sort of historical novelist this book is not intended for.

However, in spite of these two slight flaws, I did enjoy the book.  The Bent Oak folks are warm and lovely and the work hard and manliness-building, and Jeannie is sweet if  bit doormattish, and Gil really needed a place like this to get over himself.  So close Wikipedia and sit back and enjoy.

Oh, and I don't understand the title.  I guess everyone in the story needed forgiveness from everyone else, but it did not seem especially compelling.

5.12.14

BLOOD IN THE WATER Tami Veldura

BLOOD IN THE WATER

Tami Veldura


Oldewolff Alternascents; 1st edition (December 19, 2014)

Blurb: Kyros Vindex, treasure-hunter, has a problem. He's carrying a torch for a fellow pirate with the sexual awareness of a teaspoon. Rumors say the man has killed hundreds. He's determined to knock some sense into the work-a-holic that captains the Midnight Sun, but damned if he knows how. 

Eric Deumont has more pressing concerns than the treasure-obsessed Kyros. There's a creature inked into his chest that no witch in the seas will lay hands on for all the gold in the world. He knows it gives the Midnight Sun a cursed reputation and that doesn't make living any easier. He has heard stories of spirits trapped for lifetimes inside spelled puzzle jars. Eric tracked down three of the pieces for such a jar with a lead number four. The fifth is still out there. 

Even then, the spirit of vengeance that lives in Eric's skin has no intention of giving up such easy access to the mortal realm. It craves blood and the light of the moon allows it to wreak unchecked havoc. Cursed is an insult. This is madness.

Pretty much the only thing better than a well told and sexy pirate novel is one with a demon involved.  The author told me this was an Elizabethan era piracy story, but I did not detect anything especially Elizabethan, but that did not matter at all.  The pirate meme is sufficient unto itself.  I was reminded of Helen Hollick’s wonderful Sea Witch series, only one better – two guys madly ripping off each other’s clothing.  It’s funny how a little thing like the doubling of the number of penises can change one’s mind!

Anyway, the pace is quick, the complications many and sudden, the danger ever at hand, and the chances for mad sex too infrequent, but Tami Veldura knows her stuff.  There is not one word out of place.  The HFN ending just promises more hotness and demons.  The language gets a little modern in places, but how many forsooths can two randy pirates manage in one sentence after all?

The sequences with the demon are riveting.  The creature is continuously ethered to Eric’s nipple ring unless exposure to moonlight releases it.  It swarms out of his chest to attack and kill anyone who opposes it.   The only way Eric can trap it again is if he sprinkles cinnamon on himself and it.  When it leaves his body it causes pain and blood that seriously affects him.  Part of the story is the quest that both Eric and Kyros are on to locate all the pieces of a magical jar that can hold the beast.  It will only hold it for a year, which is what leaves the HFN at the end of the novel.  Another spirit/demon attacks Kyros in Havana and leaves him seriously burned.  The cinnamon needed to control these beasts is often very hard to find and Eric is on his way to find some or die trying when Kiros finds him again..  All of this is well thought out and ably dramatized, leaving the reader breathless.


Special notice needs to be made of the African quartermaster, a woman with a build on her like an oak or, as they say, a brick house.  She was refreshing in every way.  And I have read enough tall ship novels to say the terminology and understanding of how a ship works seemed right on to me.

Great cover, by the way.

1.12.14

That's All I Read: The Day of the Dead 1848 by Christopher Hawthorne ...


The Day of the Dead 1848

By Christopher Hawthorne Moss

Michael Muurphy and Gabbo are characters in Christopher Hawthorne Moss's ANGEL EYES, now under consideration for publishing.  You may recall Michael from Moss's story in CLOSET CAPERS  and WHERE MY LOVE LIES DREAMING, both published by Dreamspinner Press.

     It was the Day of the Dead in Mexico.  Mexico City was festooned with bright colored banners.  There were flowers everywhere.  And utterly to Michael’s astonishment, he saw paper skeletons hanging from every lamppost.
     Where was Gabbo?  Michael Murphy woke late after an evening with his and Gabbo’s friends drinking and singing everything from Mexican  folk songs to Irish ballads to the songs of the current American musical hall.  But now when he turned his head on his pillow he found no dark eyes smiling back at him.  He got up and wandered about the little flat, but there was no Gabbo to be seen.
     He dressed and went out to look for him.  He tried the monastery hospital first to see if Gabbo had gone in to work that day.  Then he made his way to Gabbo’s favorite church.  He finally made the rounds of the tavernas and fruit stands.  No Gabbo could be found.
     Then Michael noticed something odd that had been plaguing his distracted mind.  There was no one about.  Of course, there were a few patients in the hospital, but the monks who treated them had a vow of silence and could only gesture in answer to Michael’s questions.  There were no people at the church, not even a priest.  The tavernas and fruit stands had individuals drinking or sorting through the goods, but Michael did not recognize anyone.
     He stopped at the taverna nearest his and Gabbo’s flat and finally saw a familiar face.  The man had a haggard face, the vivid D for “deserter” on the right cheek.  Michael was surprised to see the man here in Mexico City where members of the old St. Patrick’s Battalion were likely to be harassed by the American soldiers, merchants and others who hung about.  It was not like much of the rest of Mexico where San Patricios were celebrated and treated like the heroes they  had come to be to the Mexican people.
     “Daniel O’Malley?” Michael called to the man.
     Daniel turned a guarded look on Michael.  “Yeah, so what do ye want, and why are ye not in uniform?”
     Michael had forgotten he was no longer in the American officer’s uniform he had worn while serving with Scott.  He glanced at the support cane he carried and replied, “Mick Murphy.. don’t you remember me?  I came to San Angel while you were imprisoned there.”  He held up the cane.  “I resigned after I got this.”
Daniel’s look was a trifle smug.  “Mustered out, eh?  Glad you must be to be out of that man’s army, so you are.”
     Michael sketched a gesture of dismissal.  “Hey, have you seen a young man, a good foot shorter than I in common clothing, and did you see where he went?”  Michael felt uncertain, realizing the description matched pretty much all of the young men in the district.
     “Now and I can’t say that I have, lest you mean the young fellow who lives up there.”  He gestured to the plain wooden door of Michael’s flat where it took center place on the second story gallery.
     “That’s the one!  Did he stop in here?”
     Giving Michael an indulgent look, he replied, “Aye, and your sweetheart I know he is, and aye he came in and got a bottle of wine and left again, being after goin’ to the boneyard for this Day of the Dead.  God bless him, he was sayin’ he would say a prayer for me countrymen who died on the gallows, so he did.”
Most of this did not register in Michael’s brain.  All he heard was that Gabbo had gone to the churchyard and that it was the Day of the Dead.  He did not know much about the Mexican observance, but he did know that Gabbo had been troubled lately in anticipation and that he never had gotten the young man to explain his moroseness.  Michael did not even register that O'Malley knew he and Gabbo were sweethearts.
     “Thanks,” he called to Daniel, and turned and went out of the taverna just as he heard the man reply.
     “For what?”
     Michael knew that Gabbo had people from his family who were buried in Veracruz, but he could not think of anyone here in the capital city.  He wondered which churchyard Gabbo would go to.  It occurred to him that he might know some of the American soldiers from when he was a female prostitute  at the brothel, wearing women’s clothing to satisfy the lusts of those who preferred the mixed gender of the cross dresser.  Where were they buried, those soldiers?  Not in a churchyard, unless they were Catholic.  Then he remembered the plot set aside for those few soldiers who had not had their remains shipped back to the United States after the war ended.  It was not on consecrated ground, not the cathedral’s anyway, but at a tiny Protestant congregation near the south gate of the city.
     Michael took a chance and headed in that direction.
     When he arrived he found a surprising number of people crowded around the tiny plot with its gravestones.  He saw that some were clearly the family members of Protestant Mexicans.. there were some of those in the city.  He even saw some black people who had come to Mexico to be free.  He also saw a couple crippled soldiers who were visiting the graves of comrades.  Still others looked like foreign diplomats in their fine clothes, Germans, Swedes, Dutch and British.  He recognized a clerk from the American embassy and made his way through the flower decorated gravestones towards him.
     “Palmer!  But Day of the Dead is a Catholic festival.  Why are you all here today?” he asked, realizing once the words were out of his mouth that they were at least rather insensitive.
     Michael and John Palmer knew each other at least in part because they shared a preference for men in making love.  Michael remembered that Palmer had a special friend who had died of El Vomito, better known to American’s as yellow fever.  His face blanched as he realized Palmer was here to mourn Stephen.  He started to apologize, but John shook his head.
     “It doesn’t matter whose celebration it is.  It’s honoring the departed that matters.  You know that Mexicans believe the dead walk the Earth on November 1st?  If I can be close to Stephen for just one day, it will make me feel I have not lost him.”
     Mick put his hand on Palmer’s arm and squeezed.
     “Do you have someone here, Michael?” Palmer asked in a sympathetic voice.
     “I don’t know.  I expected him to be at home this morning, but couldn’t find him.”
Palmer looked startled at this revelation, then realized Michael meant someone living.  “Oh.  You have someone… special.. here in the city?
     Michael started to smile and say proudly that he had, then remembered why John was here and made his voice solemn.  “Yes, a young man named Gabbo.  He is probably here with someone else he knows.”
     John looked over the heads of the other people visiting their lost loved ones.  “Could that be he?”
     Looking in the direction John Palmer was looking Michael saw Gabbo with a few other people near the corner of the graveyard.  They were mostly sitting on the ground and laughing.  They had a picnic spread about them on a blanket.  Gabbo was sitting on a gravestone, lifting a bottle of wine to his lips and listening to an old woman talking about, no doubt, some story about her dead relative.
     “Excuse me,” Michael said to Palmer.  Then he stopped and said, “Won’t you come see Gabbo and me some time?  We live in a flat on the gallery just above El Porco Llorin, the weeping pig tavern.  I am turning out to be a good cook.  Come eat with us.”
     Palmer nodded and shook Michael’s hand.  “I would enjoy that.”
     Michael smiled warmly into the man’s eyes, then turned and went to where the old woman was just finishing her story.  He knew enough Spanish that he could tell it had been a story about her drunken brother and his exploits in the Mexican War of Independence.
     Gabbo looked up just as Michael reached him.  “Mick, you found me.   I hoped you would ask at the taverna.  This is Senota Ortiz and these are her children and grandchildren.”
     Michael nodded his greetings, then whispered in his lover’s ear, “I was so surprised when I awoke and you were gone.  I looked everywhere for you.”
     Gabbo’s large dark eyes widened.  “Oh, I am so sorry, Mick.  I told you last night I would come here.”
     Michael realized he had been too much in his cups to have paid attention to what Gabbo told him.  He looked contrite.  “Oh, yes, well I think I was too busy drinking and singing to pay attention.  I am the one who needs to apologize.”  Then he looked directly at Gabbo.  “But why here?  And why are Senora Ortiz here in a Protestant graveyard?”
     Gabbo looked at Michael with compassion.  “let’s go talk over there,” he said softly.
     Once the two men were standing somewhat out of the way Gabbo surreptitiously took Michael’s hand.  He raised it to his lips.  “The Senora’s late husband was a Protestant thanks to some evangelistas who visited here many years ago.  I met her at the hospital.  She was one of the laundresses.  I  came with her and because… well, because a few of the men buried here were.. patrons of mine when you all came through Veracruz. I was reminded of their contrition when they realized they had slept with a man in woman’s clothes.  They felt worse than any nasty landowner or Mexican officer who did cruel things to the campacinos.  I have been thinking about them lately, about how they suffered for just being who they were, hurting no one.”  He bowed his head.  “I came to pray for them and to tell their shades they did nothing wrong.”
     Michael looked into Gabbo’s kind eyes.  He realized that he too was one of those Americans who just can’t let what we were told was sin go.  Michael  took him in my arms, chastely so as not to let those near us know we were lovers.  My heart was full of humility and love for this simple honest soul, my beloved Gabbo.
     “You are the one who sees the world like an angel, Gabbo,” I said to him.  I knew he suffered for the wretched fools of all the world who cannot see how pure love is when you can find it.
     He put my arm around his shoulder.  “Let’s go home, Gabbo.  Is that all right?  I just want to…” and I whispered that I wanted to make love to him in his ear.
     He looked into my eyes, his great dark ones full of compassion and affection.  “Si, Mick, let us go.”
     They walked back to our flat with our arms across each other’s shoulders.   Michael thought how this lost soul, with all its external imperfections, was the purest kindest of all.  He knew when they were home he would worship Gabbo’s body with his own.

Follow all the stories in this Flash Fic Holiday Bazaar!


And read more of Kit Moss's stories athttp://www.authorchristophermoss.com .

Gay Boys - Abstract by Jade