Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Review: Blank Spaces

Blank Spaces Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blank Spaces is a sweet, engaging romance.

I warmed immediately to Vaughn’s artistic sensibilities and the sense of isolation and detachment that stem from his confusion about his asexuality. He seems to float through the world around him, observing it but not letting it touch him. If not happy at the start of the novel, he’s content to have traded the possibility of a romantic relationship for the guarantee of never having to be sexually intimate again. But, nevertheless, he’s lonely and longs for the romantic love he thinks will be impossible for him to find.

Jonah is the perfect foil for Vaughn. He’s very much rooted in sensation, using strings-free sex to blot out the deep pain of his troubled past. And, like Vaughn, he also believes that he’s fundamentally unlovable and that sensation is all he can expect from personal relationships. Jonah doesn’t believe he’s worthy of being loved—and certainly not by a guy like Vaughn.

Their journey towards each other through the book, each learning to accept their own nature and to accommodate the needs of the other, is sweet and angsty and had me rooting for them even when I couldn’t see how they’d reach their happy ending. (I loved the ending, btw: non-traditional, but charming and happy and perfect for this pair.)

The writing is polished and the story, involving mysterious thefts from the art gallery where Vaughn works, is handled well and has a satisfying resolution. It doesn’t intrude on the romance, but serves it and provides enough plot to keep the pages turning at a good pace.

For me, this book had all the feels with the added benefit that Vaughn’s asexuality brought something different to the m/m genre. Recommended for anyone looking for a sweet, fun romance with a good dollop of angst and an ending that leaves the heroes happy and in love.

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Friday, 2 June 2017

Review: Maurice

Maurice Maurice by E.M. Forster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These days we'd probably call this an 'own voice' novel, but there weren't many own voice authors writing about being gay in 1913 which makes this book uniquely fascinating to me.

A central theme, or message, of the book—and the conclusion which Maurice eventually reaches—is that being gay is natural. I was particularly struck by the notion of the 'greenwood' as a place of sanctuary for Maurice. He considers how many men 'like him' had escaped to the greenwood in England's past, a place where they could live naturally--in harmony with both nature and their own nature--rather than being subject to the laws of society. It's also essential for Maurice to strip himself of his class baggage in order to fully embrace his nature—and to, literally, embrace his lover Alec. (Interesting that Forster writes a sexually liberating game keeper over ten years before Lady Chatterley's Lover was published.)

I was also delighted and a little surprised to find the book had a HEA—and, in fact, that Forster had never considered anything else. As a result, some critics have described Maurice as a fairy tale. They’re wrong. Forster dedicated the book to ‘A happier year’ and over a century since it was written, we’ve moved far closer to that happier year than Forster appeared to imagine possible in his Terminal Note written in 1960. That makes me happy—as does the thought of Maurice and Alec together, forever, in the greenwood.

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Friday, 5 May 2017

False ColorsFalse Colors by Alex Beecroft  
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful book, beautifully written. The historical detail is incredibly rich, but is woven into the story through the character voices so well that it never feels like the author showing off how much research she's done.

The two protagonists are appealing, despite them both being blind and pig-headed at times. I love that the romantic conflict comes from their own weaknesses rather than from external drivers, although there are plenty of external threats to their relationship. What I also loved is that, while there is explicit sex in the book, both characters are overtly seeking love at a time when love was more dangerous than sex between two men.

Although this is most definitely a romance, it is also a great seafaring adventure. As such, it contains graphic descriptions of violence, sickness, and one torture scene that's disturbing--but none of this is done to shock, it's all an essential part of the story and the reality of the world at the time.

This is also a long and satisfying read, which I appreciate as someone who reads a lot and too fast. By the end of the book (which is as sweet and gratifying as the characters deserve) I felt totally immersed in the world Beecroft created and was sad to say goodbye. 

I highly recommend this book!

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Friday, 28 April 2017

Review: A Gathering Storm

A Gathering Storm A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A thoroughly enjoyable historical romance, set against the beautiful Cornish scenery. I loved the exploration of mesmerism, and the uniquely Victorian overlap between science and the mystical.

The two central characters were well drawn, as was the whole village of Porthkennack, and their relationship felt real and tugged at the heartstrings in all the right ways. I enjoyed the contrast between the uptight, yet more experienced, Ward with the more down to earth yet inexperienced Nick and the development of their relationship had enough sweetness and angst to keep this romance addict very happy. :)

Although this is the second in the Porthkennack series, all the books can be read as stand alones. In fact, I read this one first. Recommended!

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Thursday, 13 April 2017

Review: Brothers of the Wild North Sea

Brothers of the Wild North Sea Brothers of the Wild North Sea by Harper Fox
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What I loved about this book was the very unique and compelling setting, beautifully drawn with incredible world-building. The writing is extremely good and the central romance touching and heartfelt.

Both central characters are exceptionally well drawn and engaging, as are the secondary characters. The romance is visceral and tugs at the heart. I also loved the nod to the triple goddess throughout, which is something we see in a lot in Harper Fox's work.

Highly recommended.

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Thursday, 6 April 2017

I usually avoid literary fiction as I often find it more concerned with style and cleverness than with story telling.
But I’m glad I took a chance on this book. While often brutal, and with a stylized narrative, I found the book captivating, haunting and (added bonus for literary fiction) warm. The characters are vivid, especially Thomas, in whose voice the story is told, and they lived with me long after I finished the book.
While this is in no way a romance, the enduring and romantic love between two hard men, soldiers who have committed acts of horrific violence, sits at the heart of this book. It lifts it from a grim recounting of the brutality of 19th century America to a story of hope, endurance and redemption.
Recommended for a serious read.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Stargate Convention - August 2015

Wow, what an amazing weekend at Creation Entertainment’s Official Stargate Convention in Chicago!

After months of planning, Tom and I arrived full of nervous anticipation at the Westin O'Hare.

Our home for the weekend!
We had books and authors arriving from all directions, a ‘Meet the Readers’ breakfast to organise, and a Stargate Novels panel to host.  It promised to be a fun-packed but hectic weekend!

Things kicked off on Thursday night when I dropped off copies of STARGATE SG-1: Hostile Ground and STARGATE SG-1: Exile with the wonderful Keith Homel. Keith had organised a pre-event auction to raise money in support of research into Dysautonomia. Along with signed copies of our books, Laura and I offered to name a character in book three of the Apocalypse trilogy after the winning bidder. To our total shock and delight, on Friday morning we discovered that our auction item had raised $1000 for the charity!  Stargate fans are seriously awesome.

But there was no time to dwell in the warm glow, because we had work to do.  Tom and I set up our stand in a prime location outside the dealer’s room, just in time for the convention to open at midday. 

Stargate have a go!

We had a fun afternoon meeting the early convention arrivals while we waited for the rest of our authors to fly in.  First to arrive was Laura Harper, all the way from Scotland.  A little later in the afternoon Melissa Scott and Jo Graham arrived from North Carolina, and in the evening Diana Dru Botsford flew in from Texas: the Stargate Novels Team was ready to go!

Diana Dru Botsford, Melissa Scott, Jo Graham
Laura Harper and me!

Saturday morning started early with our ‘Get to know the Readers’ breakfast.  Five authors and twenty-one Stargate fans sat down to eat breakfast together and talk about all things Stargate. Thanks so much to everyone who came along. It was wonderful to meet you all and to find out what you love about Stargate and Stargate novels. The breakfast was pretty delicious too – thank you Benchmark Restaurant!

Say cheese!
Our 'Meet the Readers' breakfast
Later on, we were back at our table ready to talk some more and to sign our books. Again, we were blown away by the generosity of Stargate fans and the amazing stories they told us about the significance these shows have had in their lives. Truly inspiring! 

But we also had time to check out the actors signing nearby…  

Gary Jones on Gary Jones!

Peter Williams (aka Apophis!)
 … and to get up close and personal with a trio of Goa’uld!

Peter Williams, Suanne Braun, Cliff Simon (aka Apophis, Hathor and Baal!)
We had a more leisurely start to Sunday, and Laura and I had the great pleasure of meeting James O’Kane, the winner of our auction item.  We had a really good chat with James, and the character we developed while talking to him is actually going to become pretty pivotal to book three of the Apocalypse series. So it was, literally, a win-win situation for all of us. We’re excited to get going on the final book – and to introduce you all to James’ character!

After that, it was time for the Stargate Novels Panel: Keeping the Gate Open. It was an enormous privilege to spend an hour answering people’s questions about what we do, and we were overwhelmed by the support we received from our readers. Thank you all so much for coming – we really appreciated it.

Below are a few pics, but if you’d like to see the whole panel you can watch it here:

And look out for the moment when a special guest joins us - that was definitely a highlight! (Warning: spoiler pic below!)

Jo, our compère
Laura's not singing, I promise
Melissa gets a tricky question...
Diana gets serious
Paul McGillion makes a surprise appearance!
After our panel, things got busy on the stand.  We were thrilled that so many people told us how much they’d enjoyed the panel, and how our enthusiasm for the show had convinced them to pick up one of our novels for the first time.  It was a pretty humbling experience.

As Sunday wound down, it was time for us to pack up and head our separate ways - although, sadly, not through the Stargate.  

Would you send this team through the gate?
We had a wonderful time in Chicago and would love to come back next year.  A huge thank you to the people at Creation Entertainment for making it happen, and to our authors for all their tireless enthusiasm.  

And an enormous thank you goes to the wonderful Stargate fans that made us feel so welcome throughout the weekend - and, without whom, we couldn't keep the gate open. 

You guys are the best!

Review: Blank Spaces

Blank Spaces by Cass Lennox My rating: 5 of 5 stars Blank Spaces is a sweet, engaging romance. I warmed ...