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Archive for the ‘Recommendations’ Category

Sometimes it’s really worth checking out backlists. There are some marvellous books out there but with hundreds of new titles every week it can be very hard to find them.
Authors – have you got a title a year or more old that could do with a little love?
Readers – have you got a favourite book that you think deserves some attention?

Message or email me and we’ll set something up.

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I have a double favourite this week. My guest is Charlie Cochrane, one of my favourite people, and the book is Awfully Glad, one of my favourites of her books. It isn’t very long but it covers themes close to my heart – people who dare to be themselves and who have the courage to try and get what they really want even though the odds are stacked against them. Please do check it out, I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

Blurb:

WWI hero Sam Hines is used to wearing a face that isn’t his own. When he’s not in the trenches, he’s the most popular female impersonator on the front, but a mysterious note from an anonymous admirer leaves him worried. Everyone realizes—eventually—that Sam’s not a woman, but has somebody also worked out that he also prefers his lovers to be male?

When Sam meets—and falls for—fellow officer Johnny Browne after the war, he wonders whether he could be the man who wrote the note. If so, is he the answer to Sam’s dreams or just another predatory blackmailer, ready to profit from a love that dare not speak its name?

Excerpt:

Corry ushered the gaggle of officers out, leaving Sam alone with the business of casting off one persona and putting his real face back on. While being Madeleine was always exhilarating—especially when some poor dupe fell for the trick—he was more comfortable in his own skin. He knew men who weren’t, of course, who’d have envied him this opportunity to prance about onstage and garner the temporarily deluded worship of ranks of young men, but that wasn’t his cup of tea. Somehow his being a rugby-playing, Military Cross-winning officer added a certain authority to the deception. A female impersonator he might be, but nobody would ever accuse him of being a pansy.
He considered his reflection, which was almost passable now that the red patches on his face, where he’d smeared off the make-up, had faded and his hair had been towelled to a tawny dark blond. He looked younger than twenty-seven, barely a touch of six o’clock shadow, which was why Madeleine was always so authentic looking, of course. He’d make some young lady a wonderful husband, as his family kept reminding him.
Except that was on the bottom of his list of priorities, possibly even below getting himself stuck on a piece of barbed wire.
Make some chap a lovely husband? Yes, well, less chance of that happening than George V coming out here, shaking the Kaiser’s hand, and putting this whole mess to an end right now. Still, he couldn’t deny that the last few minutes had been pleasant. Corry was a great bloke—if he knew, then he was keeping his own counsel—and the ginger-headed lad had blushed rather attractively, even if the rest of his face seemed to consist of rough and pockmarked terrain.
The other two officers had been a treat for the eye, though. Did somebody in the regiment have an eye for a handsome face and make sure the pair had been assigned to the same battalion?
A small shape, just at the corner of Sam’s vision, caught his attention: a small piece of writing paper, or something else of the same colour, between two jars of make-up on the makeshift dressing table.
He prised the thing out—a little piece of paper, which had clearly been folded with great care before being wedged in such a position as to be visible only to someone sitting in the chair. It hadn’t been there before the show, and he’d swear it hadn’t been there at the interval nor straight after they’d taken their curtain call, either. Which meant, presumably, that one of his little gaggle of visitors had left it. Except he hadn’t noticed anybody put it there, or even one of the officers touching the jars on the table. Someone must have had a good tactical eye, an appreciation for the lay of the dressing-table land, and the ability to make a bold but discreet move. That hardly narrowed the field, did it? They were army officers, after all.
He turned the paper in his hand, imagining some poor chump of a second lieutenant writing love lines to Miss Madeleine, leaving them here, and then not being able to retrieve them after the great denouement had occurred. How that chap would be squirming now at the thought of Sam reading the lines he’d penned and having a good laugh over them. Perhaps it would be kinder just to chuck the note in the bin, rather than making the man suffer embarrassment. He might have put his name to it, after all.
Still…

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I asked Charlie for a recommendation and this is what she said:

Too much choice! I’ll go with the first book which came to mind, which is Tamara Allen’s charming Whistling in the Dark. Such a gentle, atmospheric and beautifully written book, conjuring up a post-war America that’s trying hard to re-find its feet.

Whistling in the Dark

Biog and links: As Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her favourite genre is gay fiction, sometimes historical (sometimes hysterical) and usually with a mystery thrown into the mix.

She’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People, and International Thriller Writers Inc., with titles published by Carina, Samhain, Bold Strokes Books, Lethe, MLR, and Riptide. She regularly appears with The Deadly Dames and is on the organising team for UK Meet.

To sign up for her newsletter, email her at cochrane.charlie2@googlemail.com, or catch her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18
Twitter: http://twitter.com/charliecochrane
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2727135.Charlie_Cochrane
Blogs: http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com and https://charliecochrane.wordpress.com/
Website: http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk

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Sometimes it’s really worth checking out backlists. There are some marvellous books out there but with hundreds of new titles every week it can be very hard to find them.
Authors – have you got a title a year or more old that could do with a little love?
Readers – have you got a favourite book that you think deserves some attention? Message or email me and we’ll set something up.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My guest this week is Alexa Milne and the book is Sporting Chance, which has the utterly winning combination of love, Wales and rugby. I have no idea how I missed this one when it came out!!

 

Blurb

Sometimes keeping hold of love is just as hard as finding it.
Dan and Iestyn are looking for romance. A school trip, a love of history, a wedding, a tango, the game of chess, and their friends and family all help the two men to realise that they’ve finally found true love with each other.
Iestyn thinks that he’s completely ordinary and that Dan is the only out and currently gay rugby player anywhere. Being gay can be difficult enough. Being famous also has its problems. But being gay, famous and a sportsman can make finding love complicated. So when Dan Morgan meets Iestyn Jones and gives him his phone number, their road ahead has more than a few bumps to overcome.
Will Iestyn and Dan overcome the obstacles thrown in their paths? Or will fame destroy their lives as well as their love?

Buy links
Publisher – https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/sporting-chance
Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sporting-Chance-Alexa-Milne-ebook/dp/B00PC750DS
Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/Sporting-Chance-Alexa-Milne-ebook/dp/B00PC750DS
All Romance – https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-sportingchance-1667146-149.html
Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/sporting-chance-1
Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/alexa+milne?_requestid=352600

Excerpt

Chapter 1

Oh hell!

His arse hit the ice.

This was going to be so embarrassing.

He really should have looked where he was going and taken more care. It wasn’t that he meant to show off in front of the kids when they’d goaded him into demonstrating how he could skate backward. But that was how he found himself crashing into another body, a rather large male body, then scrabbling, unsuccessfully, to try to get himself up as he apologised. Iestyn heard the kids laughing. How the hell was he going to get up and retain some sort of dignity? Whose bloody idea had it been to come on this skating trip from school, and why had he volunteered to go? He heard a voice—a rather gorgeous lyrical voice—say something, but he wasn’t sure what. He found himself looking up into the face of the most handsome man he’d ever seen.

“Would you like some help getting up?” the vision said, holding out a hand.

Iestyn took the help offered and let the good-looking stranger pull him to his feet. He was shocked to find, when he’d stood up, that the man appeared to be significantly taller than his own nearly six feet.

“Thanks,” he said, brushing the ice from his trousers. He glanced over to find the kids staring at him. “What? You’ve seen a man fall over before, haven’t you? Even a teacher.”

But they just kept on staring at the man who had helped him up.

I asked Alexa for a recommendation and this is what she said:

The book I’m going to pick is The Salisbury Key by Harper Fox. This is one of the first mm books I read and I was lucky enough to win a signed copy in a competition. I enjoyed the story because it wasn’t a straight forward romance and it was set in Britain. Some might  think the relationship between the two main characters moved too quickly, but for me they worked. The story involved solving a mystery as well as archaeology. The sex was well written – there, but not intrusive to the story. Overall, it was a great read.

Goodreads page – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9848848-the-salisbury-key?from_new_nav=true&ac=1&from_search=true

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It occurred to me earlier this week that I haven’t done one of these for a while. The thing that jogged my memory is that the long awaited second book of a series is just out and I thought it might be nice to give some love to the series as a whole.

It’s called Melusine’s Cats and it’s by Chris Quinton.

I think we are all familiar with romances that features fuzzy animals, or babies or cutie poo toddlers, as a bonding device to bring the protagonists together. Well you don’t get much of that here. 😀 The cats are well rounded characters with their own agenda and can go from cute and fuzzy to OMG are we in the Pleistocene in the blink of an eye.

This is just as well, as the books are set in a place where our own familiar modern world intersects with something older and far more dangerous. Melusine of the series title is an ancient power in the Celtic pantheon, defeated in battle and bound to the river through a small village in Devon. After centuries of impotence the chains upon her have loosened enough for her to start building a power base again and her first step is to acquire some triads, fighting units made from two pair-bonded warriors plus an enormous animal familiar. Her first choice are Will, the highly respected village policeman and incomer Jesse Adams, a rugby player punished with suspension after being found guilty in an assault case, who are brought together by Greymalkin.

Part crime drama, part otherworldly adventure, this book sets the scene perfectly, describing the village and nearby port town and introducing characters, both human and cat, to look out for in future volumes.

Book two, which released on Monday, is Tawny.

Here barman Hal fears for his sanity when he begins to hear voices – or rather one specific voice. Also the pub cat, an enormous ginger tom, is looking at him funny. Then a red headed stranger in need of help arrives and Hal is swept up into a terrific adventure that spans this and the other world. Gryffydd is wholly of the other world, a dedicated enemy of Melusine and is determined to defeat her once and for all. Cue a struggle of wills between Hal, Gryffydd and Tawny with a lot more at stake than the two young men’s hearts. I particularly enjoyed a better look at the world inhabited by Melusine and her peers and the additional information on how the whole state of affairs came about. Seeing a conflict from a different point of view is always enlightening.

Very satisfying as a series, these books are also well rounded off. Each has its own complete story arc within the larger plot. Reading them in order is an advantage but I think that if you picked up Tawny first by accident you would still enjoy it, and go and get Greymalkin. I’m happily trying to guess which of the human characters will pair off in the next book and which of the many cats mentioned with get the starring role.

Highly recommended.

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readingThis is less of a weekend recommendation – though it is, you’d be daft not to read this series – than a stream of consciousness mumble. You see, the book roused some very very strong feelings in me and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. This isn’t usual for me when reading books labelled romance. Most draw to a satisfying conclusion with everyone happy and I can go on to the next book without any worries. But occasionally I read something that I can’t leave alone and I worry it like a dog that can’t quite get that last bit of marrow out of a bone. Usually I keep my mumbles to myself but I did sort of promise the author to let her know what I thought and since it’s good – hey 2 birds one stone.

The book? Jackdaw by K J Charles – the final episode in her terrific Magpie Lord series. The bird I’d have loved to stone Jonah Pastern, one of the antagonists of the previous book, Flight of Magpies.

Now this isn’t a normal recommendation where I provide enough of a tease to, hopefully, persuade people to read and buy. So THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

I can’t stress that strongly enough so let’s have it again.

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS

If you haven’t read the book yet, do that first then come back and you can tell me how wrong I am about everything.

Okay? You’re sure? Let’s get on then.
(more…)

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55c46-1868508 I’m so torn this week.

Decisions decisions. I’ve read some terrific stuff, one of which is an autobuy followed by an automatic cry the author’s name to the skies read and another is a first novel of a VERY promising author and then there were a couple of comfort reads. What to do?

Well, since it’s my blog I decided that the autobuy book doesn’t need a blog post – I need a fandom so I can discuss the finer points without having to worry overmuch about spoilers! And since I enjoyed the first novel equally as much, I have decided to give it the recommendation it deserves.


Of course, I’m talking about The Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler which released on Monday last.

For a start it has, hands down, one of the finest most exciting action sequences I’ve read right there in the first chapter as protagonist Rafe Lancaster pilots his aether, phlogiston and petrol-distillate powered biplane in battle over the veldt of South Africa during the Second Boer War. I should maybe mention that this book would probably class as steampunk except that they have done away with all that tedious coal and stoking!

I adore the whole steampunk vibe with shades of Rider Haggard stiff-upper-lippery, men of enormous personal bravery and magnificent whiskers and clothing with buttons and laces enough to slow the between the sheets action down to a delicate pavane before the frantic scramble of consummation. There are manners, there is politeness, there is what should be done and the heroes dance between the expectations of society, each other and necessity to try to achieve happiness.

Add espresso machines powered by cold fusion – something I’ve often suspected as I hurry past places like Costa coffee – and a complex alternative to Parliament, and finally, by God, The British Museum under a slightly different name and I was an exceedingly happy reader.

Rafe is a great hero, charming, witty and not too good, which is as well because we spend the whole book in his head, the other MC is a good complement to him, there are plenty of terrific secondary characters, and oodles of plot interleaved with the romance. Kudos to Dreamspinner for providing a brilliantly apt cover.

Look, just read it, okay? Highly recommended.

The Gilded Scarab

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55c46-1868508It’s been a reading week, hasn’t it.

Well, it has been for me. Cwtching up in the corner of the sofa with tea, chocolate digestives and something a bit different on my ereader is a grand way to while away the time ’til sleep.

Anyway, in my quest to bring you something a bit different I’ve made an unusual choice this week. For a start I bought it purely because I liked the title and cover – and I’m not usually that spontaneous and reckless – and then it’s mainstream fiction not M/M romance, and finally it has no on page sex!! BUT it was very good and I really enjoyed it.

The book – Playing Charlie Cool by Laurie Boris.

This is the third book in a fairly loose trilogy. The second book, Don’t Tell Anyone, was written first and has a female MC. It is a family saga about the effect the terminal illness of the matriarch has on the rest of the family and in particular on the MC her daughter in law. A minor character – Charlie – required his own story told and so the author wrote a short story called The Picture of Cool, as book one of the trilogy, and Playing Charlie Cool is the third and final part. Having no idea the other two books existed I was a bit at a loss for a page or two but OH the story gripped and I soon picked up on the interwoven relationships and backstories.

Charlie of the title is a TV producer responsible for an award winning TV show with a bunch of gorgeous intelligent and charismatic ladies at the helm. I imagine it’s a bit like a cross between the UK tv show Loose Women and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour only with size 4 clothing, Jimmy Choo’s and OMG so much more makeup. Charlie is in love with Adam, though Charlie calls him Joshua, a politician who has recently disrupted his whole life by coming out and who is now being urged to run for congress. Although deeply in love with each other, pressure from Adam’s soon-to-be ex-wife, her family, his family, and the requirements of political life mean that they have to keep their relationship on the down low, meeting furtively and briefly and generally making Charlie feel like a dirty secret.

But the relationship isn’t he only thing that’s impacting on their lives because they both have jobs to do, they both have relationships to maintain apart from each other, they have responsibilities and the joy of the book for me is that neither of them lost sight of those responsibilities. So often in romance we get the ‘all for love and the world well lost’ scenarios where the heroes are so desperate to be together than nothing else matters. Well it matters to me and makes me very annoyed. In this book both Charlie and Adam/Joshua spend time nursing extremely bruised hearts but are shown to be facing up to their problems and making sure that nobody else suffers through their distraction. I gave them both a big cheer and a thumbs up for that.

I also want to give the author a big thumbs up for her female characters. They are delightful. Don’t let the blurb fool you into thinking that you’ll find the usual evil ex-wife, bigotted parent cardboard cut outs. Sure there are ladies who behave less than well, but in the majority of cases you see WHY they behave like that and I found them sympathetic even while deploring what they were doing.

This is such good fiction – also gentle, kind, intelligent Charlie won my heart. Highly recommended.

Playing Charlie Cool

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readingYep a day late and a shilling short, as they say. But no, no missing shillings because today I have just finished something rare and wonderful.

I’m ploughing a hard furrow at the moment with a mule that’s on three legs and a swinger, and with Christmas coming up it’s enough to drive a body to drink. But I don’t drink so instead I mine the M/M pit for gems and take my mind of the situation by reading a lot.

This weeks gem is a softly glowing pearl of a book – Like Fire through Bone by E E Ottoman.

I’m a real history nerd and feel that some periods and places are unjustly neglected, so it was a HUGE treat to find this book set in something very much like the Eastern Roman Empire. Byzantium/Constantinople is never mentioned and the geography has been fiddled with a bit, but the world was familiar, lush, horrifying and complex. I loved that.

Then there are the characters. Firstly Vasilios, the MC, a castrato who was captured in war and mutilated. Rather than falling into despair he worked hard and has made himself indispensable to his master, a merchant whose health is failing. These eunuch bureaucrats, highly educated, highly motivated, cultured and competitive, were the driving force behind the Roman Empire, both east and west and the Ottoman Empire that followed, in government, th military, financial institutions, the church and right down to household level. Vasilios runs his master’s household, directs his business, disciplines the other servants and has more or less given up on doing anything other than serve others. He’s a sweet, gentle, intelligent man who is appreciated only as a valuable asset rather than a person in his own right. His one little self indulgence is a wistful crush on General Markos, confidant of the Emperor.

Then Vasilios begins to have horrifying dreams and realises that they have a bearing on a task that the General is trying to accomplish. This provides the excuse fr him to meet the General more often and the crush blossoms as he realises that the General too may be harbouring feelings for him. Markos is a tough guy but benign who has attained his rank through competence and loyalty rather than birth or connections. As such he’s a very good match for Vasilios.

Their gentle and careful courtship forms part of the story. Other themes are a dark paranormal tale concerning devils and murder and the utter vulnerability of slaves in a world where they have absolutely no rights and can be killed, discarded, used or brutalised at their owners whim.

I read this book almost at a sitting and enjoyed every word of it. Very highly recommended. If you want a standard romance structure you might be a little disappointed in the slightly ambiguous ending but for me it was perfect for Vasilios and an ending that is good for the character has to be better than one that panders to readers tastes doesn’t it? Get it, read it. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.

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