The Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov and kate Cotoner

The Lion of Kent by Aleksandr Voinov and Kate Cotoner
Stars: 4.5/5

I was very impressed with this novel, not that I went in with low expectations, but I was just pleasantly surprised. It never struggled to be something other than it was, and it excelled at what it did. Plot, characters and writing were all well done.

What I liked
Cover Art. Rarely do I find books in the M/M genre to be enticing, but the knight staring me down on this cover was hot. The cover was telling without being abusively obvious, leaving the reader intrigued and curious to read.

Characters. Our characters were men of the manly sort, rough and tumble. They were knights and squires, earning their keep with their swords while keeping loyalty to their lord and master. Of course, some men find different ways to show their loyalty...

Plot. We enter these tales wanting a love story, but this novel balances out the love story with a deeper plot involving deception, desperation, and politics. It gives details without being overwhelming and works within the parameters if it's story. Overall, well constructed.

Romance. After our second “hot” scene, I was worried about the romance. The sex felt almost demeaning and I was hesitant to read more of it. I was rewarded by Sir Robert explaining his actions and making up for them to great satisfaction (all around).

Writing. The writing was smooth so that you don't realize you're reading good writing until you go to write a review and think, “I'm missing something.” The language use mostly felt time-appropriate, as did behaviors, thoughts, and flow of language (giving a sense of the period without being bound to it).

What didn't work
I think my only complaint is whenever they mentioned Constantinople the They Might Be Giants song played in my head.

The reason it only received 4.5 stars instead of 5: I enjoyed the story, it was strong and well done with a enclosed plot, developed characters, and enjoyable scenes. However, I never connected with the main character on a deep level that moved me emotionally to ache when he ached and squirm when he squirmed. Part of this could be because he feels more honestly written like a man than some other stories, so isn't overtly emotional.


Book Review - One Good Hand

One Good Hand by Rowan McBride

A short, fun romance that doesn't play around. Ace is confident at the poker table, but needs a source of strength, Spade is ... anything Ace needs him to be. Quick and hot, but not tasteless. The plot and characters are well developed (and perhaps refreshingly simple).

What I liked
Simple and enjoyable. The characters and plot aren't exceptionally deep, but they aren't single layered either. There is just enough outside action and characters that we aren't left with just our two main boys, but they are the focus. It was well balanced and well constructed for how short it was.

What didn't work
I don't have anything specific for this category, so why only three stars?

While the story was enjoyable, nothing about it amazed me. It wasn't deep or eye opening or touching. It was what it aimed to be--a romantic story with a few sex scenes. If that's what you're looking for, then this is your thing and I think it will satisfy.

One element that didn't really work for me, but I know is completely personal is Spade's body build. He's strong in the beginning, but gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger. By the end, the description of his muscles puts me off. But if you like body builders, it might just be your thing.


Book Review - Allergies

Allergies by T.A. Chase

Enjoyable and fun, but not particularly deep. It's one of those stories that takes place over...ohh..3 days (4 tops), so a certain amount of suspension of disbelief must occur.

What I liked
Well-done sex scenes. There were a fair number of them, which doesn't necessarily make it close to my heart, but they were well done and they never seem intrusive to the story.

What didn't work
The end. I'm still waiting for it. I realize it's part of a series and the main focus of the story (Ray's allergies) was solved, but when the second of the series has nothing to do with the first, I WORRY.

Names. I'm sensitive to names, so reading Lou and Ray kinda tweaked me (in a bad way) but it wasn't awful enough that I stopped reading. I understand people have normal names (and..uh...not so normal names). I read too much fantasy it seems. Or I'm picky.


Book review: An Uncommon Whore

An Uncommon Whore by Belinda McBride

Surprisingly enjoyable. Read for the M/M Romance group, the topic of "spaceman" isn't something that would normally catch my eye, but the story was well told, flowed nicely and seemed probable (you know, considering they're in space). There was never really much of a suspenseful climatic moment (except emotionally for one character), and the end just kinda happens, but it worked in an oddly unique way.

What I liked
Nothing particularly blew me away with this story, but I think I was so surprised that I actually enjoyed it that I don't think anything could have surprised me more than that did.

The characters were enjoyable and layered, especially our narrator, which I found refreshing, because he could have been very flat. Although he was a slave and needed rescued, he wasn't weak all the time and he had his strengths.

Happy ending. I was really rather satisfied with the ending, "abrupt" as it may have been.

What didn't work
The end did surprise me, in that I was reading along and then suddenly THE END was at the bottom of the page and I really wanted more. I don't think it was an inappropriate time for the end, but it did kind of surprise me. I think it's because there was no grand climax (uh..plot wise), to signal the dropping action.

The plot wasn't heavy. There wasn't really a giant challenge to overcome, physically or politically, just emotionally for one of the characters. If you're a reader who needs this "dun dun dun" moment, then this might not be the story for you. On the other hand, if you can read about guys doing stuff and healing emotionally (and sexually), with some small spurts of action (coughcough) then it'll be fine.


Book Review - Drawn Together

Drawn Together by Z.A. Maxfield

I was really looking forward to this story, being the huge geek that I am. I actually saved to read this when I was at an anime convention (just to get in the mood of things)...it was kind of a let down. The writing was good and there were some great one liners, but overall the story didn't compell me. I felt as if this story should have studied the characters more and had the plot as secondary (and with a different plot).

What I liked
Overall I enjoy Maxfield's writing style and there are some moments that literally had me laughing aloud. I mostly enjoyed the characters and their interactions (see below for more), and I liked the story enough to continue reading.

What didn't work
Dialogue/Interactions: These felt forced and clumsy many times, as if the author wasn't sure how a person would really react. It wasn't a problem all the time, so perhaps it was more a matter of the author wanted the story to go one way, the characters wanted it to go another way, and the author forced the story to go the way she wanted it to go...leaving awkward interactions among the characters.

The plot. While I could swallow the ridiculousness of the opening as a necessary element to get the story started, there were so many other parts that didn't piece together well. The entire stalker danger felt...fake/ridiculous/off. I just didn't buy it, and when you're leading your story that way (and most of the story involves it), you need the reader to agree that it makes sense. Too much was off from reality.

Our dear Rory, who comes across as an obtuse idiot in the beginning, ends up being a high-rolling poker player. Not just mediocre, but REALLY good. I didn't buy it. I was given no reason to buy it, except that it "runs in the blood."

Yamane was a little more consistent, and it was pointed out he would act cool/tough sometimes, and then like a prissy princess others, but it was a consistent behavior pattern, so it was buyable. His actions that seem irrational are, via his thoughts, admitted that he doesn't know why he did them, he just had to. While this may seem like an excuse, it's one I'm willing to buy.

As for Yamane's issues with men...I'm not sure I really ever got it. I didn't get a good feel of why he went with men like he did or what his previous relationships were like to lead to this behavior.


Book review - Stirring Up Trouble

Stirring Up Trouble by Z.A. Maxfield

Good, if not short. Not a high-intensity story, but enjoyable. The romance/sex didn't overpower the story, nor was it lacking. A nice mix.

What I liked
Characters: They were realistic and enjoyable, but I wish we had more of them. I feel like this was only a taste of their lives and their personalities. I think if she had taken more time to develop their characters and the relationship, things would have been even better.

The Plot: Not a high-crisis situation, but realistic and interesting enough to keep me reading (and wanting to re-read). I felt the plot was rather well paced and things fit together well. Some people complain that the main characters didn't really do anything in order to bring about resolution to the plot, but I think they made small changes in themselves and how they interact with others, which led to the happy ending. But it's true that the main characters weren't directly making the end happen.

What didn't work
TOO SHORT. It was really good, but things buzzed by faster than the reader could keep up. Too much was hinted at or alluded to. We could have been shown things more. Just wanted more overall.

Toby's sister felt like she was mostly plot point rather than family member. Her four points of involvement lead to two being major plot motivators, one familial interaction, one potential for plot motivator. She never showed up outside of her purpose and I thought she could have been apart of Toby's life more. Evan's brother, I felt, showed up the right number of times (since we aren't given the impression that they are particularly close at the moment and the point of view isn't Evan's.

Book review - The Angel of Thirteenth Street

The Angel of Thirteenth Street by Eden Winters

Enjoyable, good plot, good characters. This story didn't blow me out of the water by any means, but I'll go back and re-read it. Sometimes the characters are a bit frustrating, and there are only two sex scenes (if you're keeping track), but overall, pleasant.

What I liked
The plot. The story was exciting, but not too far-fetched, and everything unveiled itself at a good pace. There weren't any moments (that I recall) where the reader is thrown for a loop, and instances where we may start questioning were "explained away" well enough.

The characters were strong and varied. Our "damsel" in the beginning wasn't a damsel by halfway, which was refreshing. I enjoyed the challenges Noah faced, both physically and emotionally, and the conclusion felt right to me for all parties involved.

What didn't work
Most of the chapters were from Noah's perspective, but we had a smattering from Jeremy's, one from the judge's and one from Billy's. It felt a little inconsistent, and when I started reading the chapters that weren't from Noah's pov, it threw me off a little. It also felt like this was being used as a crutch to explain things that the author couldn't get across otherwise. But this is a rather mild complaint.

Book review - His Convenient Husband

His Convenient Husband by J.L. Langley

This story didn't really do it for me. It wasn't BAD, but it wasn't really GOOD either. This is something I'd reread only out of boredom.

What I liked
The ending did satisfy me, not just because it was happy, but because things felt resolved. The last chapter wasn't completely necessary, but I can understand the reason Langley added it.

There were some good scenes, like little diamonds in the rough, but not enough to really endear me. Micah is really the only thing that helped this story survive.

The story/plot wasn't bad, but it wasn't amazing either. It felt a little forced/circumstantial. Not a story you'd read for a good story.

What didn't work
The characters were a bit irrational...which may or may not have been realistic. Tucker's attitude toward Micah felt falsely constructed with flimsy reasons and didn't really endear me to him. Micah, rightly injured, behaves rather appropriately, considering, although he also has hot-headed moments. But if I had to deal with Tucker, I'd be a little wary too!