The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott

The Christmas Throwaway by R.J. Scott
Stars: 2.5/5

Length: 73 pages
Christmas is a time for giving - what do you do when no one gives a damn?

For Zachary Weston Christmas means sleeping on a churchyard bench in the freezing snow with nothing better in his future. Thrown out of his home for being gay, he is left without money or, it seems, anywhere to go.

Until a stranger shows him that some people do give a lot more than a damn.

Ben Hamilton is a rookie cop in his small home town. He finds a young throwaway, fresh from the city, sleeping on a bench in the churchyard on a snowy Christmas Eve. Can he be the one to give Zachary his own Christmas miracle?

A sweet sort of holiday tale that I found to be too easy and kind of questionable about certain events. It was enjoyable, but like mindless television.

There was a lot about this story that I wanted to like, but too much was hard for me to swallow. I liked Zach and Ben, and while I found their meeting and the sequence of events a little brow raising, it wasn’t enough to turn me off the story. The Christmas part of the tale worked the best, and while I was glad to see the rest of the story unfold, it made the pacing unbalanced.

The first 75% of the story is the first winter they’re together, then it jumps months at a time. It’s difficult, because it does resolve some plot points that were good/necessary to see through, but it also felt like an excuse to have lots of sex, plus the jumps felt more stilted than the rest of the story.

Along those lines, sometimes the writing felt a little stilted too. There was some adjective abuse. Normally it doesn’t really jump out to me, but one line in particular illustrates that: “Jesus Christ,” he cursed bluntly.

If the character is cursing, it’s probably blunt (especially in the surrounding circumstances), and in the situation, explaining that “JC” was a curse wasn’t needed either, although I could let that slide.

In addition, the characters tended to internal monologue and describe instead of acting. To some degree, hearing the character’s thoughts was necessary, but in other instances it just explained what the reader already knew, or described why a character was doing something (when the action itself made it apparent).

So this is a tough one, because I liked the story that Scott told, but I also had some problems with it as well, mostly in the style and craft elements, which other readers may not find problematic.


Tag Team, Guards of Folsom: Book Two by SJD Peterson

Tag Team, Guards of Folsom: Book Two by SJD Peterson
Stars: 3/5

Length: 220 pages
Following the death of their sub, the former owners of the Guards of Folsom, Robert “Bobby” Alcott and Rig Beckworth, were left to pick up the pieces as best they could. After seven years, these two Doms are ready to move on and find the boy who will complete them. Their painful past comes crashing back when they meet Mason Howard, a submissive who just weeks ago lost his Doms in a car accident.

Reeling from overwhelming grief that’s complicated by a severe social anxiety disorder, Mason can barely leave his home. When Rig and Bobby find him, he’s hit rock bottom, believing life is no longer worth living. Bobby and Rig set out to prove the younger man wrong. Fate has brought the three men together, but they’ll have to face the pain of fear and loss head-on before they can all truly live again.

Despite an interesting plot and characters, I found the story to be slow-moving at times and it just didn’t grab me.

I enjoyed Mason’s struggles and the care and tenderness that Rig and Bobby show him. That said, I found myself skipping over large chunks of text on my second read, as it didn’t move the story forward. This is a personal preference, but the verbosity seemed to bog down the storytelling.

But, keeping that in mind, I still want to get the next in the series. The reading isn’t painful, it’s just not to my liking, and I enjoy the characters and their stories enough to be curious about the men on the side who get mentioned. So even though this story didn’t blow me away, I enjoyed it enough to want to continue.

One of the best things for me was seeing two doms who were very different and who were changed by the sub they were dealing with (rather than the sub who is always the changed one). In addition, at least one of them has a judgmental thought about the previous doms and later rescinds it in his own mind as he comes to understand why it would happen. He still think it was wrong, but he reaches an understanding.

I love that we see the growth of each of these characters and not just the sub. It makes the growth feel real and, in turn, makes the characters feel real (you know, aside from money never being an issue).

It took me a while to write this review, one because I didn’t have much to say, and then because I needed to reread it for a proper review. But even then, this book didn’t scream at me what to write about it. So sorry for a mediocre review that you had to wait for. I think my overall review would be: If you liked the first in the series, you’ll probably like this one at least a little. If you didn’t read the first in the series...then you should start with that one!


Ethan in Gold (Johnnies, #3) by Amy Lane

Ethan in Gold (Johnnies, #3) by Amy Lane
Stars: 4.5/5

Length: 350 pages
Evan Costa learned from a very early age that there was no such thing as unconditional love and that it was better to settle for what you could get instead of expecting the world to give you what you need. As Ethan, porn model for Johnnies, he gets exactly what he wants—comradeship and physical contact on trade—and he is perfectly satisfied with that. He’s sure of it.

Jonah Stevens has spent most of his adult life helping to care for his sister and trying to keep his beleaguered family from fraying at the edges. He’s had very little time to work on his confidence or his body for that matter. When Jonah meets Ethan, he doesn’t see the hurt child or the shamelessly slutty porn star. He sees a funny, sexy, confident man who—against the odds—seems to like Jonah in spite of his very ordinary, but difficult, life.

Sensing a kindred spirit and a common interest, Ethan thinks a platonic friendship with Jonah won’t violate his fair trade rules of sex and touch, but Jonah has different ideas. Ethan’s pretty sure his choice of jobs has stripped away all hope of a real relationship, but Jonah wants the whole package—the sexy man, the vulnerable boy, the charming companion who works so hard to make other people happy. Jonah wants to prove that underneath the damage Ethan has lived with all his life, he’s still gold with promise and the ability to love.

A long story that is worth taking your time with to savor the ups and downs of Evan’s and Jonah’s lives. Gobbling it all down at once may seem like a good idea, but may result in a Thanksgiving-gorge-like hangover.

This story runs somewhat parallel to Chase in Shadow and Dex in Blue, and while each story stands alone, the reader would be better served by reading them in order.

First, a warning: The Johnnies stories tend to run long because of the issues that are handled and the number of events that have to appear as the stories crossover. I still feel the stories are longer than strictly necessary, but I also understand why they're so long, and I enjoy them enough that the length doesn't bother me (except when I'm kept up reading when I should be going to bed).

Because much of the same content is covered in each story, it's commendable how Lane handles the plot points that overlap--hitting major points without rehashing everything, but yet giving the reader adequate information if they haven't read the previous novels. She also develops the events from different perspectives, turning events that may not have been as emotional into a poignant moment.

Ethan/Evan is my favorite of the boys so far, because of his reasons for getting into porn, his general personality, and his relationship with Jonah (the first to be outside the business). Plus, his need to be touched speaks deeply to me.

He's a likeable character and dips into some nerdy elements (or perhaps I should say different nerdy elements, since Kane and his reptiles were pretty nerdy!). The conversations about anime and manga was appreciated (although that element faded as the story went on), although I wasn’t familiar with the particular pieces that were mentioned, so they may have been faulty.

Evan’s story, like most of the Johnnies boys, is a tough one (although none really compares to Chase’s). He had a crappy childhood, and although he’s tough, and he recognizes that, he still has a low self-esteem. Or more like he doesn’t want to bother/sully the people around him whom he loves. It’s commendable, although many readers (like Jonah) will want to smack him for it.

And of course Jonah has his own struggles to handle as well, both familial and in courting the stubborn Ethan. These are two sweet boys who grow together and together overcome great obstacles.

Another fantastic Johnnies’ tale.