Thursday, June 30, 2011

Four Umbrellas for Lee by Beth Williamson

Something about the Fourth of July weekend makes me crave Westerns, Cowboy Books, and Novellas, and I'm going to bring you some of each as we celebrate the Holiday weekend here in the U.S. I know I have some readers who aren't in the U.S., but aren't cowboys pretty universal in their appeal? This offering from Beth Williamson is a great choice for Western Historical lovers, no matter where they live!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounded up because I can't resist a dark & wounded hero. I love Westerns, particularly post-civil war, late 1800s set ones as an entire generation tried to rebuild itself. Beth Williamson's "Devils" series follows one such group of friends, all veterans, all scarred in various ways as they try to rebuild their lives. I got into this series on the recommendation of the awesome Sasha White, whose taste usually matches mine. I picked this one to purchase because I liked the idea of a one-armed hero trying to make it as a cowboy.

In hindsight, I regret not starting with book 1, because this is a tight knit group of friends and townsfolk, and I think I might have enjoyed it more starting the series in the right place. I'm planning to go back and read it in order! Lee is trying to recover from heartbreak after he asks the woman he's been lusting after to marry him and she says no, rejecting him for another man. His friends see him becoming more and more reclusive and suggest that he take on a part-time job helping Heroine, who is a widow with a young daughter, bring in her harvest.

Lots of sparks ensue, but the romance takes a very slow build. If you're a fan of Samhain romances, this is more mild of a heat level than some Samhain authors like Lorelei James or Deliah Devlin. The narrative dominates, with love scenes sprinkled for emotional impact. There's plenty of sexy here, though, but it's nicely married to the character arcs in a way reminicent of Linda Lael Miller (a tiny bit more explicit). I enjoyed the author's voice very much. I was in a mood where I wanted a faster pace, but there are plenty of times that the slow build and careful pace would be exactly what I want as a reader. If you're interested in spending a lot of time investing in the emotional well-being of the characters, this is the book for you.

There's a suspense subplot tied to heroine's backstory, and this wasn't my favorite part of the book. I would have rather kept the focus on her and Lee. Her backstory is very horrific, to a degree that I wasn't really prepared for. Willamson makes it work though, and I'm glad that she gets her HEA, but I had a very hard time shutting off the 21st century part of my brain. If you like your heroines just as dark as your heroes, you will ADORE this twist. All in all, this was an enjoyable read from an author I'd love to see more from.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Romance Reader Recommends Super 8

Ours is a divided household. We have the endless bookshelves of books that look like truffle boxes and over-sized valentines and the smaller shelf of books announcing the end of mankind as we know it. While I spent my teen years snuggling with Catherine Coulter, Mr. Cloudy spent his time deep in the cannons of Star Wars and Star Trek books. But, ours is a union forged in compromise, and I sit through Aliens and Things That Go Boom and Men That Grunt II so that I have a free pass for Legally Blonde IV and Jane Austen The Musical With Bonus Extra Long Glances. But, every so often, we find a movie or TV show that truly works for both of us--the Sci-Fi geek and the Die Hard Romantic. Super 8 fits the bill admirably.

Now, I admit that I agreed to see Super 8 when I learned that Kyle Chandler was in it. Can you say no to this guy? Really?

I knew this movie had a high probability of getting both of us to like it as his stint on Grey's Anatomy moved both of us, and he made King Kong watchable for me. Now, unfortunately, if you are checking this movie out because of him, I'm sorry to report that A) he keeps his shirt (and all other clothes on) the whole movie and B) only has a half-dozen scenes or so because the focus is really on the pre-teen actors. But he is wonderful as the grieving widower trying to figure out single-parenting and as the protective deputy of a small town battling unseen forces. We even get some very manly tears.

It's all good because the young actors are what sells this movie as a winner for me. Now, as a YA romance lover, I just adored the interplay between Alice (played by Elle Fanning) and the group of nerdling misfits trying to make a zombie movie. The very tentative love story between her and Kyle Chandler's motherless boy is both touching and realistic. One of my absolute favorite scenes is actually between the boys, who realize for the first time that they're going to be competing for girls. My heart broke for the bossy movie director kid who has to realize that life isn't so easily aligned as a movie plot. The fact that the movie is set in the late 70s, and I saw many icons of my youth, made their interactions resonate with me even more. It's a fabulous young actor ensemble and made me want to go rewatch Goonies.

Now, for your partner or movie date who needs explosions and orders being grunted to leave the theater happy, I am happy to report that the movie delivers one of the most horrifying train wreck scenes ever with enough firepower to make even the pyro kid stand in awe. And things only progress from there. Orders are barked. People are stalked by unseen evil. Really, really terrifying things start happening. The action escalated until I left finger marks in Mr. Cloudy's thigh as I tried to keep from covering my eyes. The fact that I really cared about the young protagonists made me feel more emotionally invested in the action sequences. I also liked the balance of character development of the group of friends with plenty of dialogue and the boom-boom-"we're screwed!" - terrifying scenes.

The ending is one that die-hard Sci Fi fans will love. And Romantics will cheer as well because it's uplifting without being cheesy. We don't get a HEA--that's a bit much for pre-teen characters (and an epilogue scene flashing forward would have ruined things), but we do get the sense of lives being irrevocably linked. Character arcs are fulfilled, which isn't always the case with Sci-Fi movies at all. We had a pleasant discussion post-movie on the way to collect our own little predators about the motivations of . . . Well you'll have to take my spoiler-free word for it, but there's plenty of re-hashing to be done. And hey, if nothing else, you get to spend the evening with Kyle Chandler. Everyone wins.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Romance Reader Takes On Summer Reality TV

My DH has been working longer hours which means more meals with just me and toddlers. And, I win bad mama of the year award, but a little bit of Hulu makes the mealtime drama easier to swallow. Plus, DD will watch America's Got Talent ("I like 'em little kids who cans dance, mama!") or Food Network Star ("I wanna be a Sooooooou Chef when I big. We serve ice cream and waffles."). After a week or two of this, I've realized that I keep wanting to impose romance genre conventions on reality competition format. (I'm recommending two reality-TV inspired novels at the end of this post as well, so stay tuned!)

I read Romance for the happy ending. I want to sit down with a book knowing that the good guys will triumph in the end. I always read literary fiction biting my nails waiting to see if my favorite character is about to die or have Very Bad Things happen that lead to Happy Ending for No One. On the one hand, I like the reality competitions because of the possibility of triumph for ordinary person. On the other hand, I hate it because I get really emotionally invested in contestants who get booted off with no good reason. (I'm still bitter about Patrick Thomas and Jeff Jenkins getting passed over for The Voice finals. Very. Very. Bitter.) And I hate it when people I dislike end up winning after all.

Now, what I do love about reality TV is the focus on backstory--in Romance we call these character arcs or internal motivations. The dead mother, the living in one's car, the father who never fulfilled his dream, the quitting of a successful career, the unsupportive parents, these little tidbits emotionally invest viewers in a given contestant's success. And we WANT to see them triumph. In fiction, loss and hardship are triumphed over--the HEA at the end of a story doesn't involve heroine tromping back off to live in her car again or hero still unable to get past the death of his mother.

In Romance, conflict is real, but it all happens for a reason (when the writing is good!). In reality TV, humiliation happens without a pay off. In fiction, a character might suffer public humiliation, but either (s)he had it coming or (s)he will later overcome it. On America's Got Talent, people routinely humiliate themselves without redemption, and I find that I just don't find that funny. I love physical humor in books, precisely because authors give characters a chance to move on from it and show us the motivations for characters actions.

Now, I watch the family-friendly-ish reality TV so that DD can watch too, but man, I want more sexual tension and romantic back story. If a Romance author were writing The Voice, Adam and Christina would have palpable sexual tension underscoring their middle-school bickering. And Blake Shelton would be single, because taking that kind of man candy off the market is a rookie mistake. Food Network Star needs a contestant romance that shakes up the game. On Master Chef (which we aren't going to watch anymore b/c DD asked why Gordon Ramsey "talks in beeps"), there's an arrogant preppy rich kid who has it in for a beautiful Indian first-generation cook. If this were a romance, she would win, he would get his comeuppance, AND they would get a HEA. Trust me, that's not going to happen.

Now, if like me, you find Reality TV a very guilty pleasure, but would like to see some HEAs, I've got two books that might work for you:

American Idle by Alesia Holliday is from 2004 and is a thinly veiled parody of the early American Idol seasons. I read this back in 2005 and loved it, despite never really watching Idol. The over-worked Jules Vernon tries to keep the show from falling apart, while trying NOT to fall in love. Chick-lit readers will love this one, as well as Reality TV music competition fans. The sensuality level is sweet, so it should have broad appeal.

Deep Dish by Mary Kay Andews is a send-up of Reality TV cooking competitions and serves up a delicious rivalry and romance between the two contestants. It's a mainstream women's fiction/chick-lit offering with a southern flavor. I read this in the early days of my pregnancy with my son, and even when the thought of food was too much, I still loved this dish. Jennifer Crusie fans will particularly enjoy Mary Kay Andrews's voice. Cozy mystery fans who occasionally cross over to Romance would also enjoy this offering as Andrews has a lot in common with the best Southern cozy writers--strong voice, whimsical secondary characters, and great setting details.

Do you watch reality TV? Following The Voice? Who's your pick to win? Any other reality-TV inspired books to add to my list?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Reading Slump

Oh man! 11 days without posting! When I was doing so well . . . When I posted about my mission statement as a reviewer and how I really want to keep the focus on doing positive reviews, I thought, "This will be EASY! I love so much of what I read. I'm good at picking reads I love anyway."

Uh. No. Not this month anyway.

This has been a horrible reading month for me:
  • The southern chick-lit that looked so good at the library, but read like every other southern women's fiction with a hint of romance and mystery that I've read in the last 10 years.
  • The awesome historical voice bogged down by so much dialect that I regressed 15 years as a reader and started skimming for "the good stuff."
  • The award winning historical, with unique setting and lyrical writing, that just didn't work for me because I hated the hero to point of not being able to finish the book. I did flip to the end to see if maybe the author surprised everyone and killed him off, but no, there he was in HEA land.
  • Two of my auto-buy authors had disappointing new releases.
  • Several erotic romances that just didn't match my tastes.
  • Series that I've looked forward to for over a year now killed by too much backstory
  • And so many contemporary romance DNF (did not finish) books that I finally had to analyze what the heck was going on.
And I have come to the shocking conclusion that I can't read most straight (traditional/non-erotica) contemporary at the moment, because that's the genre my current WIP is in. When I was working on a YA submission, I found I couldn't read YA while I was actively drafting. I just can't shut off the writing part of my brain enough to enjoy the read. I always analyze what I read, but when it's the genre I'm writing in, I just can't seem to sink into the reading endorphins like I want.

This is a problem because my nook is full of contemporaries I REALLY WANT to read. Sigh. They will have to wait until later in the summer lest I burn an unnecessary swath through my TBR pile. I've been consoling myself with reading Marie Sexton's ENTIRE backlist and am now working my way through K.A. Mitchell's. Because two GUYS falling in love? I can totally sit back and enjoy the show. In more ways than one :) There's a number of upcoming new historical and romantic suspense releases that give me hope that my reading slump is almost over, and I've got a few gems to share with you in the coming days. I still have a moderate paranormal allergy and now with my contemporary quarantine, I find that I'd love some new names to try in historical, m/m, and romantic suspense, so feel free to recommend away!

What is the longest reading slump that you have had? How long between keeper shelf books or awesome new author discoveries? Do you remember the book/author that ended your slump? I'm pretty much willing to have babies for Marie Sexton's and K.A. Mitchell's m/m couples right now because they've kept me reading fiction this month rather than beating my bloody nook into the wall or using it to play mahjong.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Shorts: Curious? By Amy Lane et al

To end m/m week, I have an anthology--a dozen shorts to pick from! These are super-shorts, so it's the perfect way to sample this genre. I hope to feature more m/m titles in the future (hey, I have to work in the entire Marie Sexton backlist that I devoured somehow! And my newly expanded TBR pile), so be sure and let me know if you'd like to see more (and if you have any recommendations for me, share those too!)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Despite the rather insipid title (made far better by the very yummy cover), this is actually a great anthology of shorts and excellent introduction to several authors. These are short stories and run the gamut from very sweet stories with no love scenes to mildly sensual ones to a few scorching hot ones. And while, as with most short stories, we get a lot of HFN endings, we do get several believable HEA endings, which is very tough to pull off. My favorite selections had me cursing my nook--I wanted MORE. This is why I don't read more short stories--I like at least novella length selections simply because if I emotionally invest in great characters I want to spend more time with them!

One of my favorite selections is M. Jules Aedin's "We are Stardust" set at Woodstock. I was so desperate, I had to stop reading and frantically search to find out if this was possibly the opening chapter of a full length novel. It isn't, but is awesome just as it is too. A great slice of American history that we don't see nearly enough of in Romance and fabulous characters. I wanted more! And more!

Chrissy Munder's Spontaneous is the same way--I wanted to spend more time with her great characters: a geeky guy meets his HEA (we hope) in a construction worker with a heart of gold. Both of these pieces are very mild on the sensuality scale, giving them broader appeal than a lot of m/m fiction, which tends to be firmly in the romantica camp.

Ashlynn Kane pulls off the impossible with a believable HEA tale of love between best friends that felt complete within the small word count in "The Meaning of Significant Digits." Note to others looking to pull off her feat, she started with gay best friends--if you have under 20,000 words, you can't have a guy go from confused to HEA believably. She also gives her characters a focused purpose and tight timeline of one week to prepare for a friend's wedding.

Isabelle Rowan's Snowman is a haunting, evocative tale of broken souls moving on after different kinds of loss. The ambiguous ending was perfect for this lovely tale. "In His Eyes" by Bethany Brown is one of the longer stories in the collection and does feature a nicely done love scene. I love city slicker meets cowboy tales of all kinds, and this one is particularly fabulous with a nice slow build and complex characters that belie the shortness of the piece. The other stories in the collection offer up different perspectives, and I read the entire collection, which isn't usually the case for me with short story anthologies.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Five Umbrella Friday: Promises by Marie Sexton

My m/m week pick of the week is a book that touched my heart in a way that I find difficult to put into words, but I'm going to give it a shot. Let me know if you've enjoyed m/m week and would like to see more m/m romances reviewed or if I should stick with my usual contemporary/historical/sexy cowboys usual :)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the rare few books where five stars just isn't enough. Certain books stand out in my reading life as forever changing who I am as a reader and what I expect from books, what genres I read, and which authors I autobuy with rapid intensity. The rarest of the rare do all three--my first Suzanne Brockmann (The Unsung Hero), Julia Spencer Fleming (In the Bleak Midwinter), Julia Quinn (When He Was Wicked), Karen Marie Moning (Dark Fever), Lorelei James (Slow Ride) and now Marie Sexton. What is amazing is that all of these authors have come to me as gifts from the universe--free or dirt cheap used bookstore finds. I got Promises for free as a Dreamspinners Press anniversary giveaway that I saw advertised on Twitter. I loved the cover. I'm easy that way. I liked the blurb, and nothing else was holding my reading interest at the time.

Cut to six hours later. It's 3 a.m. and I. Must. Sleep. I have a baby who still wakes up at night. This is the definition of insanity, but still I'm reading till the last page. Then I wake up and immediately spend the next day re-reading it. I went to her webpage with the reverence of the newly converted, and when I saw that this was part of a series, I bought them ALL. Back-to-back. My bank account hated me by the end of the week, but I have rarely been so fulfilled as a reader.

Now what intangible set of elements so gripped me as a reader? This is first person, past tense (thank you, God, because I am so over the present tense thing) from Jared's POV (subsequent entries in the series play with multiple POV, showing Sexton's growing craft). Jared strikes up a friendship with the new guy in town, who happens to be straight. And a cop. Jared is openly gay, but stuck in a dead-end life running the family business in a tiny town. What follows isn't a romance as much as the best "bromance" ever. Imagine if Suz's SEALs had glimmers of attraction for each other on top of their deep and abiding friendships.

The first half of the book is all about two lonely souls finding each other, in the platonic sense. Jared has an immediate crush on Matt, but he buries it deeply in "never gonna happen" land. One of my favorite moments of the book is when Matt asks Jared what his "type" is. Jared has to scramble for an answer because, of course, Matt is exactly it. Slowly, ever so slowly, Matt begins to feel more than friendship. And it scares the hell out of him and nearly rips them both to shreds. It's what Inez Kelley managed to do with Sweet as Sin--totally destroy her characters in an emotionally gut wrenching climax that makes what happens after profound and deeply satisfying.

And yes, it gets sexy in the second half of the book. Very sexy. Not the most explicit, but certainly in the romantica level of heat and language--not quite Lorelei James level of explicit but certainly in Victoria Dahl and other super-sexy mainstream romance territory. But, because there is so much emotion swirling around, all the sexy serves as an emotional release--it doesn't have to be one's cup of tea to still be profound. And the build-up to the sexy is unrivaled. Not since Clare and Russ (Julia Spencer Fleming's lead characters) have I been so desperate for two characters to kiss. "Kisssssssssssssssssssssss himmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm," I chanted in my head. Clearly, this book cost me some sanity.

But. It. Was. Worth. It. If there is any book that will win converts to the m/m genre, this is it, at least for readers who need that emotional connection to their books and who share my connection to Jared and Matt. The opening sample available for nook/kindle et al is a pretty good showcase of the voice, and it would be a good way to see if it works for you. Try it. And don't blame me when you end up with the entire Coda series on your e-reader or keeper shelf.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Four Umbrellas: Love Means No Shame by Andrew Grey

Yay! When Adam Met Tony (my Saturday review) officially releases today! If you were tempted by my review, go and buy it! (Suz is donating the proceeds to gay rights causes). Like When Adam Met Tony, my pick today offer a great introduction to the m/m romance genre. It's sweet and sexy without being explicit, so newbies can dive into without fear of having their eyeballs singed off halfway through (I happen to love a good eyeball singeing every now and again). Enjoy!

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dreamspinner Press's anniversary freebies yielded me a lot of free and ultra-cheap reads, but this offering from Andrew Grey stood as being worth the cover price, even if one didn't happen to snag a free copy. Grey gives readers one of the most accessible entries into the world of M/M romance with a story that's both super sweet and sexy, without being explicit. Amish m/m romance set in the Heartland may seem like a punchline rather than a tag line, but it really works here.

Our two heroes are young: Eli is almost 20 and Geoff is like 23 or 24. Eli is on his "break" year from his Amish community when Geoff discovers him sleeping in his barn. Geoff has just returned from the big city after inheriting his father's farm. Geoff has one of the most unique backstories I've encountered in any type of genre fiction: his father had a male partner following the death of Geoff's mother. Thus, despite being in a very rural area, Geoff has a number of supportive people in his life. I liked this because it gave Eli more structure to cling to as he came to terms with his own sexuality and feelings for Geoff.

The romance develops slowly with a sweet, halting courtship as Eli slowly adjusts to life in the "English" world, and Geoff gets over the fact that Eli is younger, inexperienced, and technically an employee. If Eli were female, this would fit right into the Harlequin American line and the sensuality never edges much beyond a Blaze level. If you've read Linda Lael Miller or Sandra Hill (she's got a couple of Romantic Suspense novels set in an Amish community), the sensuality level is similar. It's sweet, not explicit. The c-word is absent, and while they do engage in all the activities two men are likely to get up to behind closed doors, it's all described in euphemisms that have a lot more to do with emotion and less to do with tab A into slot B. If you're interested in m/m romance, but don't read erotica and don't want to be shocked, this is a perfect choice as it's all about the journey of discovery the characters are on and their quest to be authentic. The sensuality level only enhances this journey. This is also a quick read (about as long as most category books or a long novella), which also makes a great way to try on the m/m genre. The lively cast of secondary characters also made this a fun read--Geoff's second "dad" is a key character as well as Geoff's other relatives and other farm employees. Despite the relatively young age of the heroes, I didn't doubt in their HEA at all.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Four Umbrellas: Mercury Rising by Daisy Harris

Apologies again! Grading heck is almost over, and although my super-secret words on a page project that I started with the May 50K challenge continues, I'm working to find a balance between reviewing and putting words on the page again. *Waving incense to avoid jinxing myself by even alluding to it.*

Moving on . . . It's June and it's the month of Gay Pride festivals and National Coming Out day and all sorts of great initiatives are afloat in a number of states to help bring more equity to LGBT folks. It's the perfect month to venture afield from the staid world of M/F romance and fiction into the emerging genre of m/m romances. I kicked off my m/m salute with When Adam Met Tony on Saturday, and today I bring you The Daisy Harris and her awesome m/m romantic comedies which are another great option for exploring this genre as a newbie.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If Vicki Lewis Thompson and Katie MacAlister had a smutty younger sister with a penchant for m/m pairings, the result would be the hilarious Daisy Harris. This is nominally paranormal in the same way the above authors as well as Erin McCarthy and Janice Davidson handle paranormal/fantasy elements, which is to say that the paranormal elements serve mainly to enhance the comedic impact, making it perfect for the fantasy adverse like myself. For those who like their fantasy/paranormal heavy on the realism and world building, however, this might not be your usual cup of tea. Mercury is the god of order and planning and all sorts of other boring stuff and lives in a universe where not only his own greek pantheon co-exists with humans, but also all other cultures' gods and goddesses too. And they don't always get along, but they are trying with a sort of God United Nations summit. On a cruise ship. It is made of awesome. If you've enjoyed Lewis Thompson and Christina Skye's light novels set on cruise ships or Roz Lee's sexy cruise ship erotica series, you might want to give this a whirl after you don your sunscreen and grab an iced beverage.

Dillon also resides in this universe, and he already knows that the Gods are real (and demanding PITAs!) so there's no need for lengthy set up here. He's not overly impressed with Mercury's rather wimpy collection of superpowers, and he quickly sets out to knock the God down a peg or ten after he realizes that Mercury is both his new boss and the dude he had a random quickie shortly prior. *Awkward moment* Harris does a great job capturing Dillon's POV and portraying his general indifference to Mercury as a means of protecting himself. Mercury himself is a mess, and this is also a bit of great characterization full of nice little comedy gems like his needing his super powers to add a few extra inches. Of height, gutter minds. And better hair. But Mercury's biggest issue is that he hasn't come out to the other Gods, and they think he's about to marry the goddess of Virginity.

So not happening. V, the supermodel virginity goddess, has thousands of years of pent up sexual frustration ready to unleash. But her intended plays for the other team, so she too defects--from the Greeks to the Norse Gods' yacht. Roll with it. It's a complex summit/gathering of the gods, but the minute details aren't really important here--V is courted by two rival Norse gods who both want her for their own. How she resolves this dilemma is most sexy. I actually enjoyed the Mercury/Dillon pairing far more than the V subplot, but I like that she has both a m/m plot line and a hetero one, giving readers more avenues to connect with the plot and characters.

Mercury and Dillon end up separated from the rest of the Gods on one heck of a road trip. There's a lot of physical comedy, which I love, as well as some snappy dialogue as Dillon teaches Mercury some street smarts. Mercury becomes much more mortal in his actions and emotions the more time he spends with Dillon, and this changes him for the better. For me, the best part of the book was how much fun it was-- it is totally one of those books where you can tell the author had an absolute blast writing it. Like early Jennifer Crusie and MacAlister--an author writing for the sheer joy of watching her characters create comedy gold. As a reader, I love books like this because the author's joy bubbles over onto the page, and when done right, it really enhances the pacing. This is quick fun read, perfect for those looking for a light entry to the world of m/m romance. (Note: while there is lots and lots of love scenes, because of the humor, the heat level doesn't seem as scorching as many in this genre. She doesn't mince words and she gets rather creative with the love scenes, so make sure to have that cold drink handy. If you prefer "sweet" love scenes, you might want to consider other m/m writers for your first m/m romance.) Overall, a great summer read! I look forward to more from Harris!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Saturday Shorts: When Tony Met Adam by Suzanne Brockmann

When Tony Met AdamWhen Tony Met Adam by Suzanne Brockmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This came as bonus with my Virtual Signing copy of Breaking the Rules. If you waited until June for a chance to purchase this in e-book format, you won't be disappointed. AT ALL. In fact, I enjoyed this more than Breaking the Rules, which I wasn't expecting. I really didn't think Brockmann could redeem Adam, who is horrid to Jules for several books, downright disgusting in Hot Target, slightly pathetic in Jules and Robin's story (title escaping me right now) and in All Through the Night. But, I knew from the little scene in All Through the Night that Brockmann could and would work her magic on Tony and Adam.

And how much did I love Tony? He is made of Awesome. He's the classic Brockmann hero--shades of Kenny and Mike Muldoon (my favorites). He just won't give up, but in a really good, dare I say healthy way. Brockmann's politics have dominated several recent releases, and they factor into this story, but it seemed more balanced, even as it was more central to Tony's character. There's no escaping the fact that DTDT is a huge part of Tony's life.

We also get to see Dan pre-enlightenment (loved his transformation in Hot Pursuit and now we see why), which also felt realistic. A little bit of a heads-up: A number of readers noted that Jules and Robin's love scenes stopped a little beyond the bedroom door and weren't the same heat level as her M/F pairings. She answers those readers with a SMOKING M/M scene here. But it's short and still not that explicit, so if you'd rather skip it, just move to the scene break--not a biggie. I wish Tony and Adam had a whole book, and I'd love to see them make another appearance. I ended up liking them even more than Jules & Robin (I KNOW--the sacrilege!) Even if M/M isn't usually your thing, you will enjoy the love story at the heat of this short, and Brockmann fans won't want to miss it.

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