Review: Duck Duck Ghost by Rhys Ford

duck duck ghost by rhys fordFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: paranormal romance, m/m romance
Series: Hellsinger #2
Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: September 8, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Paranormal investigator Wolf Kincaid knows what his foot tastes like.

Mostly because he stuck it firmly in his mouth when his lover, Tristan Pryce, accidentally drugged him with a batch of psychotropic baklava. Needing to patch things up between them, Wolf drags Tristan to San Luis Obispo, hoping Tristan’s medium ability can help evict a troublesome spirit haunting an old farmhouse.

With Wolf’s sister handling Hoxne Grange’s spectral visitors, Tristan finds himself in the unique position of being able to leave home for the first time in forever, but Wolf’s roughshod treatment is the least of his worries. Tristan’s ad-hoc portal for passing spirits seems to be getting fewer and fewer guests, and despite his concern he’s broken his home, Tristan agrees to help Wolf’s cousin, Sey, kick her poltergeist to the proverbial curb.

San Luis Obispo brings its own bushel of troubles. Tristan’s ghost whispering skill is challenged not only by a terrorizing haunting but also by Wolf’s skeptical older cousin, Cin. Bookended by a pair of aggressive Kincaids, Tristan soon finds himself in a spectral battle that threatens not only his sanity but also his relationship with Wolf, the first man he’s ever loved.

My Review:

I’ll confess, I was originally going to post the review of this earlier in the month, but when the doll heads tried to smother one of the heroes, my creep-o-meter screamed “HALLOWEEN” and here we are.

Fish and Ghosts by Rhys FordDuck Duck Ghost is Rhys Ford’s awesome (and creepy) follow up to last year’s marvelous Fish and Ghosts (reviewed at The Book Pushers). The Hellsinger series is all about the ghosts.

Wolf Kincaid is the disowned son of the Hellsinger clan. His family, going back for generations, has cast charms and investigated hauntings and exorcised ghosts. They believe in pretty much everything supernatural, even if they also occasionally use other people’s beliefs to con them out of some hard earned cash.

Wolf isn’t sure that there is such a thing as ghosts. He does believe that there is more than we see, but he is also all too aware of some of his family’s shadier exploitations of the supernaturally gullible.

So Wolf went to college, and got himself a doctorate in paranormal studies. Now he’s looking for scientific proof that ghosts exists. Even if he occasionally finds an alligator instead. (Really)

His first proof of the existence of ghosts was the vengeful Winifred at Hoxne Grange. While he needed some help to get the nasty witchy ghost out of the house, he fell hard and fast for the Grange’s resident medium, Tristan Pryce. Tris doesn’t just see ghosts, he draws them to him everywhere he goes, which means Tris hasn’t exactly lived a normal life.

It’s not that Tris never came out, it’s that he never had anyone to come out to, or with. All the other residents of the Grange are benevolent ghosts, at least until Wolf and his team came to document the phenomenon.

So we have two men who are neither of them very good at relationships. Tris has little experience with flesh and blood humans of any kind, and Wolf has way too much practice at being an ass. The happy for now at the end of Fish and Ghosts has fallen apart by the beginning of Duck Duck Ghost because Wolf is scared of loving anyone, and Tris has too many buttons that are too easily pushed. Especially the ones involving trust, so of course Wolf punched all of those.

But Wolf is on a mission to help the few members of his family still speaking to him at the beginning of Duck Duck Ghost. He needs Tris to help him find out whether there really are ghosts haunting his cousin’s farmhouse, but mostly, he just needs Tris. He’s using the trip to San Luis Obispo as a way of apologizing (profusely) and getting Tris to trust him.

The ghosts just want a way to communicate, and Tris gives them that. Unfortunately, all that one of the ghosts wants to communicate is that the murdering rampage she enacted as a child is still the only thing on what’s left of her mind. She wants more victims, and Tris is first in line.

The attack of the killer doll heads is one of her first salvos, and things just get creepier from there. Wolf has to call out all the stops, including begging his bad-ass ghost hunter cousin Cin to come and help them lay this murderous child to rest.

The ghost story is chilly, creepy and even downright scary at points. Just as a Halloween ghost story should be.

Even scarier, it still feels like Wolf and Tris are just back at the happy for now stage in their relationship. I can see a lot more cases of “foot in mouth” disease in both their futures.


Escape Rating A-: In my review of Fish and Ghosts, I said that Wolf and Tristan fit because they fill in each other’s broken places. Their relationship is in a bad place at the beginning of Duck Duck Ghost because they both have a LOT of broken places, and little to no experience at successful relationships of any kind.

They screw up. A lot. It doesn’t help that Wolf sees Tris as fragile and in need of protection, where Tris feels he is anything but. He’s strong in different ways than Wolf, but Tris has dealt with his own ability to summon ghosts wherever he is for his entire life. He’s fought a lot, including his family and himself.

We also see Wolf with his family again, and that bunch is way cool. Also snarkily hilarious. Of course, I’m only referring to the parts of Wolf’s family that are still speaking to him; most of them don’t. Neither Wolf nor Tris has a lot of family to fall back on.

The ghost story at the heart of this book is creepy, chilling and about as much scary as I really want. It’s not just that the ghost is haunting the house, or even that she is destructive on the physical plane, but it’s her original history that stops the heart. She was an evil child when she lived, and she’s an evil ghost now that she is dead.

The scenes of the smothering doll heads and crawling doll limbs still give me the shakes. In a good way. Sort of. They’re very memorable, and very Halloween spooky.

queer romance month

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Dirty Secret by Rhys Ford

dirty secret by rhys fordFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: M/M Romance, Romantic Suspense
Series: Cole McGinnis #2
Length: 234 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: September 28, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Loving Kim Jae-Min isn’t always easy: Jae is gun-shy about being openly homosexual. Ex-cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis doesn’t know any other way to be. Still, he understands where Jae is coming from. Traditional Korean men aren’t gay—at least not usually where people can see them.

But Cole can’t spend too much time unraveling his boyfriend’s issues. He has a job to do. When a singer named Scarlet asks him to help find Park Dae-Hoon, a gay Korean man who disappeared nearly two decades ago, Cole finds himself submerged in the tangled world of rich Korean families, where obligation and politics mean sacrificing happiness to preserve corporate empires. Soon the bodies start piling up without rhyme or reason. With every step Cole takes toward locating Park Dae-Hoon, another person meets their demise—and someone Cole loves could be next on the murderer’s list.

My Review:

One of the things I love about this series is that way that the author starts each book with a seemingly unrelated short case that has a way higher humor component than the rest of the story (not that Cole doesn’t have a fine line of snark of his very own).

But the opening bit is like the funny version of a James Bond film; the opener doesn’t seem to have a relationship to the rest of the story; in fact it’s mostly played for laughs. But later, the events come back to bite Cole in the butt–and not in a good way.

In Dirty Kiss (reviewed here), it was two little old ladies in fetish wear chasing him with a shotgun. In Dirty Secret, the story starts with a guy with his dick in a glass bottle. Of course, not either one of our heroes, they’re both too smart, too sober, and a little too grown up to do something quite that stupid.

The scene is funny as hell. Cole’s running internal (and external) commentary on the idiocy made me laugh out loud.

Cole’s voice frequently does, but he is just as often laughing at himself in chagrin. Not this time. This was just plain hilarious.

Another thing that I love about this series is that it provides an introduction into the tight-knit South Korean/American community, and in some ways shows at least how a fictional slice of that community both does and doesn’t adapt to living in the U.S. While Cole’s on-again/off-again lover Jae-Min lives his life in fear that he will be outed, Cole is a fish out of water in a world that is not his own.

But part of the heartbreak for both Cole and Jae-Min is that Cole’s very westernized sensibilities let him feel free enough to come out of the closet as a young man, it didn’t mean that his family didn’t reject him every bit as much. And that he isn’t still feeling the pain, in spite of creating a new family around himself.

Cole wants Jae-Min to take the same leap he has, and has a difficult time dealing with Jae-Min not being ready to give up his family responsibilities for love; especially since Jae-Min hasn’t got much experience of love sticking around.

A lot of people who get near Cole seem to get shot. That includes Cole himself, another one of Jae-Min’s fears. With Cole’s track record, there’s a justifiable worry that Jae-Min will throw in his lot completely with Cole, only to have Cole get himself killed.

The “dirty secret” in this story is both Jae-Min’s justifiable fear of telling his family that he is gay, and the story of a man who was presumed dead 20 years ago, and who seems to have either disappeared or been killed because he was also gay. At first, the question seems to be whether he walked away or is at the bottom of a river somewhere.

As the case progresses, the question revolves around who is willing to kill to keep the man’s secrets. Because there are suddenly a LOT of dead bodies left in the wake of this old missing person’s case.

Escape Rating B+: If Cole were a writer, he’d definitely be a pantser. He doesn’t just do everything by the seat of his pants, it often seems like he’s making stuff up on the fly as he’s pulling them on. I don’t mean this in a sexual context (not that that doesn’t happen too) but because Cole gets ideas and theories the way that the rest of us mortals do; at odd moments, apropos occasionally of nothing, and just as often wrong as right. He keeps moving towards his goal, but his plans usually go to hell in a handbasket.

And he usually doesn’t get the job done without someone (including himself) taking a bullet. He often figures out he’s on the right track by getting someone shot at, or by following the trail of bodies.

It’s been mentioned that it seems like every Korean that comes to him with a case is both gay and sleeping with his cousin. While this is unlikely in the real world, detective series often compress communities. I think it’s a bigger problem that Cole and everyone he contacts gets shot at in every case. He’s going to start losing more friends, one way or another, if this keeps up.

The situation reminds me of small-town mystery series, where the homicide rate appears higher than the population could possibly support. (Would you want to live in Midsomer County, England? The residents drop like flies.)

Because this particular story reaches into the rich end of the Korean old line families, we see the way that fortunes are preserved and family honor is protected among the rich and relatively famous. The story also offers us a lot more info about the fine line that Jae-Min and Cole’s friend Scarlet must straddle in order to have some life with her lover.

Scarlet, a transvestite, is not welcome at any family functions for her lover Hyung. In formal settings, he is alone or his wife comes from South Korea. The rest of the time, his hired bodyguards protect Scarlet’s every move. And there’s a poignancy that for all his money, this life is the best they can manage to have, if he is to keep the standing that protects them both.

The case that Cole is hired to solve is as convoluted as usual. Also as usual, he starts out thinking it will be simple, and it turns out to be anything but.

This one ends with an emotional whammy that will tear at your heart and make you dive for the next book, Dirty Laundry.

queer romance month

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality by Jo Becker

forcing the spring by jo beckerFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: Hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Politics, History
Length: 480 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Date Released: April 22, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A tour de force of groundbreaking reportage by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jo Becker, Forcing the Spring is the definitive account of five remarkable years in American civil rights history: when the United States experienced a tectonic shift on the issue of marriage equality. Beginning with the historical legal challenge of California’s ban on same-sex marriage, Becker expands the scope to encompass all aspects of this momentous struggle, offering a gripping behind-the-scenes narrative told with the lightning pace of the greatest legal thrillers.

For nearly five years, Becker was given free rein in the legal and political war rooms where the strategy of marriage equality was plotted. She takes us inside the remarkable campaign that rebranded a movement; into the Oval Office where the president and his advisors debated how to respond to a fast-changing political landscape; into the chambers of the federal judges who decided that today’s bans on same-sex marriage were no more constitutional than the previous century’s bans on interracial marriage; and into the mindsets of the Supreme Court judges who decided the California case and will likely soon decide the issue for the country at large. From the state-by state efforts to win marriage equality at the ballot box to the landmark Supreme Court case that struck down a law that banned legally married gay and lesbian couples from receiving federal benefits, Becker weaves together the political and legal forces that reshaped a nation.

Forcing the Spring begins with California’s controversial ballot initiative Proposition 8, which banned gay men and lesbians from marrying the person they loved. This electoral defeat galvanized an improbable alliance of opponents to the ban, with political operatives and Hollywood royalty enlisting attorneys Ted Olson and David Boies—the opposing counsels in the Supreme Court’s Bush v. Gore case—to join together in a unique bipartisan challenge to the political status quo. Despite stiff initial opposition from the gay rights establishment, the case against Proposition 8 would ultimately force the issue of marriage equality all the way to the Supreme Court, transforming same-sex marriage from a partisan issue into a modern crisis of civil rights. Based on singular access to the internal workings of this momentous trial—and enlivened by original interviews with the participants on both sides of the case, many speaking for the first time—Forcing the Spring is at once an emotion-packed tale of love and determination as well as an eye-opening examination of an evidentiary record that federal courts across the nation are now relying on to strike down bans similar to California’s.

Shuttling between the twin American power centers of Hollywood and Washington—and based on access to all the key players in the Justice Department and the White House—Becker offers insider coverage on the true story of how President Obama “evolved” to embrace marriage equality, his surprising role in the Supreme Court battle, and the unexpected way the controversial issue played in the 2012 elections.

What starts out as a tale of an epic legal battle grows into the story of the evolution of a country, a testament and old-fashioned storytelling to move public opinion. Becker shows how the country reexamined its opinions on same-sex marriage, an issue that raced along with a snowballing velocity which astounded veteran political operatives, as public opinion on same-sex marriage flipped and elected officials repositioned themselves to adjust to a dramatically changed environment. Forcing the Spring is the ringside account of this unprecedented change, the fastest shift in public opinion ever seen in modern American politics.

Clear-eyed and even-handed, Forcing the Spring is political and legal journalism at its finest, offering an unvarnished perspective on the extraordinary transformation of America and an inside look into the fight to win the rights of marriage and full citizenship for all.

My Review:

I know that this is non-fiction, but it reads like a legal thriller. Even though the reader knows how the story ends, the “you are there” style of following the action keeps the reader on the edge of their seats all the same.

In light of the recent Supreme Court ruling (or lack thereof) that legalized same-sex marriage in nine states, and U.S. District Appeals Court decisions the following day legalized the institution in five more, it seemed like a terrific time to take a look at the case that started the current trend towards marriage equality.

While Forcing the Spring is about a true-life case, it also seemed like an appropriate choice for Queer Romance Month, as it is a story about real same-sex couples searching for their happy ever after.

As I write this, the majority of U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriage, and the majority of the population of the U.S. lives in a state where it is legal.

On that infamous other hand, three of the seven states in which I have lived do not recognize same sex marriage. While this might not affect me personally, it does affect friends and loved ones.

And it is simply wrong. If the ability to procreate were a pre-requirement for marriage, my own  marriage would be equally invalid. That may not give you chills but it certainly does me.

I also realized that saying it does not affect me personally is also wrong. No one is an island. The reduction or disavowal of fundamental rights for one group, for any group, because of an inherit characteristic of the members of the group leaves open the door that the rights of any group can be so diminished.

This book goes back to the beginning of the Prop 8 case, and reminds us just how difficult it can be to expand civil rights in this country. Equality under the law is not the same thing as functional equality, but it certainly has the power to move hearts and minds.

Which is what this book is all about. The moving of hearts and minds in the members of the courts of the U.S., of the general public, and even of the gay rights supporters who thought that this case was too much, too soon and might result in a setback in their overall goal of equal rights.

Two couples and a team of lawyers decided to push the case in spite of initial opposition. Marriage is a fundamental right, and every adult deserves the possibility of marrying the person that they love. (Finding that person is just as difficult as it ever was for all of us.)

The case began in California, after the passage of Prop 8. Prop 8 was an avowedly hate-based campaign to take away the rights of same-sex couples to marry that had been won in court. While Prop 8 barely passed, 52% for vs. 48% against, it marked yet another campaign where same-sex marriage had been beaten in the polls.

But the original merits of the case that had won the right in the first place were still valid. So the case was strategized and brought to trial; whether Prop 8 and the hate it espoused were constitutional; and whether the state had any rational justification for the law.

All the legal arguments, counter-arguments, setbacks and steps forward are outlined in the book in a narrative that explains both the law and the consequences for those who fought, and for those who waited and watched.

In the years between the initial filing of the suit and the final Supreme Court case, the universe changed. Because the plaintiffs didn’t just prove that there was no rational basis for the ban, but that there was no reason for it other than hate.

The line between Loving v. Virginia (the case that declared all the bans against interracial marriage were unconstitutional) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (the California case) is made crystal clear. Windsor v. United States struck down the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) paving the way for all the cases that have reached the courts in its wake.

Back to the book. It reads like a thriller. It kept me on the edge of my seat through all 500+ pages because it relates the events as they happened, and shows their effect not just on the intimate participants, but also on the world that watched, and waited, and most of all, changed.

Reality Rating A: The story has a “you are there” feeling because the author was embedded with the legal team and the plaintiffs for the California case. She really was there, and is able to convey the sense of exhilaration, anticipation and sometimes dread as the case unfolded. She sympathized with the group working to overturn Prop 8, and her sympathy and support is conveyed through her writing.

Because of the adversarial nature of our legal system, she naturally did not have the same access to the team defending Prop 8, or even to the other groups who were on the same side as the Prop 8 team but working different cases such as Windsor. While the Prop 8 defenders case has a strong sense of immediacy, her frank interviews with the other teams shows a sense of “Monday Morning Quarterbacking” – by the time they were able to talk to her, the show was already over.

To those of us non-lawyers reading this courtroom drama, all the legal terms are not just fully explained, but the author helps us to understand the effect that each of the legal strategies will have both on the law and on the people involved. The legal process may be arcane at points, but the author makes sure to define all the terminology so that the helps push the story forward, and doesn’t get in the way.

I suspect that this book will be much more entertaining for those of us who are in favor of marriage equality. One of the outcomes of this particular fight, and many of the subsequent ones that followed after this case concluded, is that the side opposing marriage equality has a difficult time mustering logical and legal arguments that are not torn down by the weight of contrary scientific evidence. When the religious rhetoric and stereotype-based prejudice is stripped away, they have no case.

We all want a happy ending. This book delivers a beautiful one, even better because it’s true.

queer romance month

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Dirty Kiss by Rhys Ford

dirty kiss by rhys fordFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: M/M Romance, Romantic Suspense
Series: Cole McGinnis #1
Length: 216 pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Date Released: July 1, 2011
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Cole Kenjiro McGinnis, ex-cop and PI, is trying to get over the shooting death of his lover when a supposedly routine investigation lands in his lap. Investigating the apparent suicide of a prominent Korean businessman’s son proves to be anything but ordinary, especially when it introduces Cole to the dead man’s handsome cousin, Kim Jae-Min.

Jae-Min’s cousin had a dirty little secret, the kind that Cole has been familiar with all his life and that Jae-Min is still hiding from his family. The investigation leads Cole from tasteful mansions to seedy lover s trysts to Dirty Kiss, the place where the rich and discreet go to indulge in desires their traditional-minded families would rather know nothing about.

It also leads Cole McGinnis into Jae-Min’s arms, and that could be a problem. The death of Jae-Min’s cousin is looking less and less like a suicide, and Jae-Min is looking more and more like a target. Cole has already lost one lover to violence he’s not about to lose Jae-Min too.

My Review:

In the story, Dirty Kiss is a place, a surprisingly not-seedy nightclub where men in the Los Angeles Asian community can pretend that being gay is their normal life, when in fact they are pretending to be straight, at least on the outside and in front of their families.

It’s also a metaphor for the way that multiple families feel about the gay members of their families, and how some traditionalists believe that being gay is transmitted, as opposed to being born in.

And this is a family story, about the ties that bind, and the ties that strangle, both literally and figuratively. Both the protagonists in this story are reacting to their families and dealing with the reaction from them.

Last but not least, there is a deadly plot in motion to kill everyone who might know one particular family’s dirty secret, a plot that may victimize both the protagonists.

Cole McGinnis doesn’t act as though his being gay is a dirty secret. In fact, it is not a secret at all, something that has cost him more than he ever expected to pay. His Japanese/Irish Catholic father has cut off all ties with him, but Cole maintains a relationship with his brother Mike. And dad gets regular updates about Cole from his brother.

But Cole is a former police officer. His police partner shot and killed his domestic partner, then turned the gun on himself. His best friend and his lover were taken from him in an instant, and he still doesn’t know why his partner snapped. He just knows that he has both the physical and the emotional scars left to deal with. He’s pretty good about taking care of the physical scars; the emotional ones, not so much.

After the settlement from the police department left him much more than solvent, Cole took up private investigation as a way of exercising his desire to solve mysteries AND still have a reason for getting out of bed every morning. It mostly works.

The case his brother hands him should be an easy one. A Korean-American family wants someone to be certain that their only son really did commit suicide, even if he did it within the embarrassing confines of the Dirty Kiss nightclub.

All, of course, is not as it seems. The more Cole digs, the less likely it seems that Kim Hyun-Shik killed himself. Especially when everybody (perhaps that should be every body) who might possibly have any information for Cole winds up dead.

The person who seems to have as many lives as his own cat is Kim Jae-Min, the deceased’s cousin. Jae-Min, treated by his family as the ultimate poor relation, seems to know more about his cousin’s business, his cousin’s life, and the Dirty Kiss club more than is good for him if he wants to survive.

But something about Jae-Min draws Cole out of his self-imposed isolation, even though it is obvious to Cole that Jae-Min is keeping no end of crucial secrets to himself. His continuous lies of omission should damn any relationship before it starts, but Cole just gets more intrigued.

Although if Cole doesn’t put it all together soon, their relationship will end with both of their deaths, as a murderer gets away.

Escape Rating B+: Dirty Kiss is a marvelous character-driven story; things happen because the characters are fully developed and can’t act other than the way they must.

A big part of the appeal of the story is Cole’s first-person perspective; we see the world through his eyes, and hear his thoughts. He’s a confused, sad and slightly tormented person with a sarcastic sense of humor. He tells it like it is, except when he tries to look into his own grief. Then he does what most of us do and tries to pretend it’s not there.

His circle of friends and family is fascinating. His relationship with his brother Mike is complex and filled with a sense of love and obligation on both sides. They drive each other crazy, and sometimes they don’t like each other much, but they are both aware of how much they love each other.

Cole’s relationship with his best friend, the retired police officer Bobby. Bobby is from a different generation of cop, one who stayed in the closet for the sake of his career. Now that he’s out of the police force, he is definitely out of the closet. There is irony in their relationship, that Cole was more out when he was a cop but is much less in-your-face about it than the formerly secretive Bobby.

Every PI needs someone to mind the office, and Cole has Claudia. an African American grandmother who bosses Cole around every bit as much as she does her sons and grandsons. There’s love and caring and a lot of pushy snark; Claudia calls everything like she sees it and doesn’t take BS from anyone, not even her employer.

Jae-Min is a mysterious young man. He’s beautiful, but he also keeps a lot of secrets and hides a lot of scars. His whole life is dependent on his continuing to pretend that he’s either not gay or that it is a phase he is going through. It’s not just that his mother and sister will cut him off if he comes out, it’s that he is supporting them and if he comes out, they will feel obligated to refuse his help. And Jae-Min really is from the poor branch of the family and his sister and mother absolutely need his assistance.

You would think that a PI would want a relationship where there is honesty, but Cole seems happy with the mystery that is Jae-Min. The romantic part of the story ends in a Happy for Now, because Jae-Min feels obligated to his family.

One of the funniest characters in the story is Jae-Min’s cat Neko. Neko means “cat” in Korean, so Jae-Min has named his cat, Cat. But Neko is a force in her own right, converting the formerly cat-skeptical Cole into a reluctant but effective cat-servant.

Cats rule.

queer romance month

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Review: A Forbidden Rumspringa by Keira Andrews

forbidden rumspringa by keira andrewsFormat read: ebook
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: M/M romance
Series: Gay Amish Romance #1)
Length: 184 pages
Publisher: KA Books
Date Released: August 31, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

When two young Amish men find love, will they risk losing everything?

In a world where every detail of life–down to the width of a hat brim–is dictated by God and the all-powerful rules of the community, two men dare to imagine a different way. At 18, Isaac Byler knows little outside the strict Amish settlement of Zebulon, Minnesota, where there is no rumspringa for exploration beyond the boundaries of their insular world. Isaac knows he’ll have to officially join the church and find a wife before too long, but he yearns for something else–something he can’t name.

Dark tragedy has left carpenter David Lantz alone to support his mother and sisters, and he can’t put off joining the church any longer. But when he takes on Isaac as an apprentice, their attraction grows amid the sweat and sawdust. David shares his sinful secrets, and he and Isaac struggle to reconcile their shocking desires with their commitment to faith, family and community.

Now that they’ve found each other, are they willing to lose it all?

Note: Contains explicit sexual situations and graphic language. This is not an inspirational/Christian romance.

cryselles bookshelf logoGuest Review by Cryselle:

When two young men fall for each other in an atmosphere as circumscribed as the Amish town of Zebulon, there’s only a few branches on the decision tree if there’s going to be an HEA. So everything rides on the style and the details. Once in a while a chunk of research looks like a chunk of research, but for the most part the details are organic to the story.

Keira Andrews gives us a book that flows, in plain language that fits the community that Isaac and David belong to. This offshoot of a larger group is struggling to make ends meet in a new place, with less interaction with the outside, and tighter rules than ever before. Where these young people had expected to have a time of freedom and tasting the “English” way of life, now, no such chance exists. As for joining the church under these circumstances—it doesn’t feel like a choice. The families that emigrated to found Zebulon all seem to be touched by tragedy brought by the young people experimenting, and therefore, no one shall experiment again: it’s too dangerous.

But the young will test their boundaries, and some cannot fit within the narrow confines.

Finding out the details of why strict went to straightjacket took long enough to make me impatient, because there had to be a reason why an already austere group would do this to themselves and their children. When even an orange safety reflector on the back of the buggy is too worldly, there has to be a reason. It was a while coming.

Not for Isaac and David to question why, though; they’re young, not yet “following church” or slipping into the life path expected of them. Isaac eyes David’s sister with fear—she’d make him a fine, hard-working wife, and if people pushed them together any harder there’d be bruises. Meanwhile, down in the barn, David and Isaac make more than furniture.

The two of them dance around the growing attraction as long as possible, but once they acknowledge the heat between them, they can’t keep their hands off each other. There were a lot of sex scenes which mostly drove the plot, but no sense of fumbling or inexperience, and I really don’t believe one raunchy magazine read by David long ago was enough to make them as adventurous or skilled as they were.

The author put a lot of effort into understanding the culture she writes about, and the respect is clear and unjudgmental. The sense of following the Ordnung, the religious directions, as a way of life is strong, though for David and Isaac, the sense of religion as faith is almost absent. Thinking for one’s self is anathema, and difficult for the young men to do. To do so risks friendship, family, and all ties. Isaac’s older brother Aaron never came back after rumspringa, and the youngest brother doesn’t even know Aaron exists. The pain of such choices weighs heavily on Isaac, who is our only POV character.

Escape Rating B+: The author tackled a tough situation where the characters have few options, writing with skill and dignity. David and Isaac have another book following, where they could solidify as a couple, which should be equally good reading.

In a separate but related note, the ebook is very prettily formatted, with custom chapter headers and horse-and-buggy dingbats.

queer romance month

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