Lie With Me, Philippe Besson
Genre: LGBTQIA, Literary Fiction
When I started this I wasn’t sure if I’d like it, the description is pretty short on info, but its not a long read and something just drew me to it.
I thought for maybe the first 25% I’d made a mistake, I didn’t really like the way it read, mostly long monologues by the author interspersed with short snippets of dialogue between him and Thomas.
I struggle with that kind of read, for me dialogue telling the story works best, the show not tell approach, and yet as I continued I became engrossed in what was happening, worried for the boys, emotionally invested in the story. First Love is hard, and what they had and the need for secrecy made it harder.
I appreciated as I read more that actually this approach was the best way to tell the story and by the end I was in tears, its so incredibly sad.
I wasn’t – still aren’t – sure if this was really an autobiography, the book is dedicated to Thomas Andrieu, the name of Phillipe’s lover, and set in the village where he grew up. Someone on goodreads says its actually autofiction, short for autobiographical fiction, or fictional memoir. Apparently that’s very popular in french fiction.
If even a bit of it is true then what a sad tale, I’m so incredibly sorry for what the characters went through.
Whatever, its an amazing story, very moving and I’m so glad I did read it. Even if it made me cry at the end.
Its a story that could be mirrored today, but back in the 1980’s homosexuality was still very much hidden by far too many people, too scared to live their lives the way they wanted, and sometimes I’m not certain we’ve really progressed that much.
Though we like to think we are liberal minded just think of the furor when a footballer, or someone in another popular “mans” sport comes out. Think of the homophobic chants on the terraces, the people facing abuse every day. If you live in a small village or town think of how hard it is to be different, how just maybe its easier to live a lie, rather than face daily contempt and bigotry, possibly within ones own family….One day.
Anyway, I understood why there was all the secrecy but at the end all I could feel was how sad, the loss of potential happiness, the lives that could have been lived, the happiness Thomas and Phillipe could have had, and that’s kind of why it made me so choked, so sad. Just the waste of lives that never had a chance.
Stars: Five, despite my misgivings its an incredible read.
ARC via netgalley
The Long Way Home, Kate Sherwood.
Genre: LBGTQIA, Romance
I’ve enjoyed several of Kate’s novels and loved the prequel to this one, The Mark of Cain, so was delighted to be offered this for review.
Sean is an incredibly bitter individual after the accident, which caused him to lose both legs. He was pretty awful before the accident, homophobic, angry, racist and one of those folk most people try to avoid. His best friend Luke ( from Mark of Cain) is in a relationship with Mark, an ex priest, and Sean finds that difficult to accept, but he has respect for Luke, one of the few people he listens to, and Luke knows how to handle Sean.
Sadly for Paul, he’s gay, he’s coloured and he has Sean as a patient. Sean is full of anger, full of bile, he hates what his life has become, dependent on others for so much and as he sees it, no future, he’s got nothing to live for. I’m an amputee, though thankfully only one leg, and I wasn’t like Sean pre-amputation. Still, that change from being independent, working full time, looking after my family to losing a whole leg, losing my job, being so dependent came as a shock, and like Sean I felt at times death was a welcome way out.
I remember the first night after the op being in tears because I couldn’t even do a simple thing like turning over in bed anymore, had to be helped. So even though Sean seems irredeemably awful I have a little sympathy for him. He should have a future of possibilities stretched out as he’s in his early twenties, and yet he feels he has nothing left to live for. When he’s as horrible as he was to Paul though even my sympathy was stretched.
Of course Kate seems to excel at making the most unlikely people fall in love, but this seemed one that I thought even she couldn’t do successfully. I was wrong 😉 somehow she brings out the best in Sean, doesn’t turn him overnight into a saint, but with the help of Paul and Luke he finds life is still worth living, that he hasn’t lost everything, and whilst learning that he finds another side of himself that he likes better.
He’s still angry, still lashes out without thinking at times, still misses a fight, but the good things in his life balance it. I was glad she didn’t change his basic nature, that wouldn’t have felt real, the Sean we get to know through the end of the book is still the same guy, but re-balanced, the best in him was there all along but hidden, now its the worst bits that are still there but hidden.
Then there’s Paul, a dutiful son, very much in the family mould, his only rebellion was his career, he just couldn’t face life in the family business, successful though it is, and he wanted to choose his own future. He’s in what his family see as a good relationship with Bobby, seems to have life set out for a happy future, but is feeling as though Bobby doesn’t really understand him, but his family are so happy about his rich, successful boyfriend and their relationship he’s not sure what to do, is it easier to just go with the flow?
And then there’s the kittens…..who are the catalyst (that was unintentional!) for a host of changes.
I really enjoyed this story, seeing how Sean came to terms with his loss, how Paul learned to stand up for what was important to him, and of course meeting Luke and Mark again, knowing that they have made a life together successfully, meeting Elise again and seeing her sanctuary still going well. And the kittens, stars of the show, I fell in love with them.
At the start I was pretty convinced Kate wasn’t going t have me believing in this love story, it seemed a step too far, and yet by the end I was convinced, what seemed an impossible challenge wasn’t.
I felt too that the feelings Sean had and the struggles he faced with life after amputation were so very real. I’ve been down the road, albeit I am fortunate in still having one leg, and Sean’s emotions and physical problems were ones I’ve also faced.
I can’t really pin down why this isn’t a five star read for me, could be my subconscious feelings over mine and Sean’s shared issues – though it was all written perfectly, there are still days when life is a struggle for me, and I think unconsciously that bias has affected how I feel over this story. One of those Its me not the story issues others won’t face but I do.
Stars: Four and a half, not quite as gripping as Kate’s other stories but a solid, engrossing read once more.
ARC via author
Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
Genre: LGBTQIA, romance
Note: I’m reading an ARC so possibly the issues about UK/USA differences will be corrected before publication. As a UK reader things like this are very noticeable.
The first issue that bothered me came very early, UK Prince Henry’s brother’s wedding cake. We have £ not $ so the cake would be £75,000 not $75,000 ( or whatever the exchange rate equivalent is ). Then there’s Alex’ comments on the beans on toast breakfast. Well, we do eat that, but in a royal palace the fare would be far wider, they’d be pushing the traditional full English, with maybe kippers, smoked haddock etc and a Continental option. Poor Alex wouldn’t have been forced to eat something he so disliked.
Anyway, got that off my chest 😉 now to the book.
I hadn’t realised it was a YA/NA and to start with Alex especially felt even younger than his 21, and that irritated me. You can’t help liking him though, he’s got that irrepressible good nature, except when it comes to Henry…
Of course thrown together as they are, they start to see a different side to each other, and I really enjoyed how they developed a strong friendship before getting into deeper feelings. There’s quite a lot of artistic license given in how they manage to meet surreptitiously so often, in reality a Prince is incredibly closely guarded, and I expect its the same for the President’s son. Still, fiction 🙂 and it makes for a fun story.
I’d jumped in after reading the blurb, but when beginning it I really thought this wouldn’t be one for me with that shaky, YS feel start. I’ve read some YA books and enjoyed them, but YA romance isn’t really my thing. However once I got to know Alex better and see that despite my first impressions he really wasn’t a 21 going on 16 kid, that actually he was more mature I started to enjoy the story.
I don’t know whether its a UK/US thing but I’ve noticed often that characters in the 18-21 age group in US novels tend to be very immature, mentally like a UK 15 – 18 age group, whereas in UK ones at that age they act and are regarded as adults. Maybe its that they are treated that way in UK, and in US adulthood doesn’t seem to clock in till about 24 or 25?
I think what I liked best was getting to know the real characters, the people they were behind the front they show in public. I enjoyed the secondary characters too. They played a solid part in the story, backing up Alex and Henry, providing advice and working hard to keep the romance on track. I was surprised ( pleasantly) at how in depth some of the issues were treated, bringing in topically important plots, ones that affect folk in real life. I love that bit of reality in fiction, and it plays an important part in helping to effect change sometimes by raising issues folk may be unaware of.
There was the whole LBGTQIA issue, especially in a very traditional Royal family, the way it can affect voters in the US system, the issues of others making political capital out of others problems, and of course a very topical issue about sexual abuse in the workplace.
Stars: Four, a book that started badly for me but which had a lot more depth and topicality than I expected. And a great romance of course 😉
Arc via Netgalley and Publishers
Any Old Diamonds, K.J. Charles
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I love KJ Charles writing style, very typically British gentle, self effacing humour, subtle and understated clues to plots, and a rich, realistic historical setting. I don’t want in-your-face novels, I want to explore characters, work out scenes, pick up insinuated clues to what’s going to happen, try to work things out myself.
I loved the connection to some past novels, though you don’t need to read those. I enjoyed seeing those characters some twenty years on.
I adored Alec, so felt for him. He wanted to do what was right by his siblings, avenge his sister’s death, but when its your father, however awful he is, its a tough thing to face. The Lillywhite Boys, are commissioned by Alec to work the sting, with Jerry, one half of the duo, working closely with Alec, as his friend so that he can be in the right place at the right time.
I loved the slow developing romance between Alec and Jerry, the wondering from Alec is this is just a pleasant interlude for Jerry or could he dare hope he means more to him.? Jerry is such an enigma its difficult to feel how he thinks, work out what he really wants from Alec, and I wasn’t certain either until I was blown away by that magical, unexpected declaration.
As always historical novels bring the dangers to M/M romances to the fore, and Oscar Wilde and his stint in prison gets a mention – as does the fact that he was prosecuted but the Wealthy Society Gentleman also involved wasn’t. That links to the main plot here, how Lord Alec’s father, the Duke of Ilvar, literally got away with murder, being both wealthy and having the position to take out any repercussions. Old Boys Network at its finest. Its fiction here, but things like that did – and to a degree still do – happen all too often 😦
I thought I’d followed the clues, worked plots and answers out, but as usual KJ has surprises, events don’t go as I’d planned and everything changes in an instant. Its cleverly done, the way I’d thought it would go would have left severe repercussions whereas of course the way it actually happens works well for everyone. Well, apart from the Duke and Duchess of course!!
Stars: Five, another cracking read,. Romance, mystery, history all in one cleverly written story.
Arc via author
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
I’ve enjoyed a few of Felice’s reads now, and was eager to read this one. It was a well written story but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’d expected though.
I liked both guys, very real characters with very genuine problems though each are vastly different. I felt their first meeting was plausible, sometimes that first meet feels cliched and false but here I could see things playing out exactly like that. Dash is the kind of true Gentleman who would step in to help anybody. He’s a very likable man, loves his family, even though he can see issues with it, works hard to put himself through school, and Jesse comes from a world he can only imagine.
Jesse might look to have everything, money, family, good health but…after losing his father in 9/11 he’s left with a crippling fear of outdoors, hasn’t been past his front door for five years. He has everything set up to support him – money can do that – but it can’t make him happy, and he’s now realising he doesn’t want to stay confined but finding it incredibly hard to break through the fear. His desire for Dash helps him but its not easy.
At least not easy until suddenly it is. Well, not quite but I found it hard to believe after such protracted stay inside his flat, not venturing past the front door, he could move forward quite so quickly. likewise Dash and his problems with Jesse and money, somehow it all seemed to be huge hurdles one moment and poof, gone for love the next. It was a little too slick for me. I like a bit more struggle and angst.
Its an easy to read story, well set out and believable if only there had been a bit more distance from insolvable issues to -poof- all sorted now….I know love conquers all but I want a bit of struggle along the way.
Stars: Three, a good read but not quite up to some of her others for me. Could be just what you want though, reading is incredibly subjective.
ARC via author
The Binding, Bridget Collins
Genre: General fiction (Adult)
A really unusual story, its hard to class it but it feels like its set back in time but where the magic of Binding – removing peoples memories and putting them in a book– is real. Of course while alive those memories aren’t supposed to be sold, but they are the only kind of stories around, and there are always unscrupulous folk….
I did find it difficult re pacing at the start. I felt like I was fully engrossed in Emmet’s present and the issues he’d been through when I’m taken to his past, where he meets Lucian. And that was heartbreaking for all parties.
Its a read full of what if’s – what would I do in the same situation, and it shows that the old adage of be careful what you wish for is something to be carefully considered.
I loved the characters, the descriptions of everyday life, the horrors of those who abuse the system, from people covering up or forgetting their own bad behaviour, to those poor folk who had nothing left to sell, were so poor they parted with their memories, each leaving its own impact on them. Of course things like that weren’t supposed to happen, ostensibly people had to consent but there are ways around that and the more money and position orientated Binders were ready to take full advantage.
It did feel a little disconnected at times, as though I’d missed some essential parts, but that didn’t affect the overall story, and the gentle, unfolding romance was beautiful. If this magic was real, yes, I could see all the things in the novel happening all too easily. Its not a HEA story, there’s a conclusion of sorts, but its very much a possible HFN, and maybe the magic HEA, though in that time and clime I think its unlikely.
Would I reread this? Possibly, and I’d certainly read more from this author.
Stars: Four, a really unusual and entrancing story but the pacing was a little off for me, and I would have liked a bit more of an ending.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
Hard Truths, Alex Whitehall
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I thought I’d read books by this author before – but I haven’t – so lots of new to me reads to enjoy 😉 I loved this read, heartbreaking at times and sadly, so very,very real.
I loved Isaac and his sister, Sue. They’re very close, which is good as his parents are…well, my age but I feel a million miles from them.
They’re old fashioned, with sadly outdated views. Mum is desperate for grandchildren to spoil, even though, as Isaac muses, she never wanted to spoil him or Sue. Dad is one of those I’m-head-of-family, my word is Law types, the sort where clear lines are drawn, he’s The Man, brings in the dosh, and housework, childcare etc is Not His Province, women’s work.
Despite the weird parents Sue and Isaac love them, just hate the way every family occasion leads into nagging about marriage and children.
Desperate one Thanksgiving Sue brings home a date, a fake one, just to shut mum up. He’s big, burly, tattooed and ….coloured, and she knows her parents will hate him. She’s asked him to be polite but play up the stereotype, so he is guarded about his job, hinting at freelance, letting them think the worst, and true to form they are reasonably polite but Not Happy and make it clear.
Isaac is shocked though when Logan discreetly makes a pass at him…til he finds out the truth. I loved that family meal!
Soon Logan and Isaac are together but each family meal means Logan stays away, and Isaac gets more lectures on finding The One and grandchildren. I felt so sorry for him, for too many families this is life. It shouldn’t matter who we love, so long as we’re not harming others, parents should just want their kids happy, not set conditions on happiness and love.
Of course the inevitable happens and Logan wants to be with Isaac all the time, not tucked away from his parents like a dirty secret. Its not hard to see the way things would go, although it was stronger than I expected, and once more I kept thinking “this is how life is for so many kids” Awful isn’t it? I can’t conceive of being that sort of parent, though I can see faint echoes in how my parents would have reacted.
In between Isaac and his family issues there’s the deal of Logan and his friends and Isaac and his, both close knit groups who react differently to new people, to pressures and events. I get the feeling Logan is more confident, outgoing, able to accept others where Isaac is a bit like me, diffident, cautious, careful of feelings. There are times when he isn’t sure if his friends are pushing him aside, when in fact they’re probably just busy, and I can empathise with that think the worst outlook.
When the big Fallout hit its dual pronged for Isaac and I so felt for him, and Logan of course. The way that drama played out, really let emotions flow, let Isaac’s thoughts run riot was just perfect for me. I love to wallow in the sad parts, and then feel uplifted when all ends well.
Stars:Five, a very real feeling drama with the perfect HEA.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.
Love at First Hate J.L. Merrow
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
Porthkennack and Garret Leigh – real treat to read.
Like the Bluewater Bay series, also from Riptide, Porthkennack covers books written by different authors about the same place.
For me it means even when books are approaching double figures they still retain that freshness first books in a series have, as each author puts their own ideas and spin to the stories.
I didn’t connect this book with Wake-Up Call at first, Dev and his story rang a bell when it was mentioned, and I had to flick back and look it up. Its really interesting to see it from the other side, and I understood so much more about bran’s awful reaction to Dev in that book.
I felt for Bran here, he’d had a tough upbringing, just duty, duty, duty really, and he comes over as quite aggressive almost, very taciturn, and not an easy man to get along with. Yet when we learn more of him I felt I understood him, and that the front he presented too often was just that, almost as if that he makes himself dislikeable then he’s controlling others reactions, not them disliking him when he’s trying to be nice, but in an almost unconscious way. Well, that’s how I see him, garbled though that explantation is…
The plots were as always very intriguing and multi layered. The romance though, well, here it fell short for me. Bran and Sam don’t even meet til a good way into the book, and its as the title says, hate at first sight, and second and third. Slowly though that changes, but I found the slip from dislike to lets get together didn’t really give me the feelings they were invested in more, they could have just been a one night hook up, and then suddenly there’s indications for a future…possibly…maybe…when the stars align, then a big blow-up and its all off.
They do get past that and have a possibly HFN but I didn’t ever get that sense of passion, of emotions other than lust, and I needed that for the five.
Stars: four, fabulous plot(s) but somewhat understated on the romance side
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Imperial Stout, Layla Reyne
I loved Layla’s AIW series, and this new one seems set to became another favourite of mine.
I do have trouble with all the acronyms, not just in this series but all US stories. Its hard enough keeping up with UK ones, but those from another country, not a chance. Thankfully though its fairly easy to mentally throw them all in a box marked “official legals” and then just try to remember the hierarchy and jurisdiction 😉
As before there are some great characters here, not just the leads but in the supporting cast, and it was good to see some of the characters from AIW here. These people feel real, have genuine emotions, and act like I would expect, passionate when adrenaline is flowing, angry about perceived injustice, jealous at times, though not in a controlling way. We get to see how they think, how they feel and that made me understand them better and let me connect with them as genuine folk.
The issues with Nic’s father looks set to run through the series, and bring even more trouble down on poor Nic, despite their 27 year estrangement. Cam has his own dark past that rears its head here and I think that will come up again. The plot is action packed but, thankfully for me, not overly burdened with technical terms and devices. I get lost when they go into that kind of detail, I’d rather know more about the characters and whats happening than the type of gun or car they’re using.
Its a shortish read, 62,000 words but full of action and great characters. This main plot wraps up – ish, feels complete at the end so far as the main story goes. Somehow though, there are often over-spills from sub-plots in series like this, and of course there are issues raised such as Nic’s dad and Cam’s background that are going to follow through in later books.
Stars: Five, great characters, terrific plots and a romance that fits the story, doesn’t dominate.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Shipped, Karrie Roman
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I love M/M and books involving fame, such great potential for jealousy plots, fan over action etc. I really wanted to love this but…I liked it, a lot but it fell flat of being one I love, a re-reader.
Ryan seems to have walked into fame from nothing, top star Lucas has a wife, a beard only, but that seems to have escaped notice and I wondered just how realistic either of those things could be. The romance angle was kind of cute really, some sensual sex scenes but lots of sweet and nice between that and it felt a little too cheesy for me. I like some drama!
We did get drama later by way of a dangerous stalker, and the pressure that brings, and a climatic attack towards the end. Somehow though even that didn’t feel enough for me. There was endless talking about feelings, mulling things over, cutesy times out with yet more nice, sweet people. Ryan was nice, Lucas was nice, his wife was nice, the two sisters that owned the boat were nice…you get the idea? Everyone is so darned Good, helpful, pleasant. I wanted a bit of nasty, some jealousy, some real world maliciousness and back-biting.
It felt a little too fairy-tale charming when real life has highs and lows, pleasant people and ones that are bitchy and unpleasant. That won’t matter for many readers but for me its essential that I can feel things are real, that I’m “there” with the characters as action happens and here I simply felt like an onlooker, distanced from the action.
Stars: three and a half, a decent story but let down for me by the lack of reality.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers.