The Captain & the Squire, (The Captivating Captains 5) Catherine Curzon,
Genre: Humour, LGBTQIA
Well, I’m late to this series and have only read the previous book. I struggled with that so was hoping this would suit better – and it did. It was timing in last book that was wrong for me. I don’t really gel with books where everything takes place over a few days, but this one is longer, still short, just a month except for the epilogue, but it worked so much better for me.
I loved the way Tarquin and Chris are at odds from the moment they meet, and yet that magical thread of attractions pulls to them both. That meeting should have clued me to what sort of story this was going to be, but it took me a few more pages to realise that it really was tongue in cheek stuff, perfect schoolgirl humour that somehow I’ve never outgrown!
Chris is new to the area, although his family and Tarquin’s have been in Bough Bottom for generations. Tarquin is a long standing resident, local farmer, with the most horrendous fiancee, Petunia. She was so perfect in the book, adding a nasty edge to the spice and nice 😉 along with her boss, the awful Bryan.
If you’re thinking Romance, sensuality and emotional story – well, the emotion you’ll be feeling is tears, but tears of laughter. At times this feels like a Brian Rix ( now I’m showing my age) farce, it’s slapstick type comedy, so overdone that it works. There’s a fine line between slapstick funny and in your face OTT jokes, and the authors have found it perfectly.
From the countryside squire Tarquin portrays, trilby, tweeds and tractors, very typical stereo-type, Chris’ wide boy city financier, Petunia’s grasping, greedy social climber to the real star, Orry, otherwise know as The Oracle, cleverest pig on the planet its all so silly that it somehow works, and had me sniggering at the unlikely events.
Of course there’s a serious side in that Tarquin is engaged – to a woman, and his other inclinations go unknown, and what will come of that. Then there’s the terms of Chris uncle’s will, Chris has only a short window to act if he’s to keep the house and money, and it not go to his elderly uncle’s latest floozy… And just what did happened between the Hardcastles and the Boughs all that while ago?
The boat race and Orry’s actions – wonderful writing, had me sniggering at the though of super intelligent pig racing with a priceless antique dildo to help…..
Then there’s the semi serious side of the looting of precious historical artifacts in other countries, that’s a reality that sadly happens too much, and was good to see mentioned in the context of dealers and collectors. Some people have no morals, fortunately Chris and Tarquin do, and all ends well. Wish real life was like that.
Stars: Five, Its a wonderful, sniggering farce, with a spicy and sensual romance wrapped up in it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. A fun read to drive away winter blues.
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Wounded Martyr, Courtney Maguire
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
I really thought I’d like this book, I love romance, love m/m romance and love the rock star trope. And yet I just feel confused about this story. I got to the end and it wasn’t with the satisfaction of a good read, but with the feeling of What did I just read? Was that really how it would end?
Its very well written, the words convey really clearly the downsides of addiction, of how staying sober seems the hard choice when everyone around you is drinking. How difficult it is to like the person you are now, when all you’ve known for years is the addict, how even though you know how awful you are when high or drunk you don’t really seem to be a better person sober. All that came over so very clearly, along with the difficulties of relationships when touring, when distance separates and opportunities come unasked for.
Yet somehow the sheer grimness of Ice’s life just got me down and coloured what I was reading. He didn’t know what he wanted, and Ricky paid the price, band mate Ash was equally ambiguous, and the band after twenty years together seemed to have no kind of camaraderie or affection left. It was just grim all the way, and for me it was too much.
I kept wondering, if they’d been together twenty years and were playing to thousands why were they sharing rooms when they didn’t want to and ought to have had the money to room alone – heck, have a suite alone. Does coke really only cost $50 a vial? Why did they still continue when the band really didn’t seem close, were they ever close, did any of them actually enjoy the life anymore?
Ash and Ice, friends since childhood, and yet apart from some moments of lust and jealousy I didn’t feel anything much between them. I guess I just needed more detail about the characters, their history, and something light to enliven the atmosphere of doom that seemed to live over the band.
The ending seemed a bit of a cop out, I didn’t really feel as if anything had changed, except for the one major point, and wasn’t convinced of long term happiness for any of them. Where was Sid gong to fit in with the Ricky/Ice/Ash grouping? And wasn’t that going to cause more issues? The root causes of the problems still hadn’t really been resolved I felt, and the way it seemed to finish held more problems in store IMO.
I find it hard to actually class this as romance, it didn’t have any of the love, intensity of emotion, the feel good factor that romance holds for me, and even when it got close to a good emotion it was coloured by jealous thoughts.
Stars: Two and a half. Writing quality is four star for making me feel whats happening, for sheer realism, but content for me was just scraping a two, and unfortunately content is the greater sway when I’m reviewing how I feel about a story.
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The Captain and the Best Man Catherine Curzon, Eleanor Harkstead
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
I haven’t read the earlier books in this series, but that’s fine, each are stand alone. Its one of those series connected by character type rather than the characters themselves.
Its was a fun story, very easy to read, with some fun characters.
I liked Guy and Josh, Guy seems universally liked by his flight crew and the islanders. He seems one of those genuinely naive guys who somehow glide through life untroubled. Yet as we learn more about him we find its not been quite that easy for him. Then there’s Josh, one moment he seemed very young, and the next it was like he had an old head on young shoulders. There’s a real attraction between the two that came through the story quickly.
The story itself hinges on Josh’ best friends wedding, a tropical island and of course a storm, and not just with the weather….it was kind of easy to see where the story was going, see what was going to happen from about halfway, but maybe that’s me, maybe I’ve just read too much….
I guess my big issue with the story is that the main thrust takes place over a couple of days with the whole mostly complete in a week, and I just found that insta love too much. That’s my personal issue, I need to be convinced characters are in love, not just lust and when every interaction is so new, so coloured by sex then I’m not persuaded that its actually True Love and worth all the sacrifice. Though this wraps up so well that actually there’s very little sacrifice 😉
Stars: Three, a fun, easy read, but its just too time condensed for me to really get mentally involved with the characters, and invested in what happens.
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Exquisitely Hidden, M. Jay Granberry
I enjoyed this read, liked catching up with the characters and seeing some of book one’s events from a different angle. There’s lots of drama for the band here at times, at others it just kind of plods along. I did find myself skipping a little then which is why its four, not five stars.
I love this kind of read where one person is out and proud and the other…well, not. That’s Seth and Adam, Seth had been out for ages and doesn’t like being kept hidden like a shameful secret, but Adam doesn’t want to be the Poster Boy for Gays.
I can understand that, somehow its typical that we see folk who are different from the average person in terms of what they are, rather than who they are. I’m an amputee, I also paint. I want to be remembered for my art, not my disability, but whenever there’s been any media publicity about art shows I’ve been involved in guess which gets the focus? 😦 yep, the missing leg, and I’m more than that, just as Adam is more too. Gay is a part of him, what he is, but not all he is.
He’s got lots of other issues too from his past, some of which Sin is aware, but even his best friend doesn’t know everything. They’ve an uphill task if ever they’re to find grounds for a relationship.
I enjoyed the will they won’t they, on and off nature of their connection. Its hard, I so understood how Seth felt, and at times I dd get irritated with Adam, but such is the course of love, and I do like the downsides in my reading to cover a decent part. None of this its all off and heart break, then two pages later its all good stuff for me!
I did get confused over how the foster carer he had could be in her eighties? A bit extreme, it would make her in sixties when she had the kids in her care, I can’t see that happening. Likewise the issues over Tori, one moment its all in the air, then next he’s off on tour and we don’t know where she is. There were quite a few typos and grammar errors too that niggled, but I’m hoping that’s because I had an ARC and they’ll have been corrected for final edition.
Stars: Four, a read I enjoyed, and I especially like Adam’s Big Gesture at the end. Seth deserved that, he’d put up with a lot from Adam.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Indie authors need readers support, and if youre a lover of dystopian type fiction this may be for you. Its out now at £3.99 and also available on KU.
Horned Winged Blessed
Horned Winged Blessed opens in a post-world war three world,with an all-female, all-wiccan government in charge. They are known as theSilver Party, and have led Broken Britain through the war. Now, they are pavingthe way to a utopia in which hate crime and sexual assault are things of thepast.
The story follows the protagonist Joan Wood’s journey tounderstand the issues within this society and eventually finds her taking itdown. She is the daughter of the founder that started the Silver Party, and shestarts the novel under the illusion that this is indeed a utopia. However,after various attacks on her home from the rebel party the Grounded, as well asvarious friends warning her that life isn’t a rose-tinted as she thinks, she becomes aware that the Silver Party, and her mother, have indeed taken things too far, and many of the non-binary folk in society feel oppressed and labelled.
In the later half of the book, Joan actually finds her way to the rebel faction, and joins them in their aim to take down her mother and bring a true version of gender equality and LGBT liberation – rather than the erroneous attempts at such by her mother.The book ends with a showdown between her and her mother, eventually with her prevailing to crack her way through the Silver Party, with the help of her Grounded comrades.
Lost and Found, Liv Rancourt
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
One of the reasons I love LGBTQIA reads is that the romance that always seems to have that extra edge of passion. Maybe it’s because of the barriers, historically it was illegal, punishable by prison, and even now in our supposed enlightened terms its still frowned on. People still carry that bigotry and make life difficult for those who want to love outside what they feel is *right*. Sad isn’t it that we can’t all just live and let live in real life. Still, it makes for some fabulous fiction.
When we meet Ben its clear to see the War ( WW1) has affected him mentally, but of course its an age when such things were not only largely unknown but unspoken too, and he’s kind of floundering along, single mindedly searching for his childhood friend Elias. He can’t explain why he needs to do this for a friend but he just has to.
Its clear to the reader than they had more than just friendship, but in times like those Ben seems to have shut off his mind to the possibility that they were more, that he is attracted to men. Who can blame him when any hint of liking your own sex carried the taint of Unnatural, the threat of prison, the ostracising in society and employment prospects. Awful isn’t it that we could send people off to war, to die for their country but not let them live as they chose.
Louis is also a tenant in the building where Ben has rented a room, and at first he seems so surly, dislikable, rude. Yet their landlady is one of those who gently interferes in folks lives, caring about them as friends, really looks after her tenants, and somehow she engages Louis to help Ben. Together more they start to understand each other, learn about the things that plague them both, and Ben discovers some surprises about himself that he’d locked in his mind.
Its a wonderful story, a beautiful romance, with all the period details that allowed me to feel there with them. Books like that work best for me, where I almost feel part of the story, and am happy or sad along with the characters. Its not just Ben and Elias but a host of others here that made the story so real, they became people I felt I knew as friends.
At the end Liv talks about the story and says a certain part was at the suggestion of her agent. I’m so glad she took that advice, without that section it would be a good read, with that addition it becomes a great read. That part really moved me, let me understand Ben more, made the feelings between Louis and Ben more concrete, made the problems they faced more real.
I love it when a book delivers a love story but makes the characters have real issues, face seemingly immovable barriers to their love, and lets those problems take over a complete section of the story, not just a couple of pages. Ben needed that, I needed it 😉 and it really made the ending more satisfying.
Stars: Five, a perfect historical read, full of tenderness and emotion.
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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 😉
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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