Ellie Reads Fiction

21 Jul 2016

Review: Forbidden Fling by Skye Jordan

Title: Forbidden Fling (Wildwood #1)
Author: Skye Jordan
Date of publication: 26 July 2016
Genre/themes: Contemporary Romance, Small-town

Author's links: Facebook / Website / Goodreads / Twitter
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My rating: 4.5 stars




Blurb

Delaney Hart has come a long way from her wild youth, dating tattooed bikers at her father’s bar, The Bad Seed. But when his death pulls her back to Wildwood, California, she must stay to renovate the dive he left her. And also face the lies and secrets that sent her running ten years before.

When Wildwood’s chief building inspector, Ethan Hayes, shows up on the property, Delaney doesn’t recognize him. The last thing he wants to do is save the bar where his cousin died in a brawl. But the good boy from her past is all too willing to remind her of the bad girl she used to be. And one night of passion leaves them both in a compromising position.

The last place Ethan should be is in Delaney’s bed. Guilt, family pressure, and plans for a brewpub of his own make shutting down The Bad Seed his top priority…until his feelings for Delaney interfere. Because her future depends on the success of the bar’s renovation and his dreams are rooted in its failure, their forbidden romance may be destined for heartbreak.

Review


I have read and very much enjoyed Skye Jordan's Renegades series - contemporary romances involving Hollywood actors and stuntmen. These stories are witty and sexy, without too much drama and just feel-good sweetness.

When I saw Ms Jordan was starting a new series I was curious to try it. This time she offers her readers a small-town romance and I'm always on the look out for such stories. There is often risk for them to come off as cheesy and too sentimental but I'm happy to report that this was definitely not the case here.

Forbidden Fling offers a surprising depth of emotion and a really detailed and convincing portrayal of the complexity of family relationships, love, guilt and the struggle to be your own person.

This is an explosive story including family feuds and broken dreams, on the one hand, and on the other it's a love story that shows such delicious sexual chemistry between Ethan and Delaney and their lust for each other gradually turning into love and devotion.

Delaney was amazing, a strong and determined person who tries to build a future for her (and her two sisters) out the ruins of their past. She is a reformed bad girl who has to prove to everyone and mostly to herself that she has a future back in her hometown, that she can turn her life around and stop running from the past and start working on her future in the place where she belongs.

I very much liked Delaney but found Ethan even more interesting - a smart professional and with a promising future, yet totally under the thumb of his family, guilted into submission, force to give up his dreams (for now or forever). 

Their meeting proves life changing for both of them. It sparks a wild attraction between them but also pushes them to be better, to try harder, to go for their dreams (despite the conflict arising between them and despite the dangers this places them under).

There is a lot of going back and forth in Ethan and Delaney's relationship, some pretty bad secrets, yet itit didn't feel too much foe me. The problems they face are not easy to solve and it did take them some time, some sacrifice, a lot of re-evaluation and determination to deal with them.

Overall, this is a complex, detailed story set in a richly built background. It has a strong small-town feel which I loved and explored family relations that are messier than most. In short, this is the perfect summer read and strongly urge you to pick up for your vacation.

Purchase link: Amazon


19 Jul 2016

Review: Burn Down the Night by Molly O'Keefe

Title: Burn Down the Night (Everything I Left Unsaid #3)
Author: M. O'Keefe
Date of publication: 9 Aug 2016
Genre/themes: Erotic Romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4.5 Stars



Blurb


The only thing that matters to me is rescuing my sister from the drug-cooking cult that once enslaved us both. I’ve run cons my whole life, and I’ll use my body to get whatever I need. Max Daniels is the last connection I have to that world, the one person reckless enough to get involved. Besides, now that his brothers have turned on him, he needs me too.

The deal was supposed to be simple: a place to hide in exchange for rescuing my sister. Now he’s my prisoner. Totally at my mercy. But I’m the one captivated. Enthralled. Doing everything he asks of me until I’m not sure who’s in control.

We both crave the heat. The more it hurts, the better. But what if Max wants a different life now, to leave the game . . . to love me? I thought I knew better than to get burned. Now I’m in too deep to pull away. And the crazy thing is . . . I don’t want to.


Review

I'm a big fan of Ms O'Keefe's writing and this series are really breaking my heart. Max and Joan's story is even more powerful, intense, darker than the Annie and Dylan's. 

I had the impression that Joan was actually older because of the self-confidence and assured way in which she acted with in the first book. What we see here is that she is in fact much younger, her confidence and bravado is mostly on the outside, a mask she wears to protect herself.. In fact the Joan we get to know in this story  is very much lost and in doubt about everything in her life.

Max, well, he is the rough and tough and ruthless biker club president we expect him to be. At the same time he is put in the rather unusual situation of being on the run from his club brothers and at the same time being held hostage by Joan. All this brings out a whole new side of his character to light which was fascinating to see.

There is lots of sexual tension in this story as usual in Ms O'Keefe's romances. A lot of their misery and frustration and anger at the world and the hard life they had to deal with, was expressed through the sex they had. The angry, punishing sex they had did push my comfort level but at the same time I liked how it led to Max an Joan opening to each other and becoming truly intimate. 

They are so much similar, both hardcore, angry and impulsive, yet desperate to make things right, loyal to their families but also plagued by their pasts and mistakes they have made. All this makes it rather difficult for them to express love and affection, either romantically or for their families in general. Giving up on all their coping mechanisms and survival mechanisms is a slow and painful process. It was not easy for either of them to dare to hope, to dream of a future they could look forward to.

Overall, I would describe this romance as a powerfully erotic story with a touch of danger but well within the limits of consent and doing (sexual) things everyone enjoyed (even the one-time with a third party involved). I liked how the characters presented their sexuality without judgement. Joan's bisexuality wasn't an issue for anyone and it was also not made into a shocking element in the story.

I'm sure fans of Ms O'Keefe will enjoy this romance and if you haven't read her books before and you like exquisitely written, intense erotic romance, I strongly urge you to give this series a try. While Burn Down the Night can be read as a standalone, it's even better if you read the previous two books (which go together) - Everything I Left Unsaid (review) and The Truth About Him (review).

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks 

15 Jul 2016

Review: Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

Title: Bitterweet (True North #1)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre: Contemporary romance, Small-town 
Release Date: 14 June 2016

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
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My rating: 3 Stars



Blurb

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago. 

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.


Review


I will start with saying that I absolutely love Sarina Bowen's writing. Her Ivy Years series is my favourite NA series and her M/M hockey romances Him and Us, co-written with Elle Kennedy are just as amazing. I was really excited when I heard she will be writing a new series, sort of small town romances and I jumped at the chance to read the first book, Bittersweet.

On paper I should have loved this, a sexy hunk ex-sports star in college turned into a farmer and cider maker and the super sexy, somewhat flighty college hook-up who is trying to make it in the restaurant business.

I enjoyed a lot in this story, yet it ended as an OK read for me. Whole food business and Audrey's struggles and adventures in it were quite fun to read. And what I liked the most in this book is Griff's life on the farm - the interactions within his family and friends, the small-town feel - shone through the story and warmed my heart.

The romance is where I struggled a bit. It's a second-chance love story, with Griff being more involved even back in their college days. Their present-day chemistry was off-the-charts, but for the relationship lacked depth. It read like your usual, cliched and stereotypical NA college affair - it was all about lust and sexual pleasure and felt like feelings and real intimacy were lacking, at least initially.

I expected more maturity in the relationship, both Griff and Adrey acted like adults in the other aspects of their lives, or were at least trying to live up to their responsibilities and the expectations the others had of them.

In general I think there are one too many stereotypes (the evil ex-girlfriend who turned out to be a nice person after all, the super evil mother who also had a change of heart by the end, and more) which make the story just average and in many ways predictable.

I still enjoy Ms Bowen's style and have high hopes for the next books in the series, which I definitely plan to read. If you don't mind some instalust and NA angst in your romance, you should give this one a try. It wasn't a big hit with me but it might work better for you.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

PS: The second book, Steadfast, which tells Jude's story is out already and I enjoyed it much more and will be reviewing it soon.

8 Jul 2016

Author Interview with Kris Ripper




Interview with Kris Ripper on zir new series, Queers of La Vista, and the life of a writer



ER: Hi, Kris and welcome!
I want to start this interview with some questions on your writing process and then dive in more detail about your latest series of queer romance.
So, let’s kick this off with the question how you became a romance writer. Was this your childhood dream? Are you a full-time writer or do you have another job as well?
KR: It was absolutely my childhood dream to be a writer, but I’m not a genre purist. I’m the kid who just wants all the fiction to be in one section at the bookstore because I never walk in thinking, “I’m so in the mood for a historical fantasy romance saga right now!”

I always wrote romantic themes in my fiction because, y’know, I write about people, and romance is sort of a thing when you write about people, but I didn’t start writing organized romance novels until five years ago or so. I always felt like Romance, the genre, didn’t have room for people like the characters I write: queer, kinky, poly, ace, not-traditionally-attractive, not-traditionally-charming. So these days I sort of…carve that room out of the genre, and hang out with other people—readers and writers—who are doing the same thing.

This is my only job, which is about the greatest thing on earth.

ER: Can you say what is the best and the worst thing about being a writer?
KR: It’s the same answer for both: there will never be enough time to write all the stories in my head. Which is rough, because I’ll die having not finished my work, but on the other hand…it’s a bit like having a personal fountain of youth, and knowing I can drink from it for the rest of my life.

Mind you, I’m superstitious as hell. Now that I’ve written that I’ll probably experience a ten year dry spell!

ER: I’m no writer myself but I’m curious how the writing happens with you? Do you have a specific strategy, a plan you follow or it’s more of a spontaneous thing?
KR: Oh, it’s different for every book. Since I started publishing I have more of a rhythm to it, constantly having a few books that are being plotted in my head, a few that are being obsessively researched, a few that are in stages of writing and revision. But every now and then (for me it’s about once a year on average), some story gets all tangled up in my head and I can’t not-write it. Usually that story becomes the “dessert” I get to write after, you know, writing the stuff that pays the bills. Because who needs to sleep, right?

ER: Which part of the writing process is the easiest and the most difficult for you?
KR: Depends on the book. For Gays of Our Lives, the initial jump into the book was the most difficult because I was worried about getting MS wrong. For the last book in the series, As La Vista Turns, revisions were tough because I wanted to end the series perfectly. Which, you know, doesn’t exist. SAD FACE.

Every now and then a book is bliss from the first word I set down on the page to the final copyedit. One Life to Lose, which is out in December, was one of those. I fell so hard for that book that I didn’t want to finish writing it.

ER: Taking lead from what you said about Emerson and his MS, I have to say I really like dthe way you presented his relationship with his illness. On that note, what kind of research did you do on MS? Did you use a sensitivity reader for it (they seem very popular atm)?
KR: Oh, metric tons of research and YouTube videos. I was less interested in the exact progression of the disease (which is all over the map, so it was actually more important to make the point that MS looks different in everyone), and more about how actual individuals dealt with their diagnoses and their daily lives.

No sensitivity readers. I’m really intrigued by the entire sensitivity reader movement. I think writers should always have a variety of readers read over their books—and that those readers should be from diverse backgrounds—but I do feel like there’s a vein of “Help white people get people of color right!” to the current sensitivity reader push that makes me really uncomfortable. (It’s not, of course, only about race. We’re also helping straight writers get queers right, and cis writers get trans folks right, and ablebodied writers get disabled people right. And everyone else.)

Ultimately, while I believe that there should always be a focus by writers and publishers to publish books that represent a depth and breadth of human experiences, I’m deeply suspicious of the way energy gets funneled into helping people with privilege write better books, instead of, you know, nurturing and promoting and honoring #ownvoices stories. Do straight, white, cis authors need to write diverse characters? Hell yes. And not as tokenism, not just to have “diversity” in their books, but real damn characters. HOWEVER. Way more important than that is to elevate the books written by people who have actually had the experiences they’re writing about.

Sorry. You asked a very simple question and I was all like Oh, thank you for providing this soap box for my use! *bashfully steps down*

ER: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
KR: I think the “plotter or pantser” dichotomy is misguided. Nearly everyone is doing a little of each. When I was a younger writer I didn’t outline anything because it killed my interest in the book. But then I had these massive books I had to don a scuba suit to get into, swimming about in the dark searching for what on earth I’d been trying to say.

Which was fine, when I was an apprentice to the form. But when I got serious, I knew I needed a better plan, so I revisited the loathed outline. And then I realized that, dammit, I’m not a kid in school anymore, and I can outline however I want! Mind maps, lists, snippets of dialogue, big blocks of free write. (I really am Cartman: “Whatever! I’ll do what I want!”)

The trick for me is to outline in such a way that I leave space for all the mad pantsing that totally turns me on. (Mur Lafferty calls it being a “discovery writer,” which I like better.) So I do both. Some books have massive written outlines. Some have a few notes in a Gmail draft. But I don’t start writing a book until I can hold the whole thing in my head at once. Just broad strokes, not necessarily details. That’s how I know I’m ready.

ER: And final question on your writing process before we move on to talk in more details about your books. What is your favourite subgenre to write in?
KR: Oh no, I have no idea. I’m terrible with genre. I, uh, literally have no idea how to answer that question…

ER: And just to sneak in a quick follow-up question – what is the most outrageous/crazy story you want to write (Please, ignore the practical aspects of who would publish and who would want to read it)?
KR: Okay. Okay. All right. So just…I’m just gonna say this. But I really want to write, um, a queer action adventure serial. With lots of action, lots of cliffhangers, and lots of sex. *ducks*
ER: Yay! That sounds fascinating and I hope you get to chance to write it.

ER: Now, it’s time to focus more on your upcoming series. I recently finished the first book, Gays of Our Lives, and it was my first book of yours and I absolutely loved it. What I’m curious to know is how did you come up with the idea of this series?
KR: Sometime last year I stumbled upon a podcast episode by EE Ottoman called “Six Things,” (https://acosmistmachine.com/2015/04/15/six-things/) about the six things they would like to see more of in romance. One of those was a sense of queer community, and I was like, “HELL YES.” But it just sort of lived in the back of my head for a few months while I did other things. When I sat down to plot out the book that became Gays of Our Lives, already having a feel for Emerson, I realized that his sense of isolation would be really fun to play with against a backdrop of community.

Then, because I have no self-control, I was like, “THIS SHOULD BE A SERIES.” I basically make everything into a series. I love reading series fiction, and I’m addicted to writing it. So Queers of La Vista comes out of a place of sincerely grappling with my community, and loving it, and being infuriated with it, and feeling isolated within it.

ER: Can you share what is coming up next in the series and when can we expect it?
KR: Heck yeah! I’m so excited for these releases. The Butch and the Beautiful (August 22) is about high school teacher Jaq falling for gorgeous, magnetic Hannah, and reconciling the desire for a relationship with the messy truths of what it means to be in one. The Queer and the Restless (October 31) features Ed, who’s still early on in his transition, wrestling with how he’s seen by others and how he sees himself. Until he falls for flighty Alisha, who’s unconstrained by all the things he feels holding him back. One Life to Lose (December 12) is the story of how an odd young man named Cameron falls in love with a couple he knows, and learns to trust his feelings (and theirs). As La Vista Turns (February 27) brings together Zane and Mildred in a somewhat unconventional romance that includes pregnancy tests and a lot of to-do lists.

ER: This is a bit of unfair question but who is your favourite character/book you have written? I admit that I haven’t read The Scientific Method series, so I can’t say objectively say which of all your characters is my favourite but I quite liked Emerson.
KR: Oh for goodness’ sake! Do you have any idea how many books I’ve written? How many characters? I can’t possibly choose!

I think this is all about mood. When I’m feeling dark and moody, I gravitate toward characters who draw that out of me (Hugh Reynolds or Lucy Martinez from the Scientific Method Universe; Mac from the Erotic Gym stories). When I’m feeling snarky, I go in for Emerson, or Frazier from the New Halliday series. If I’m in a lighthearted mood it’s all about Will Derrie (SMU) or Dillon Aldham (New Halliday). And for soulful yearning, I write Cameron, from One Life to Lose.

I’m so not choosing books. I’ve reread Surrender the Past more than any other book I’ve ever written. I’m pretty sure One Life to Lose will challenge the title.

ER: Which book of all you have written so far was the easiest to write and which the most difficult?
KR: Ha. Um. Well. There’s a sort of mental slip that happens once I’m done with a book that makes this a hard question to answer. The book I’m currently writing is almost always the easiest and hardest book I’ve ever written; it’s the hardest because there’s always a voice in the back of my head telling me this might be the one I just fail to finish, but it’s the easiest because it’s the one I’m currently getting my fix from, so I forgive it for being a beast.

Catalysts saw more entire redraftings than most of my books, but I loved that story so much I don’t remember how difficult it was viscerally. I just know that I must have struggled because that business took years. The hardest must necessarily be the small handful of stories I still believe in, but have never been able to satisfactorily revise.

ER: I know you are very good and often write stories on prompts people provide. How did this happen?
KR: Wish fulfillment! I wish I could ask my favorite authors to scribble a scene I want to read, so I love being able to do that for my readers! Having said that, I’m about fifteen prompts behind right now…

ER: I’m a big fan of cross over series and your Queers of La Vista features characters with different sexualities/identities. I was wondering do you have plans to write a het couple, in the series, or separately?
KR: I’ve written het folks! Close to Home’s primary relationship is a straight couple who fall for their non-committed lady friend. One of the main romantic relationships in the Scientific Method Universe is between Will and Molly, though neither of them would identify as het. And I’ve got a delightful het kinky romantic comedy up to be written in early fall that should be a blast!

ER: And my final question is what advice would you give to aspiring authors?
KR: Er, okay, first let me…pick apart your totally straightforward question, like a jerk.

First: I never give advice. And I always preface my non-advice by saying “I never give advice.”

Are we talking about writing or publishing? If you’re a writer, write. And then poof: you’re a writer. I wrote novels for nineteen years before I published a single word. A lot of novels. I was never an “aspiring” writer, because I always, always wrote. And don’t forget about revising. I know some folks are anti-revising. I was too young to know that when I first started, so I’ve always loved it. Revise, revise, revise until that book does what you meant for it to do.

But. If we’re talking about being an author, as in a writer who publishes and makes money at the game of writing, that’s a whole other show. You want to be smart? Read business books. Learn about the market. Learn everything about the market. If you want to self publish, learn about being an entrepreneur, get your paperwork in order, do your profit and loss statements. If you want to publish traditionally, find out which publishers have good reputations, which ones don’t pay their writers and artists. Want an agent? Ask around, find out who understands the kinds of characters you write. Big into short stories? Find out who’s always putting out submission calls and submit to them.

Find other writers who share your goals. This has been life altering for me. I think it comes easily to a lot of people, but I never had fiction writer friends until the last two years, and damn, I don’t know how I lived without people I could randomly message in the middle of the day to whine about editing or happy dance about having hit my word count goal and kicked ass doing it. Find people who inspire the hell out of you. Preferably, whose writing bowls you over and pushes you to greater heights in your own.

And, along with all that, be real with yourself about your values. If you want to make a living doing this job, you might have to write books that skew closer to what the market wants than you would otherwise write. That’s not “selling out.” That’s “paying the bills.” There’s nearly always a way to make “what the market wants” satisfying to your writer-brain. Use your imagination! It’s, y’know, kind of your job. And sometimes limitations are the things that free you to seek out the dark corners where you can wring the truth out of yourself and into your work.

ER: Thank you very much, Kris for doing this interview!


*** *** ***

Kris Ripper's latest release, Gays of Our Lives (book 1 in zir new series, Queers of La Vista) comes out on July 11. Here is the blurb, a short excerpt and a giveaway!

Blurb


Emerson Robinette only leaves his apartment to get laid and go to work. Having MS—and trying to pretend he doesn’t—makes everything more complicated, especially his fantasies of coming on strong and holding a guy down. Finding a partner who’ll explore that with him isn’t Emerson’s idea of a realistic goal.

Until a chance meeting with a hipster on a bus makes him reconsider. Obie is happy, open-hearted, and warm; what’s more, he gets his kicks being physically dominated, spanked, and teased until he’s begging. It would be perfect, except for one thing: Emerson isn’t made for happiness, and he doesn’t see how a guy like Obie would settle for a cynic like him.

But as far as Obie’s concerned, the only thing keeping them apart is Emerson. Can Emerson handle a boyfriend who’s more invested in his future than he is? Emerson’s barely convinced he has a future. But when Obie’s smiling at him, anything seems possible.


Pre-order links: Amazon (paperback) / Riptide


Excerpt 


On the bus to work Monday morning, I contemplated my uselessness, which is always a good look on me. I’ve never seen it in a mirror, but I’m pretty sure my expression resembles a dog’s after being scolded and it’s staring at you with its head on its paws, but its eyes follow you pathetically wherever you go.

My eyes didn’t have anyone to follow. Until they did.

Damn. Look at him.

He was a little too hipster for my taste: cloud-pale skin, long brown hair, unnecessary layers of clothing, even for March. Tight jeans tucked inside heavy black boots.

The boots looked like the only real thing about him. The rest—red shirt, red flannel over it, black vest over that, battered brown suit coat over that—could have been a cardboard cutout of anyone.

Fuck. I have an eyes thing. He had this strong brow, but the hazel eyes underneath it were bright.

I didn’t really expect to see new people on the bus in the morning. There were always some, but I commute every day. The folks in my neighborhood and the folks on my bus line are pretty familiar, and this guy wasn’t one of them. And I noticed him because he was tall, and his boots looked like he lived in them. I don’t know how sometimes you can tell the difference between “bought worn out” and “worn until worn out” by looking at someone, but I would have bet money that even if his jacket had looked threadbare when he pulled it out of whatever thrift store he favored, those boots had only known his feet.

When I finally wrenched my eyes away from his boots, he was looking right at me. Of course he was.

I flushed hot and turned to the window, tightening my hands on my messenger bag. Then five seconds later I looked back. Because I’m weak.

He smiled. The partial hipster with the motorcycle boots smiled at me. I liked his smile as much as I liked his eyes.

That should have been it. I was in the first row of seats by the window. He was on one of the perpendicular sets. The bus wasn’t that full, and I had no idea where he was getting off.

Three old ladies boarded, each with a purple hat, and my cute booted hipster offered them the long bench he was sitting on. They fussed appropriately, and I mourned the loss of our slightly flirtatious glances across the bus.

Until he slid into the seat next to mine.

“Hey.”

Listen, maybe people pick each other up on city buses all the fucking time, but I can tell you I’ve never done it. I looked into his damn eyes and said . . . okay, nothing. For at least thirty seconds.

He smiled again and held his hand out toward me. “I’m Obie.”

“Obie?”

Yeah, that’s genius. Say the guy’s name like it’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever heard, I’m sure he’ll find you irresistible.

“Short for Obadiah Magovney. Cool, right?”

“Yeah.” I belatedly tried to shake his hand, but instead of shaking, he held mine. “I’m Emerson. Robinette.”

“Until right this minute I was really annoyed my bike broke down. Meeting you might make it worth it.”

“How do you figure that?” I’m an idiot.

He tapped his fingertips against my knuckles. “I don’t know. I just . . . like the look of you. Emerson’s a great name. Like the writer, right?”

“Like my great-grandfather, actually, but also the writer.”

“I think my parents read my name in a book, or maybe heard it in a song.”

My stop was fast approaching. I’d have to get around him. Should be fine. No problems with my leg since Friday.

Still, I felt for my cane.

“You getting off soon?”

I shrugged. “At Horizon and Second.”

“Enough time for me to get your phone number. Unless I’m, uh, barking up the wrong tree?” He arched one dark eyebrow at me. Up close I confirmed my theory about the jacket: it was worn the way something gets when you wear it every day, at the cuffs and elbows, but not quite at the right spots for his body. This had been previously owned by a man with shorter arms, I decided, as if it mattered.

“Um, no,” I said. Wait, what was I saying? “I mean, not the wrong tree, not no about the phone number thing. Yes about the phone number thing.”

He pulled out a phone and looked at me expectantly.

Right. I reeled off my numbers, and he entered them, then went through the “text you my number” ritual.

Then I had his number. Obadiah. Obie. I secretly liked his name.

My stop. “I need to get off here.”

“Oh, sure.”

He moved out of the way while the bus was still rolling, but I wasn’t about to risk my balance until it stopped, even though he was giving me a strange look because I didn’t immediately get up.

When I shifted out into the aisle in front of him, I gripped the bar hard so there was no chance I’d fall in front of the handsome hipster.

He squeezed my biceps. “Good to meet you, Em. Can I call you ‘Em’?”

I should have said Sure, but what I actually said was, “I kind of hate that.”

He grinned. “I’ll never do it again, promise.”

Damn. I got myself down the stairs and tried not to swoon against the bus shelter. We’d been sitting on the far side of the bus where there was no way for him to see me, so I shook out my cane for the walk to work. I don’t have big walking problems, but a little extra support for the quarter mile was a good idea after the weekend.

I looked back at the bus—of course I looked back at the bus—ready to mentally move on from Obie, since the likelihood of him ever calling was low, and the only thing lower was the likelihood of me calling him.

And there he was. His face. Up against the back window. Watching me limp with my fucking cane. It wasn’t exactly an “O” of comic horror, but he definitely looked shocked.

I turned and hobbled my ass away, probably trying too hard to look halfway dignified while I did.


Giveaway


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4 Jul 2016

Review: Gays of Our Lives by Kris Ripper

Title: Gays of Our Lives (Queers of La Vista)
Author: Kris Ripper
Publication Date: 11 July 2016
Genres: Queer Romance, Disability

Author's links: WebsiteTwitterFacebook / FB Group • Goodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4 Stars




Blurb

Emerson Robinette only leaves his apartment to get laid and go to work. Having MS—and trying to pretend he doesn’t—makes everything more complicated, especially his fantasies of coming on strong and holding a guy down. Finding a partner who’ll explore that with him isn’t Emerson’s idea of a realistic goal.

Until a chance meeting with a hipster on a bus makes him reconsider. Obie is happy, open-hearted, and warm; what’s more, he gets his kicks being physically dominated, spanked, and teased until he’s begging. It would be perfect, except for one thing: Emerson isn’t made for happiness, and he doesn’t see how a guy like Obie would settle for a cynic like him.

But as far as Obie’s concerned, the only thing keeping them apart is Emerson. Can Emerson handle a boyfriend who’s more invested in his future than he is? Emerson’s barely convinced he has a future. But when Obie’s smiling at him, anything seems possible.


Review


This is my first book by Kris Ripper and I absolutely loved it. I saw this series a while back advertised as coming soon on the Riptide site and was immediately intrigued by the concept of a community of queer people finding love and happiness. I'm always on the look out for stories with queer characters where their queerness (and coming to terms with it) is not the main focus of the story. I want to see how they cope of everyday live, with ordinary (personal, professional) issues everybody faces in their lives.

I have to say right away that this story met and far exceeded all my expectations. It worked really well for me and I had great time reading it.

I generally prefer a more flowery writing style, a bit on the side of purple prose but this book is the exact opposite and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. It was fitting to the characters and felt so normal and right.

The story is told from Emerson's POV (a lonely gay man with MS) and his voice was totally captivating and so refreshingly normal, real. It's very easy to misrepresent disability and any illness in fiction, especially in romance. There is always a danger of it becoming just a prop, a plot element or on the other hand, the author risks coming off as condescending. I really, really liked how Emerson's health issues were portrayed in this book. In my opinion this is one of the strongest elements of the story. We have this very snarky, sarcastic and often bitter character who is able to be honest and realistic about his disease. We are together with him in the process of coming to terms with his physical limitations, there are good days and bad days, mistakes and desperation but also hope and acceptance.

It was partly with the help and support of Obie that things got better for Emerson. But it was also a lot of Emerson himself and him ultimately finding friends, a community that can be good and useful for him but also people who need him, whom he can offer something too.

There are some BDSM elements in the story and though I'm not generally of this, I love the way it was incorporated in the romance. It was an exploration of desire and ability and pleasure for both Obie and Emerson and it was presented in a very realistic way - with the awkwardness of trying new things for the first time, with the unavoidable mistakes and things not working out exactly as you expect them but ultimately, as something intimate, just between two people. They way they make love or how their whole relationship works is is for them to decide, it doesn't have to meet anyone else's standards/visions but their own.

In short, I really enjoyed everything about this story - the writing which is very succinct and natural and works so well for these characters, the characters themselves -  Emerson being a total jerk a lot of the time, yet I couldn't help but fall in love with him and Obie - the best hipster there can be, and Zane and Midred, supporting characters who shine on their own. I can strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, positive queer romance, well-told!

Pre-order links: Amazon (paperback) / Riptide

PS: I'm having Kris Ripper as my guest this Friday in my Author Interview feature. You should stop by if you are curious to learn of zir series, Queers of La Vista.

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