Category Archives: recommendations

Recommendations: Samhain Titles

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It was hard to decide how to approach writing about Friday’s announcement that Samhain Publishing will be closing down. The news sent shockwaves through the romance genre, and a lot of great authors, editors, and artists are being affected.

Taking a cue from several friends, I decided to list a few of my favorite Samhain authors/books/series and urge you to check them out. I don’t know how long they’ll be available, but I do know that Samhain is having a 40% off sitewide sale today, so it’s the perfect time to stock up.

(If you don’t see a book listed here, it’s likely I haven’t read it yet and/or will be picking it up myself today!)

Amy Jo Cousins: Amy’s Bend or Break series is one of my favorite series ever, and I’ve recommended it before, but I’m doing it again here. Titles: Off Campus, Nothing Like Paris, The Girl Next Door, Level Hands, Real World, Love Me Like a Rock, and Hard Candy. (The last two will be released March 22 as individual novellas and as a duology, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.) I especially urge M/M-only readers to give The Girl Next Door a read. Yes, it’s M/F, but if you fall in love with Cash the way I did in Off Campus, you won’t want to miss his love story (and the smokin’ hot sex, including an M/M/F threesome).

Heidi Cullinan: Heidi’s Special Delivery was one of the very first M/M books I read, and to this day it remains one of my favorites. Her RITA-nominated book Fever Pitch is part of another favorite series, Love Lessons, and her Minnesota Christmas series satisfies all my fondest holiday wishes.

Josephine Myles: If you haven’t read The Hot Floor yet, what the hell are you waiting for?? I also adore her Bristol Collection series.

The Truth As He Knows It and The Cost of Repairs, A.M. Arthur
Scrap Metal, Harper Fox
Out of Focus, L.A. Witt

Currently writing: Rhythm & Blues, M/M novella (~107%)

Recommended: Eugie Foster

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Many of you have probably heard about the controversy surrounding the 2015 Hugo Awards, which were given out (or, notably, not given out in several cases) at Worldcon over the weekend. I’m not going to get into the details, but one of the biggest disappointments around the whole thing is those deserving authors who were denied a nomination as a result. One of those was Eugie Foster.

Eugie was a good friend, my predecessor as director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and is sorely missed by all who knew her. Her final short story, “When it Ends, He Catches Her,” was published the day before she died, was nominated for a Nebula, and should have been on the Hugo ballot as well.

Eugie was a previous Hugo nominee and Nebula winner for her novellette “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast.” A complete list of her many fiction titles is available on her website. You can’t go wrong with any of them.

Recommended: Bend or Break Series

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Another in my occasional series of recommendations for books/series. Disclaimer: Just because I don’t mention a certain book/series/author doesn’t mean anything bad! These will simply be ones that really stand out, usually ones that get regular re-reads.

My first encounter (that I remember) with author Amy Jo Cousins was being jointly recruited to write for a workplace-themed anthology for Dreamspinner Press. About the time All in a Day’s Work was published, I started hearing about this book called Off Campus that she had written for Samhain Publishing. Well, Amy Jo being the awesome person that she is, she slipped me an eARC, and I devoured the hell out of it. And then the sequel, Nothing Like Paris. And though I forced myself to wait until I finished the draft of Nobody’s Son, as soon as I was free, I gobbled up The Girl Next Door. (Oh, CASH. *happy sigh*)

(Yes, yes, The Girl Next Door is M/F, but you’ll already be in love with Cash after reading Off Campus, and Steph is all kinds of fabulous, and the sex, including a M/F/M threesome, is ultra-hot.)

And there are MORE BOOKS coming. OMG. (Level Hands will be next up, in August.)

Let’s just say I’m a total Amy Jo fangirl now. 😀

Even if the books weren’t awesome—which they totally are—just the cover art would be enough to make me take a look at them. I mean, really, check out this lineup:

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Kanaxa’s work is amazing.

So: Read this series. I have helpfully provided linkage to the first three books below. 😉

Off Campus

Nothing Like Paris

The Girl Next Door

 

My Favorites of 2014

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I am terrible at keeping up with this list during the year, so know that I will probably leave out at least a couple that I really loved. These are all books I read for the first time during 2014, even if they were published earlier. I normally do favorite cover art too, but I’ve been sick as a dog for the past five days, so just don’t have the wherewithal right now. 🙂

M/M

Better Than series—Lane Hayes

Dissonance—Shira Anthony

Five Dates—Amy Jo Cousins

A Heart for Robbie—J.P. Barnaby

Junk—Josephine Myles

The Last Thing He Needs—J.H. Knight

The Lonely Drop—Vanessa North

The Mating of Michael—Eli Easton

North Star trilogy—Posy Roberts

Nothing Serious—Jay Northcote

Nothing Ventured—Jay Northcote

Off Campus— Amy Jo Cousins

Rainbow Blues—KC Burn

Sleigh Ride—Heidi Cullinan

Spencer—J.P. Barnaby

Stuff—Josephine Myles

Tough Love—Heidi Cullinan

M/F

The Lumberfox & The Superfox—Ava Lovelace

The Place I Belong—Inez Kelley

For My Birthday, Give Me Sex Worker Books!

There’s been this thing going on over on Twitter that I won’t get into details about, but apparently an author who’s just published a book billed as erotic romance thinks that, among other things, writing about a sex worker is groundbreaking for the genre.

As if.

Anyway, in the process of the discussion, the awesome and adorable Heidi Belleau suggested the idea of reccing books by existing erotic romance authors that have main characters who do (or have done) some form of sex work. And hey, I had a birthday post coming up and thought that would be an EXCELLENT idea.

Here is a list of as many stories as I could pile in over the weekend. I’ve linked as best I could and, whenever possible, used the author’s own description for the specific position (e.g., escort vs. hooker vs. prostitute). I have not specified the type of story or pairing (M/M, M/F, etc.), and I haven’t vetted all these personally, so please read blurbs/reviews/etc. before one-clicking (or don’t come cryin’ to me about it, LOL).

Blue Boy series by Garrett Leigh (porn models)

The Couple Who Fooled the World by Maisey Yates (prostitute)

The First Real Thing (book 1 of The Icon Men set) by Cat Grant (escort)

Golden Collar series by Grace R. Duncan (pleasure slaves)

Hot Head by Damon Suede (porn models)

Johnnies series by Amy Lane (porn models)

Last Chance Charlie by Ryan Loveless (rentboy)

Making It Pay by J.L. Merrow (prostitute)

A Man of Privilege by Sarah M. Anderson (hooker)

The Mating of Michael by Eli Easton (sex surrogate)

The Red Light series by Jayne Rylon (prostitute)

The Reluctant Rentboy by C.R. Guiliano (rentboy)

Soul Bonds by Lynn Lorenz (sex slave)

The Submission Gift by Solace Ames (rentboy)

Unfortunate Son by Shae Connor (porn model)

Working Boys series by J.P. Barnaby (escort/go-go dancer/porn model)

And now here’s your chance, folks: fill up the comments with links to all your favorite erotic romance books that feature sex workers as main characters. Escorts, rentboys, porn stars, pleasure slaves, sex surrogates—whatever stories you love, in any subgenre. Blatant self-promotion absolutely welcome!

Help Me Fill My Mom’s Kindle!

My mom looooooooves her Kindle. Sure, she plays games on it nearly as often as she reads on it, but she reads on it a LOT, and she loves it that she doesn’t need to lug a bag of books on trips anymore. (So does Dad, since he’s the one who had to play pack mule most of the time!)

Unfortunately, since her Kindle was an early model, it’s starting to fall apart. It’s the push-button kind, not the touch-screen kind, and the buttons don’t work all that well anymore. She definitely needs a new one, and so when Amazon had Kindles on sale for Black Friday weekend, I grabbed her a new one. Yay!

Now I need help filling it. Yes, she’ll re-download her files to the new device as soon as she gets it set up, but she should have some new reads, right?

The challenge is finding things she’ll enjoy without breaking the bank. I have some money to play with, but the lower the price, the more I can buy.

Here’s what she likes. First and foremost: no graphic sex or violence. Sex scenes are okay if they’re not detailed, but she prefers a closed door (or no sex at all). Violence should be mild or off-page and never gory or descriptive.

For genre, she likes sweet or inspirational romance and cozy mysteries. She likes Christian romance that isn’t overly saccharine, and she loves stories with humor in them, even if they aren’t precisely “comedies.” She likes stories with older heroes/heroines and generally prefers contemporary settings rather than historicals (though modern/recent historicals set within the past 100 years or so would be great). She likes small towns, beach settings, Southern locations, and plays on words. Of course, a book that combines any of those things would be especially great.

For romance specifically, Harlequin Heartwarming and any inspirational line would be a couple of good examples.

A few of her favorite authors/stories:

The Thursday Next series

The Southern Sisters mysteries

Tracy Brogan’s Crazy Little Thing

(One caveat: Mom spent most of her career as a writer and editor and doesn’t have much patience for subpar editing. Even less than I do, and that’s saying a lot! So if you love a story despite the errors, it’s probably not a good choice for her.)

So help me out here! Tell me about any great reads that fit her needs and don’t cost the world. I’ll grab up as many as I can afford. And as always, feel free to pimp out yourself.

Recommended: Special Delivery and Strawberries for Dessert

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Another in my occasional series of recommendations for books/series. Disclaimer: Just because I don’t mention a certain book/series/author doesn’t mean anything bad! These will simply be ones that really stand out, usually ones that get regular re-reads.

I started reading in the gay romance genre about four and a half years ago, after I became aware that it even existed through fanfic friends. I waded in slowly, picking my reads with care, but it wasn’t long before I found the first one that stuck with me. That book was Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan. (This was the first edition, of course.)

SpecialDelivery300Special Delivery had so many elements that stood out. The older man/younger man pairing. The road trip. The dirty, dirty sex. Vegas. And, of course, Randy Jansen. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read that book, and it hits me in the gut every time. I fell in love with Sam, and Mitch, and yeah, Randy too, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. They say you never forget your first? Well, Special Delivery wasn’t the first book I read in the genre, but it was the first one I never forgot.

(The sequels are great, too. Double Blind, Randy’s love story, had a bit too much poker-ese for me, but I loved it anyway. Especially that limo scene. Tough Love almost, but not quite, landed as high on my list as SD. Oh, and don’t miss the freebies, too! Links to all on Heidi’s website.)

StrawberriesforDessertLGA little farther into my time in the genre, I came upon Marie Sexton’s Strawberries for Dessert. I can’t remember what made me pick the book up. I had read the first book in the series, Promises, but I didn’t realize that until after I read SfD. (How I missed that, I don’t know. I suppose it was just that I was cramming so many books into my brain at once that some aspects didn’t stick.)

SfD was probably the first book in the genre that actually made me cry. You may not know what a huge thing that is, but I am not a crier. At all. Even tearing up is rare. And when I am that affected by a scene, it will nearly always be a happy or bittersweet moment, rarely something truly sad. What got me in SfD? The moment at the end of the book when Cole finally lets Jonathan all the way in. I’d fallen in love with Cole right along with Jonathan, and seeing him laid bare just broke me open. Still does whenever I re-read.

(Again, this is part of a great series, the Coda series. I like Promises next-best, I think, though the direct sequel, Fear and Bread Pudding, is pretty close. Marie has a series reading order on her website, and I’d recommend following that, although as I showed with SfD, some of them do work as standalones. Oh! And there’s another Coda story, Shotgun, coming in 2015! Squeee!)

Last weekend at GayRomLit, I discovered that both SD and SfD were available for purchase in paperback from the publishers. I snatched them up and got Heidi and Marie—who are both fabulous women I adore—to sign them for me. It doesn’t matter that I own both in ebook format. I wanted those hard copies on my bookshelf, so that every time I glance over, the memories make me smile.

Image courtesy of Anusorn P. Nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recommended: Blue Notes series by Shira Anthony

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I’ve decided to start occasionally recommending books/series on my blog. It won’t be a particularly regular feature, but I’m going to shoot for about once a month. Disclaimer: Just because I don’t mention a certain book/series/author doesn’t mean anything bad! These will simply be ones that really stand out, usually ones that get regular re-reads.

Let me start by saying that I adore Shira Anthony. If I had half the class in my little finger that she has in her entire body, I’d be delighted. She’s smart, funny, polished, and very talented in multiple ways. I wish I’d known her in her operatic heyday!

It’s that operatic background that Shira has put to work in her Blue Notes series. I have a classical music background of my own—many years of band through college and a summer at Brevard Music Center—so one of my favorite parts of this series is how much the music is enmeshed into the stories. It’s not treated as framework or background color; the music is the story, just as much as the romance.

At the same time, though, I don’t feel that the technical parts of music or the music business are too dense for those who don’t have that background. Obviously I do have a music background, which makes it harder for me to judge, but I certainly don’t have the wide knowledge of the classical music and opera fields that Shira does, and I don’t feel that I’m missing anything. Even when specific pieces are described, it doesn’t matter if I don’t know them: the characters’ reactions and emotions are what counts.

MelodyThief2LGMy favorite book in the series is The Melody Thief. This book tells the story of Cary Redding, a brilliant cellist (did I mention how much I love cello?) and troubled man who falls into the life of gorgeous Italian lawyer Antonio Bianchi and his young son, Massi. Cary must deal with the demons of his past and present if he wants to spend his future with the man and child who quickly worm their way into his heart. I love this story for so many reasons, but I’ll readily admit a large part of it is Massi—or, I should say, the way Antonio and, before long, Cary love the little boy. Little is more touching (and sexy) to me than seeing a man taking care of a child.

The Blue Notes series now totals six novels and one novella, though Shira does have more planned. They are designed to be standalones, so they can be read in any order, though many of the characters cross over being books. If you’d like to read in chronological order (based on when the bulk of the events in each story occur), they are: Encore, Prelude, Blue Notes, Aria, The Melody Thief, Symphony in Blue (novella), and Dissonance. (But personally, I’d recommend reading Blue Notes first, since it was originally published first and introduces several repeat characters.) You can find details and links for all the books on her website.

In short, Shira has created a rich, beautiful world full of talented men, gorgeous music, and heartfelt romance. I highly recommend letting the Blue Notes series sweep you away.

Image courtesy of Anusorn P. Nachol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday Feedbag: I Get No Kick From Champagne…

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Okay, that title isn’t totally true. First of all, I’m talking drinks today, not food. And I do like champagne sometimes. In a mimosa or a bellini, for example. On its own, though? Meh. I’d prefer sparkling grape juice.

My tastes in alcohol are a little… strange, I suppose. (Much like me.) I don’t like beer at all. Something in the hops, I think, that I just have never had a taste for. Things made with beer, though? I’m all about that. Beer bread. Guinness stew. Chili with beer. Brats braised in beer. Same with wine. I’d much rather cook with wine than drink it. (That throws a big monkey wrench into the whole “only cook with a wine you’d drink” advice, but I do know better than to waste money on that crap labeled “cooking wine.” *shudders*)

When it comes to mixed drinks, my go-to choice is vodka cranberry with lime, because it’s something you can nearly always get, and it’s not bad even as a well drink. I’m good with margaritas of nearly any flavor (but not tequila shots), and I like most of the fruity-sweet drinks: daiquiris, Hurricanes, appletinis, things like that. But when I can get it, I like Fireball whisky, which is a very strong, sweet cinnamon flavor, or 3AM vodka, which is sweet and loaded with a lot of the same ingredients as energy drinks. Fireball and Coke, 3AM and Sprite. For shots: Jägermeister. No, really.

This post makes me sound like a lush, doesn’t it? (And a snooty one at that!) In truth, I don’t drink often, and I rarely have more than two drinks. That’s why I can afford to be picky. My alcohol budget for the year is maybe a couple hundred bucks, even counting weekends when my place is full of guests.

When I’m writing, my characters nearly always have drinking habits far different from mine. Most of them drink beer, for starters, and many prefer liquors or mixed drinks that I can’t stand. I’ve written two alcoholic characters (one unpublished), and a character in my current project is a complete teetotaler. But like me, and like most real people, most of my characters are social drinkers, even those who do occasionally overindulge.

Drinking habits are the kind of little character details that I love in a story. One of my all-time favorite books is Marie Sexton’s Strawberries for Dessert, in large part because I fell in love with Cole right along with Jonathan. Cole is a lover of good wine who has a weakness for cheap bottles of Arbor Mist, a fact that seems small but that actually tells you a lot about him. It’s a tidbit of perfection.

So I will leave you with some recommendations. If you haven’t tried Fireball or 3AM, do. And if you haven’t read Strawberries for Dessert, GO. NOW. READ. *taps toe impatiently* WHY AREN’T YOU READING YET??

Trying It Out: Story Recommendations

The other day, I had a hankering (as I said on Twitter, and isn’t that a great word?) for what I termed “gay tryout” stories. What I mean was stories featuring a guy who’s never been with another guy asking a gay friend to, well, break him in, for want of a better phrase. These would probably be considered a subtrope of “gay/out for you,” though I was specifically looking for guys who already know they aren’t straight. A story that turns the trope on its ear is good, too. Naturally, I’d want the guys to end up together. 🙂

I got a lot of interest and several suggestions, some of which I’d read and some of which I hadn’t, so I thought I’d share the list here. You’ll notice a lot are college stories, which isn’t surprising. I’ve added brief descriptions to the ones I’ve read. If you know of more that you think fit, please feel free to share in comments and I’ll add them!

Wanting by Piper Vaughn: College-bound guy asks older brother’s gay best friend to take his virginity.

Campus Visit by Stella Huerto: College guy comes out as bi to his gay best friend and asks if he’ll be his first male lover.

Blame it on the Mistletoe by Eli Easton: Straight college guy teaches his virginal roommate to kiss… and more.

Love Lessons by Heidi Cullinan: Promiscuous college guy “breaks in” his virginal roommate.

Frat Boy & Toppy by Anne Tenino: College TA teaches a closeted student all about gay sex.

His Roommate’s Pleasure by Lana McGregor

The Closer You Get by LA Witt

Broken Boundaries by Evangeline Anderson

Bonds of Desire by Lynda Aicher (M/M/F)