Book Review: Men Under the Mistletoe

I meant to write this around Christmas, but that didn’t happen for various reasons. So here it is in the New Year.

Men Under the Mistletoe is a collection of four stories: My True Love Gave to Me by Ava March, Winter Knights by Harper Fox, Lone Star by Josh Lanyon, and The Christmas Proposition by K.A. Mitchell. None of these writers are new to me. ;)

I don’t normally like regency romances, but My True Love Gave to Me is pretty good. A lot better than I expected. The characters drive the story. Thomas left Sasha when they were both 17 because his desires scared him. The second part of the story is pretty damn emotional. I liked it a lot. The characters are special. They can’t exactly be open about their relationship, but they get a HEA anyway. And the way they do the HEA  isn’t too unrealistic!

Winter Knights is probably the best story in the whole anthology. It’s my favorite anyway. ;) It has a twist on the Arthur and Lancelot legend. The main character gets lost in the snow and they appear. Well, a version of them. ;) I can’t tell if it really happened or if he was just dazed and hallucinated the whole thing. I am inclined to think it really happened. But I like the idea of Christmas ghosts. Anyway, the whole thing is pretty romantic. I loved it.

Josh Lanyon wrote the Adrian English books, a really good romantic suspense series. Lone Star doesn’t disappointment. Even if there is no suspense. There is a ballet dancer and a Texas Ranger and a high school romance. Mitchell goes home after catching his lover with someone else; he hadn’t been back since before his father’s death and decides to settle the estate while he’s there. They do get a HEA or at least it is implied. But in this short story they haven’t decided how to make their romance work when one lives in NY and the other lives in Texas. I think that part deserves a story all its own.

I loved the ending of The Christmas Proposition. It was funny and sexy and not that full of angst. Mel discovers he’s going to host a wedding a week before the event and his life gets a little crazy. There is some family drama – K.A. Mitchell does a good job of explaining family history, past problems and so on. And the ending made me laugh. :D

Book Review: Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon

Blurb from Amazon:

In 1758, in the heart of the Seven Years’ War, Britain fights by the side of Prussia in the Rhineland. For Lord John and his titled brother Hal, the battlefield will be a welcome respite from the torturous mystery that burns poisonously in their family’s history. Seventeen years earlier, Lord John’s late father, the Duke of Pardloe, was found dead, a pistol in his hand and accusations of his role as a Jacobite agent staining forever a family’s honor.

Now unlaid ghosts from the past are stirring. Lord John’s brother has mysteriously received a page of their late father’s missing diary. Someone is taunting the Grey family with secrets from the grave, but Hal, with secrets of his own, refuses to pursue the matter and orders his brother to do likewise. Frustrated, John turns to a man who has been both his prisoner and his confessor: the Scottish Jacobite James Fraser.

Fraser can tell many secrets—and withhold many others. But war, a forbidden affair, and Fraser’s own secrets will complicate Lord John’s quest. Until James Fraser yields the missing piece of an astounding puzzle—and Lord John, caught between his courage and his conscience, must decide whether his family’s honor is worth his life.

Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade is not my typical reading material. I usually read fantasy and this is historical fiction. I picked this up on a whim and finished it in short order. Than I went out and got the others in the series (there are 2 more, a novel that was published before and a book of novellas) and finished the last novella yesterday. So it went very fast.

There are a few elements to Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blood – a new romance, a mystery, old lusts and a war in the background. Though at points the war reaches out and grabs you by the throat. Lord John is a Major in his brother’s regiment and a lord in his own right, being the younger son of a Duke. He is also gay, a major no-no in England(or anywhere else for that matter) at that time.

John’s new lover, Percy, is his stepfather’s stepson. The slightly incestuous nature of this relationship bothers John a little, but he tells himself Percy is not really his brother, not by blood.

I would think it they are not family at all – can you really consider the stepson of your mother’s new husband to be blood?

In any case, they begin a hot, discreet affair. During the course of their love affair, John finds out many things, not the least of which is that Percy used to be a whore. Percy tells John himself, after he was caught in the act with another man.

I was shocked, because I wouldn’t have guessed that. Later, Percy also gives John clues to give find out what had happened to his father.

John frees Percy at the end. That wasn’t described as well as I’d hoped, but it was still very good. The part I remember the most is when Percy confesses to what he was, to what he knows. That was memorable.

Grade: B+

Teaser Tuesday: The Tempering of Men, part 2

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Still reading The Tempering of Men! I am pretty slow this week.


My Teasers:

Drapes of white and colored stone swathed the walls, ruched and gathered like the fabric of a queen’s gown. Pillows and clouds and billows of white and gold and orange stone heaped like batts of wool everywhere Brokkolfr’s eyes traveled, and from the ceiling overhead depended a forest of white stone reeds as a young woman’s white hands.

- The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear

Teaser Tuesday: The Tempering of Men

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

Cubs? Amma asked hopefully and Brokkolfr smiled. Amma loved cubs of all species: trellwolf, human, the cats who hunted mice in Franangford’s new storerooms, the geese on the nearby lake. It left Brokkolfr wondering what she would do if she were a wild wolf and there was nothing to eat but baby geese.

- The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette & Elizabeth Bear

Teaser Tuesday: Witch Eyes

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

* Grab your current read
* Open to a random page
* Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
* BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
* Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teasers:

This is some sort of joke. A test. My father was in the room with me. “What are you doing here?” I whispered, as if someone was listening.

- Witch Eyes by Scott Tracey

First Campaigner Challenge: The door swung open

The First Campaign Challenge is:

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: “the door swung shut.” (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!

My attempt at this is exactly 200 words, sans title.

Title: Black Rainbows

The door swung open and he stormed into our bedroom. A black t-shirt dangled from his hand. His bare body glistened from his shower.

“I don’t do black,” he announced.

I lifted my gaze from his junk. “Your mother had it especially made.”

The words “Edward and Sam: 1st Anniversary” were printed on it in large rainbow-colored letters. My name marched up one side; Edward’s marched down the other. I liked it.

“She knows I detest black! She was counting on you to make me wear it.” He glowered at me, as if I’d betrayed him.

She knew; she gave me a white shirt just in case. “There is nothing wrong with black.”

“It’s hideous.”

His dislike of black clothes made no sense. “She’s making a statement. The rest of the family will be dressed in rainbow colors. Let her make it.”

“I don’t want to make any statement!”

“It’ll make your mother happy,” I reminded him.

He grumbled under his breath.

I put my hands on my thighs; his eyes followed my fingers down and lingered a moment too long.

“I’ll make it worth your while to wear the shirt.”

His eyes took on that gleam I loved.

If you want to like me on Rachael Harrie’s linkedly list, I am number 55.

Review: Bad Company by KA Mitchell

Book Summery from Amazon:

Some things are sweeter than revenge.

“I need a boyfriend.”

Hearing those words from the mouth of his very straight ex-friend is enough to make columnist and editor Nate Gray choke on his Corona. It’s been thirteen years since Kellan Brooks’s father crushed Nate’s family on his climb to wealth and power. Even longer since he entrusted Kellan with the confession that he might be gay—only to have his best friend out and humiliate him to their entire high school. The last thing Nate expects is Kellan begging for his help.

Breaking off his engagement to a senator’s daughter was the last straw for Kellan’s CEO father. Frustrated at being cut off, his father’s stinging words—that he wishes Kellan had never been born—still ringing in his ears, Kellan turns to Nate. In a move worthy of a corporate raider, Kellan plans the ultimate revenge. Come out as the boyfriend of the man his homophobic father betrayed.

Convincing Nate to play along isn’t easy. It’s even harder to figure out why the lie feels so close to the truth.

Warning: Contains old friends, old enemies, a dramatic cat rescue, soft drink references and a lot of teasing before the steamy sex. Readers are cautioned against drinking any beverage while reading to avoid accidental snorting or spraying of said beverages.

Bad Company was fast, fun read. Not up to her usual standards, but still good.

The plot is a little odd, to say the least. There are bits I still don’t get, especially at the end.

If Kellen was a little less easy-going or if Nate was less hung up on Kellen, it wouldn’t work at all. That is the beauty of the characters. In the beginning, I don’t think Kellen fully thought out what he was going to do. Revenge on his father, yeah, and make him offer money to stop being a public embarrassment. Beyond that? I don’t know. Nate was enticed by the promise of revenge for what the man did to his father.

Somewhere in the middle of all that, they fell in love. And you know what? Despite the sheer oddness of the plot, it’s convincing. I am convinced. (Maybe I am just not critical enough, huh?) Their shared history is a big part of that. I wish KA Mitchell had delved more deeply into their childhood.

I liked the humor best. Bad Company was plain funny and sweet in a lot ways. I mean, the part where Kellen decided to adjust the cake recipe? Funny! I also liked their conversations when they talked like he was sending a letter to Nate’s column.

Still, Bad Company is not up to KA Mitchell’s usual standards. I think that’s because of the slightly out-there plot. I won’t be rereading this. At least not all of it. Maybe bits and pieces.

Grade: B-