My list of reading favourites for 2013 features a mix of titles, both literary and genre fiction, including action/adventure, contemporary, fantasy, urban fantasy, mystery, young adult and (erotic) romance. Most of the books listed were released in 2012-2013, but there are a few that had been on my reading list for years and that I was finally able to get to in 2013. The past year’s best include stories from previously read favourite authors, as well as from author’s that are new to me, and I look forward to reading more of their works in the future.
Cold by Brandon Shire is a contemporary gay romance that is set in prison and the first book in the continuing story of Lem Porter and Anderson Passero, who meet as inmates and get together for a short, but intense, period of four months. It is a well-written story of two very different men that are thrown together as a result of their incarceration, but otherwise would likely have never crossed paths. The strengths of this story are in Mr. Shire’s characterisation and in his portrayal of Lem and Anderson’s short-lived relationship and the eventuality of their separation.
‘Nathan Burgoine grew up a reader and studied literature in university while making a living as a bookseller – a job he still does, and still loves. A cat lover, ‘Nathan managed to fall in love and marry Daniel, who is a confirmed dog person. Their ongoing “cat or dog?” détente continues and according to ‘Nathan will likely end with the acquisition of a dog. They live in Ottawa, Canada, where socialized health care and gay marriage have yet to cause the sky to cave in.
My introduction to ‘Nathan’s writing came by way of his first published short story “Heart” a beautiful and poignant tale of love and loss, which appeared in the critically acclaimed 2009 Cleis Press anthology Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. My introduction to ‘Nathan came about while I was on the hunt for a second print copy of Fool For Love (my first one had fallen apart from re-reading). Coincidentally, the only bookstore in Ottawa that wasn’t sold out of copies was ‘Nathan’s, and a great thing happened when I got to the bookstore – I met one of the authors of one of my favourite anthologies.
Since the publication of “Heart,” ‘Nathan’s had over two-dozen stories appear in anthologies by some of the best publishers of LGBTQ fiction, including in: Men of the Mean Streets: Gay Noir and Boys of Summer (Bold Strokes Books); Tented, a Lambda Literary Award finalist and The Touch of The Sea (Lethe Press); and Afternoon Pleasures: Erotica for Gay Couples (Cleis Press).
‘Nathan’s story “Sky Blue” appears in Saints and Sinners 2013: New Fiction From the Festival (Bold Strokes Books) as a runner up in Festival’s short story contest for that year, and his story “Hometown Boy” appears as a 2011 finalist in Saints and Sinners 2011: New Fiction From the Festival (Queer Mojo). In July 2013, his story “Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones” was published in This Is How You Die: Machine of Death 2 (Grand Central Publishing). His non-fiction pieces have appeared in I Like It Like That: True Stories of Gay Male Desire (Arsenal Pulp Press) and 5×5 Literary Magazine.
Not only a writer of short stories, ‘Nathan’s also an avid reader of short fiction and combines insightful reviews of the stories he’s read with equally thoughtful observations about, among others, his experiences as a bookseller through his Short Story 365 Series.
His first novel Light was released by Bold Strokes Books earlier this week, and to mark the occasion I invited ‘Nathan to participate in an author Q & A here at Indie Reviews.
“Loving someone gives you courage; being loved back gives you strength.”
Afflicted is Brandon Shire’s first published foray into the realm of gay erotic romance. The story traces the development of the relationship between Hunter Stephens, a blind audio books publisher, and Dillon Chambers, a high priced male escort, from their chance meeting and one-night stand, to their burgeoning love. What ensues is a well-written, highly erotic and sensual romance story as their need for something more than a sexual relationship grows, but their respective insecurities serve as an obstacle in fulfilling their desire for love.
My retrospective of the Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB) series continues with a review of the second book, Lover Eternal, which features the story of the Brother Rhage and his human love interest Mary Luce. I began reading this series out of sequence starting with this book and recall being intrigued enough with J.R. Ward’s take on vampire lore, the close relationship and camaraderie between the Brothers and the fusion of paranormal romance with darker urban fantasy elements to back track and read Dark Lover (Book 1) and the rest, as they say, is history. In Lover Eternal, Ms. Ward begins to hit her stride with this series.
There are probably only a handful of devoted readers of mainstream paranormal romance that have yet to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. Although I’m not an exclusive reader of romance (whether paranormal or other), I began reading this series in 2006 and while I enjoyed the early books, my interest in the series began to wan and I easily let go of the series in 2008 following the release of Lover Enshrined (Book 6). But, with the recent publication of the tenth book, Lover Reborn, which features the story of Tohrment the last of the original Brothers, I’ve picked up the books once again to catch-up on the newer storylines and characters in anticipation of reading Book 10. As I’ve never reviewed any of the books in this series I thought it would be interesting to post my thoughts on some of the stories in retrospective, starting with the first book Dark Lover.
As the first book in the Black Dagger Bortherhood (BDB) saga, I consider Dark Lover foundational to the series as a whole and the book upon which the author springboards the BDB world and introduces many of the characters that are set for stories in future books. While it’s not the strongest written book in the series, it is a solid beginning.
Sean Dempsy suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a tour of duty in Iraq during which he almost died at the hands of a suicide bomber leaving him with artificial knees, scorched retinas and burn scars. Like many combat veterans with PTSD, Sean is plagued by nightmares and flashbacks of the horrors of war that are often triggered by a car backfiring or a siren blaring. They literally incapacitate him to the point that he cannot leave his apartment or be anywhere near crowds of people without having severe anxiety attacks. Because of his agoraphobia and claustrophobia he relies on medication in order to function, to leave his apartment and do the most basic things such as shop for food, or make his weekly appointments at the medical clinic to refill his prescriptions. Unable to work, he supplements his disability checks and food stamps by writing straight and gay romance novels for an online publisher.
Gabriel Herne is an above the knee double amputee who also suffers from bi-polar disorder. He gets by as a phone psychic and also does in person readings. Gabe is pagan – Celtic solitary – and follows the teachings of Cernunnos, lord of plenty. His religion gives him peace and helps him to cope with the realities of his life. Gabe is quite self-sufficient and on the surface relatively well adjusted with a positive outlook despite his circumstances and limitations. However, being wheelchair bound and out as a gay man, Gabe is vulnerable to the aggressions of neighbourhood bullies and other dangers.
Sean and Gabe receive medical services at the same New York City clinic and this is where they initially meet and quickly form a relationship. Trust is established early in their relationship as they come to rely on one another to help them overcome the physical and emotional challenges they both face. But despite their love and commitment and as with all relationships they have their difficulties.
Painting the Desert is the sequel to The Center of the Earth and Sky in which Sean Michael continues the story of Whit (Bartholomew Whittaker), who lives with his lovers and beloved twins, Grey and Raine Holstein. They’ve been living a charmed and magical life, but their whole world is threatened when Grey is diagnosed with cancer, and everything starts to fall apart. Grey is their rock, and as he’s ravaged by the cancer treatments, Whit and Raine struggle to hold it together. Will Whit find the strength to be what his lovers need him to be? Can he remain in the center of such a storm and survive it intact?
The Center of Earth and Sky explores a year in the life of twins Grey and Raine Holstein and the man who becomes the center of their joined universe. Meeting one night under the dim lights of a neighborhood bar, Bartholomew “Whit” Whittaker becomes drawn into a sensual world where passion overcomes panic, where a simple meal can become an erotic feast and where love is the paramount rule.
Life can throw a man all sorts of curve balls, as David discovers when a senseless act of violence tries to deprive him of his lover of two decades. They’ve had their good and bad times, but it’s the good ones that David remembers and wants to hold on to. In fact, he wants more of them, wants to experience more than just the memories that fill his mind as he waits to discover Russell’s fate.
Between meeting Russell for the first time and the horrific instant that tries to take Russell away, their lives have been a series of moments, ranging from awkward to amazing. David wants to believe that their love will conquer all, because he can’t let go. But does Russell feel it, too? Can Russell hold on as tightly, through the surgery that will either save his life or end it? Does Russell love David enough to stay?