Review: Velvet by Xavier Axelson

Velvet by Xavier AxelsonReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Medieval times are the setting for this novel. It is Axelson’s first full length one, and it isn’t about to disappoint. Young Virago is a royal tailor and works at court, taking over the previous tailor, his father, who was killed in an accident. He knows he has to keep up the family trade as a lot of folk are relying on him for court fashions. He has a deep longing for Prince Duir even though he played with him as a child, he loves him, but as it is a forbidden love, he has to keep it a secret. When Virago gets a new cloth sent to him from outside of the kingdom, he is amazed at its beauty and feel. He finds it is called velvet, and it takes his breath away, just as Seton, the court lute player fuels his deep passion for another man to be alone with.

Review: As Virago is around court, his new position allows him to converse with royalty just as his father had, and in one way it is good as he gets to be around Prince Duir, his one true love, but he doesn’t see him as he should – Duir isn’t the sort of prince to be trusted as once his father gives him the position of king, he becomes cruel and unworthy of the title. The velvet Virago gets sent to him seems to have a life of its own. It is an entity that invites the fulfillment of urges, both good and bad, and even those never before known.

There is a sense of foreboding, and duality about this story as Virago lives and works around great privilege, but also gets to see the horror of what his true love, the now King Duir is capable of – murder and slaughter are seen as nothing to him, yet Virago still has a rose-tinted view of him. The king soon has an interest in Seton even though Virago has also fallen for him, so that could inspire a menage situation. There are so many opposites in this story, it is what makes it wonderful to read. Virago is prepared to take the rough with the smooth when dealing with the king, while he likes the smooth love he has found from being with Seton. Love is at the root of all this, and it is a true, honest love, but it is questionable whether it is a lingering one.

It is interesting that Xavier chose the name Virago as it is taken from the Latin words Vir for virile man, and ago to apply to a woman, which means a woman who displays male qualities. Virago in this is a virile man once he is exposed to the velvet, but also with the help of Seton, he can come to realize not everyone is as nice as he imagines.

Naughty Bits: They are nice and steamy! As I mainly read LGBT novels written by women, I found this an interesting diversion from the norm. The idea of opposites attracting, and also showing two sides of a series of people made it easy to identify to the characters. The writer is able to take the reader to his chosen world and let them enjoy it while shocking them too.

What’s the verdict? There are things that aren’t explained much, like Virago’s past, but that doesn’t make you like the story any less. This is a sensual and erotic page turner for those rainy days off.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy: Velvet

Review: The Marrying Kind by Ken O’Neill

marrying kindReviewed by Carla F.

Summary: Wedding Planner Adam More has had enough! He is sick and tired of planning weddings for other people when he cannot get married to his partner Steven Worth. He spray paints “No Weddings” in red on his office door. He also convinces Steven to write a series of columns in his job at The Gay New York Times to encourage other gays in the wedding industry to cease and desist.

Steven is thrilled that Adam is taking up this cause. After all, he and Adam just received a wedding invitation from one of Adam’s cousins addressed to “Adam More and guest.” He and Adam have been together for six years! He sarcastically suggests that they should not attend anymore weddings. Adam enthusiastically embraces the idea.

Then Adam and Steven find out that Adam’s sister has at last accepted Steven’s brother proposal. Of course, they want Adam to plan the wedding and for both of them to be in it.

Review: This book is more of a romantic-comedy rather than what I would define as a romance because the emphasis is not so much on the couple (for example, the sex is left at the bedroom door) but rather their interactions with family and friends once Adam decides to fight for same sex marriage. That said the book is hilarious.

It is told from Steven’s point of view, and his observations about himself and those in the world around him are one of the things that makes is so funny. For instance, Steven’s boss, Brad, meets a much younger man at one of the weddings and decides he wants to try to act younger which results in this conversation with Steven:

Brad beamed. “I really want the two of you to hang.”

Prior to this conversation, the Brad I know would never have made that statement unless he was actually hoping that Charlie and I would be executed.

“Charlie’s great. Tonight I’m meeting his peeps.”

Prior to this conversation, the Brad I know would never have made that statement unless he was actually being introduced to a box of Easter candy.

One other thing that is funny is the wonderful cast of family and friends of both Steven and Adam in particular Steven’s mother. She loves the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon and when Steven was a child she made him watch twelve hours of it every year. She would then sing along with all the songs. She is of Macedonian-Romanian American and believes in the old ways including to spit on someone when they have gotten the “evil eye.”

You will love this couple and their family. Marriage equality and the sense of family and responsibility are serious issues, but O’Neil tackles them in a way to make a very enjoyable read.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy: The Marrying Kind

Top Ten LGBT Romance Novels That Have Set My World on Fire

nowhere ranchGuest blog by Sandra Scholes

Years ago LGBT themed novels were few and far between and were only available where gay men and women could buy them, among the various movies, toys and magazines, and as a result, were not as mainstream as some would like. This had happened for a long time, and for those who were in the minority, there weren’t many novels around that would cater to their needs.

Nowadays you can find novels in any theme at all, and any genre, from gay vampires to werewolves, cat men, lion men, demons and mummies on the rampage, LGBT has it all these days and it is all the better for it.

  1. GhosTV (Psy Cop #6) by Jordan Castillo Price
  2. The Locker Room by Amy Lane
  3. Hot Head by Damon Suede
  4. Between Sinners And Saints by Marie Sexton
  5. Bear, Otter, and the Kid by T.J. Klune
  6. Muscling Through by J. L. Merrow
  7. Divide & Conquer (Cut & Run Series) by Abigail Roux
  8. Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon
  9. Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan
  10. He Completes Me (Home Series) by Cardeno C

If you have read some really steamy LGBT novels then I would love to hear from you. Why not post your favorites for all to see?

15 GLBT Romances That Rocked My World

Guest Post by Carla F.

GLBT romances are becoming more and more popular. I love reading them! They fall into as many categories as the m/f romances (Contemporary, Regency, Paranormal, etc.) so there is something for everyone. Below is the list (in alphabetical order) of my favorites.

  1. Bad Boyfriend – K. A. Mitchell – After Quinn Maloney is dumped by his closeted boyfriend of ten years, he decides to approach a twink in a club and ask him to accompany him to the christening of his ex-boyfriend’s baby. Eli Wright turns out to be much more than just a date. Mitchell is a solid writer whose books always contain such great characters.
  2. Dance with Me – Heidi Cullinan - Ex semi-pro football player Ed Maurer and dance instructor Laurie Parker have conflict over the separate classes they are teaching at the community center. In a bargain, Ed agrees to be the assistant in Laurie’s ballroom dancing class. Ed’s neck injury and Laurie’s pressure from friends and family to perform on stage once again cause problems in their relationship.
  3. Death of a Pirate King – Josh Lanyon – I couldn’t make a list of GLBT romances without including Josh Lanyon. Death of a Pirate King is the fourth book of his Adrien English series. Adrien and his closeted-ex Jake have been broken up for two years, but are thrown back together when Adrien sits next to a man at a dinner party who dies while at the table.
  4. Fair Game – Josh Lanyon - In this one Lanyon also writes about estranged lovers and an investigation. Elliot Mills, a former FBI agent but now a professor, is asked by a student’s parents to investigate the disappearance of their son. Elliot’s ex, Lance Tucker, is the FBI agent assigned to the case.
  5. Frat Boy and Toppy – Anne Tenino - He always thought that he was straight, but Brad is slowly realizing that he is indeed gay and is extremely attracted to Sebastian, the teaching assistant for his history class.  This one had me laughing out loud because of Brad’s thoughts as he processes his real sexual orientation, his coming out to his family and friends, and his clumsy attempts to get Sebastian’s attention.
  6. Handle with Care – Josephine Myles – This one has a one has a diabetic hero who is on home dialysis and is waiting for a kidney and pancreas transplant. He finds himself attracted to the purple-haired skateboarder who delivers his regular orders of DVD porn.
  7. Moving in Rhythm – Dev Bentham - Mark Apostolos is cripplingly shy and cannot find the words when he is speaking to strangers. In fact, he tends to avoid people whenever possible. (He even teaches online courses.) When he accompanies his pregnant sister-in-law to dance class, the handsome instructor, Seth Miller, makes Mark want to overcome his shyness.
  8. Muscling Through – J. L. Merrow – This is a funny and sweet book about a man, Al Fletcher, with a low IQ who falls in love with a Cambridge art professor, Lawrence Morton. I like that the story is told through the eyes of Al.
  9. Pricks and Pragmatism – J. L. Merrow - Luke Corbin is an English student who like many students doesn’t have a lot of money. He trades sexual favors with rich men in order to keep a roof over his head. When Luke’s latest throws him out for another man, Luke’s friend gets him a place to stay at Russell’s house. Russell is not rich and he is a total nerd. He is also saving himself for someone special.
  10. Regularly Scheduled Life  – K. A. Mitchell – I reviewed this one here.
  11. Retreat From Love – Samantha Kane - This one, a part of the Brothers in Arms series, is a ménage a trois story of Frederick Thorne, Duke of Ashland, and his love for wounded soldier Brett Haversham. Freddy finds out that Brett is in love with Anne Goode who was Freddy’s first love. Since Brett resists Freddy’s attempts at seduction, Freddy decides to push Brett and Anne together.
  12. Scrap Metal – Harper Fox – Since the death of his brother and mother, Nichol has come home to help his grandfather on the sheep farm. They are close to losing it because of debts. One night Nichol catches a man, Cam, breaking into his barn. Everything starts to change. The amazing thing about this story is that the cold, wet, sheep farm and surrounding area become a third person in the story.
  13. Stolen Summer – S. A. Meade – Evan Harrison and Colin Williams’s relationship turns from best friends to lovers right before Evan goes off to Pakistan on a journalism assignment. There he is taken hostage. Once he is freed he has trouble dealing with what he went through, and it threatens his and Colin’s relationship.
  14. Strawberries for Dessert – Marie Sexton – This was the first GLBT romance that I read. Accountant Jonathan agrees to a blind date with globe-trotting twink Cole Fenton. After a disastrous first date, they try again and eventually decide to enter into a casual relationship and get together whenever Cole is in town.
  15. The Only Gold – Tamara Allen - In late 19th century New York Jonah Woolner is angry and disappointed to be passed over for promotion by newcomer Reid Hylliard. Jonah is sure that Reid’s methods will cause problems for the bank, and Reid’s attempts to be friends with Jonah don’t work.

Do you have a favorite GLBT book?

Photo Credits: Nephelim (www.nerobizzarro.com)

Reader Highlight with Sandra Scholes

Keira: What are your favourite romance subgenres and why?

Sandra: I have been reading romance novels for a while now, and I have to say I like immersing myself in period romance; the Regency and Victorian periods are very attractive to me, and being the horror fanatic that I am, supernatural romance novels have a tendency to grasp me in a way that some don’t. GLBT romances have that extra something I like and they are interesting, and show a different way of how people of the same sex find love and try to keep it. I think it is mainly due to GLBT fiction being different from standard romance that is the reason I enjoy reading it so much.

Keira: Sum up your top 5 favourite short stories in one sentence each and /or retitle your top 5 favourite books.

Sandra:

1. Unsent by Greg Herren from The Mammoth Book of New Gay Erotica
2. The Unmasking of Lady Loveless by Nicola Cornick from Wicked Regency Nights
3. Whitby by Jeff Mann for Men at Noon, Monsters at Midnight
4. Fangs for Hire by Jenna Black for The Mammoth Book of Vampire Romance
5. Troll Bridge by Neil Gaiman from Smoke and Mirrors

Keira: In romances is it the hero or heroine who makes or breaks the novel? Why?

Sandra: It depends on how the novel is structured, and whether the hero is a bit of a rake. In quite a few of the novels I’ve had the pleasure to read, it is the heroine who has the power to make the novel readable, and the character has to be the type of woman who is fair, strong and knows her own mind, especially in historical romance novels.

Keira: Time to put you on the spot *g*…how do you define love?

Sandra: Unconditional, and sometimes deep, love can strike at any time and it can be at first sight – for me love is special. Love is when the one you are with finishes your sentences and vice versa during those cuddly, intimate moments.

Keira: What are the most memorable sex scenes (good or bad) that you’ve come across?

Sandra: In The Master of Seacliff by Max Pierce, the sex scene between Andrew and Duncan was kept right until the end of the novel, and was worth waiting for as it was subtle, plus there was enough tense build up between the characters for the pay off to be that much sweeter. Usually men writing gay erotica can be a bit coarse with their sex scenes, but I found this author’s sensitive approach to the bedroom sequence different and refreshing; it felt right, and would be the sort of scenario the couple would have engaged in, so they were actively in character.

Keira: All’s fair in love and war. If it came down to a fight who would win: a Regency rake or a Regency heroine?

Sandra: I would say it would more than likely be the heroine – think about what she can do with the heels on those shoes! Despite her delicate attitude and her pristine looks, she has quite the punch when she needs to. Plus I think the rake would let her win just so he could
seduce her later.

Keira: What storylines do you love the most? The ones where if you saw any hint of them on the back blurb would make the book an auto-buy?

Sandra: Something original, instantly memorable; for me the back blurb of a novel is crucial and my favourite storylines are comical situations between characters who seem the most unlikely to get on so there is plenty of conflict between the two before they get to the hugging and kissing.

Keira: And the opposite…what are some things you can’t stand reading about in romance?

Sandra: Some contemporary romance settings don’t appeal to me where the characters are too predictable, and lack substance and originality. I suppose it is easier to come up with a story like that, but in my mind more taxing to come up with one that has required a lot of research, time and effort. I rarely come across books that don’t have effort put in them thankfully, but they do exist.

Keira: What was the first romance you ever read? Do you own it? Is it the book that got you hooked on romance?

Sandra: Erotic Fairy Tales: A Romp through the Classics by Mitzi Szereto. I do own the book, and bought it from Borders many years ago. It happened to be the book that got me into erotic romance, which is what ultimately got me into contemporary, supernatural and other romance subgenres. There is something for everyone between those pages, and its lots of fun to read.

Keira: Is there anything else you’d like to discuss? Floor’s Open!

Sandra: When I first got into reading romances I made a mental note of the various authors along the way, and on browsing websites and blogs I noticed they had started out writing for romance publishers, and then moved into penning more daring erotica novels. I found this quite surprising, but I suppose everyone needs a change now and again, and what else could be as fulfilling!