Angel Martinez - Writer, Reader, Woman about town

I write both kinds of gay romance - Science Fiction and Fantasy :) But I also read as part of my daily diet. The brain needs a balanced diet, too.

The Art of the Short Story: All My Crimes by Tal Valante

All My Crimes - Tal Valante

I know what the objections will be to this story. No need to read other reviews. There will be complaints about the lack of romance, the lack of sex and the length.

If I read those reviews, I will react badly. So. It's quite simple.

This is how a short story is meant to be written. THIS. Every movement, every detail furthers the action, the characterization, the central themes. Every word is there for a reason. Every scene is necessary.

We're given glimpses and hints of world building, through the action, through the surroundings, but the details are so integral that you know there's a complete world behind this story, not simply a few Scrabble-word, fantasy realm names and such sprinkled around. There's a system of magic. There are rules. You FEEL them.

I often despise first person and loathe present tense even more. They distract me. Pull me out of the story. Here. Oh, makes the story raw and immediate and painful. We discover the back story and the answers as the character does and it's awful and painful and flipping terrible things have happened. There's violence, but not long-drawn out gore fests. There's sex, but off screen because it's not important to go into detail.

It was short. Yes. It was intense. I took maybe an hour and a half to read this and won't be able to forget it. Perhaps ever.

The author's name intrigued me. It's one of my own favorite character's names, after all. But I'll be looking for longer work from this author. Write more, Tal. Write epics. Because I want to see what you do when you give yourself room to roam.

A Retief For A New Generation

Royce Ree Omnibus (The Emperor's New Clothes), Volume 1 - Aldous Mercer

Humor in Science Fiction is not a new thing. Readers seem surprised when they encounter it. Sometimes it's episodic humor in otherwise serious stories, (see most conversations between Miles Vorkosigan and his cousin Ivan) sometimes the story itself is farce/ satire (see Douglas Addams entire body of work) and sometimes we're looking at a Comedy of Ideas (see Keith Laumer's Retief novels.)

While there are farcical moments in Royce Ree's first full adventure, this really does fall into the third category and Royce, very much together and up to his eyeballs in plans within plans and contingency plans if those should fall through, is almost an homage to Retief, though Royce has some surprisingly vulnerable spots that he shows to the readers if not the rest of the universe.

While you can take The Emperor's New Clothes in small bites, (the story is available in separate "episodes") I recommend devouring the whole thing in one wild, multi-course feast. (Hence the Omnibus.)But I suppose I should back up again...

This is (shocked face) not a traditional romance. Nor is the story told in traditional linear fashion as most folks are accustomed to with romance. There is a romance contained within the story - and it is a central driving force behind the story - but there's so much more going on here than boy meets boy.

We're well and fairly tossed in medias res and then jump backward and work our way forward (for the most part) until the final reveals. This is not a structure familiar to most romance readers, but should be familiar to readers of crime fiction, this ending first, here's what happened before, and finally here are the machinations behind the scenes are a structure we've seen there frequently. (See Reservoir Dogs, e.g.)And this is, among other things, a classic tale of the Big Job that had to be Planned Carefully and had Lots of Things Go Wrong Despite All the Planning.

Which works well for a comedy and I found myself snickering and bursting into surprised laughs more than once. Royce sets out, supposedly to steal a planet's impeccable sense of style. He ends up stealing oh so much more than that. What appears to be a simple break and enter soon evolves into a mess of, pardon the pun, royal proportions. I do wonder how Royce kept all the lies and machinations straight without his head exploding - but that's what he does. And he's good at it. Some plot points seemed a bit too convenient, even for a comedy, but it doesn't mar the overall sense of oh-no-I-can't-believe-that-just-happened fun.

Aldous Mercer's twisty mind (and I mean this in a good way) takes a traditional fairy tale, turns it inside out and plunks it on its head, lightly tosses with story traditions from far flung sources (don't think you slid the Buddha under the bodhi tree reference past me, ha!) and stirs with just enough chaos to keep you guessing.

This is his first self-publishing venture and if I have any criticism, it's that when you self-publish, you need to take your time. There were points where I had to re-read several times before I realized the wrong word had been used in error and some odd formatting issues appeared in one chapter where the font suddenly became gargantuan. But this is a learning process and nothing that a good editor and a second upload can't fix.

To say much more would be to give things away - and you really need to approach this story with a sense of wonder and have all the surprises jump out at you fresh and new or it won't be any fun. I still have questions. Of course I do. Royce's parentage. The structure of the Empire. Did Les ever forgive him?

I'm looking forward to more. Royce is arrogant, high-handed, outwardly cold and a lying bastard. And I think I'm in love.

It's an odd thing, my Gay SF shelf

I didn't realize how bad this was until I actually created a shelf for it. (I've never done shelves before, just "read" and "want to read" which is strange for me. I like things in order.)


But in creating a shelf for Gay Science Fiction - I found I had 6 books to place there.




"That's nice," person who doesn't know me says. "Sounds legit to me."


Except that a huge part of my life has always been SF - books, movies, TV, my own writing. It doesn't make sense that this shelf, this one, would be so sparse. Until i really thought about it.


I'm afraid of Gay SF, almost to the point of phobia. To be fair, I should really say I'm afraid of Gay Science Fiction Romance, but since there's so little Gay Mainstream SF out there, this is where the majority of the stories are, in romance and erotic romance.


This all stems from my time working for online review sites where, again, most of the stories were romance. I expected space opera. I expected fluff and playing fast and loose with the laws of the universe as we know it. Sure. I wasn't really looking for serious, mind-blowing science fiction.


I just didn't expect the stories to be so...bad. So many were. Just awful. Thrown together angsty romances that should have been contemporaries or fantasies but the writer, for whatever unholy reason, decided to set "on another planet." Because it was cool and fashionable? I don't know.


So I became gun-shy, so to speak. Hesitant if the story was billed as M/M science fiction. I have, since then, found some wonderful exceptions. There are some incredibly inventive minds now writing in the genre, writers who understand what SF means and what it is and how it's NOT the same as fantasy, thank you very much.


I'm expanding slowly. Maybe someday I won't be embarrassed by that shelf any longer.

There should have been a time...

The Dark Tide (Adrien English Mystery, #5) - Josh Lanyon

Ah, well. All good things must come to an end. As always, I loved visiting with Adrien and Jake for a snippet of their lives.

You'd think that a decades old mystery, one where most of the principles should be dead or geriatrics by now, would be safe for Adrien to go poking into. Not so, of course, with a motley crew of old rivalries and love affairs gone wrong attached to his bookstore's skeleton under the floorboards.

I thoroughly enjoyed the set up of what, at first, appears to be a hopeless cold case that Adrien goes after in his stubborn, terrier fashion, despite his convalescence and the multiple complications in his love life. He and Jake still have a lot to work through. Jake's former closeted life has left a trail of trust issues and old hurt, so I understood why Adrien couldn't simply fling himself into the big lug's arms.

Josh has been adamant about the fact that this is the last of the Adrien English mysteries, though, and it leaves me feeling a bit cheated. Sure, I see that the romantic tension is resolved, but the mystery aspect remains, especially with Jake living and working so closely with him now. *sigh* They worked so hard to get here, I'm disappointed that we won't share in their happiness or their adventures as a couple.

Shade's Children

Shade's Children - Garth Nix Yes. I'm reviewing a YA book. (Picture me sticking my tongue out at anyone who has a problem with this.)

I've read a lot of YA as an adult, partly because of my own child, who liked to have me read the same books to discuss them, and partly because I like YA SFF. There's often an honesty, a pared down-ness to the stories that attracts me. The flip side is that some authors tend to talk down to their audience, which is depressing and disappointing. Garth Nix has never, ever done this.

This is a man of astounding imagination. I would probably read an article about car maintenance if he wrote it. (Due to time constraints, I haven't kept up with his work in the past few years, but I devoured his Abhorsen series and several short works as well.)

Shade's Children is characteristically dark, stripped down and focused. You get a minimalist feel from the prose due to the tight beam on the five main personalities and their respective limited views/understandings of the terrifying world in which they live.

Is everything completely explained? No. It can't be. Is everything conceptually fully realized? Hell yes.

I won't rehash plot or details and I fully encourage the reader to approach this one with as little information as possible to get the full experience since this is a journey of discovery, of putting the pieces together as the characters do.

It's tense, it's stomach churning, it's immersive, it's tragic and triumphant.

I don't know why this man isn't more famous.

Lost & Found

Lost and Found - Kris Jacen, M.F. Kays, T.A. Webb, Fae Winters, Dakota Chase, Caitlin Ricci, Jeff Erno, D.C. Juris, Michele L. Montgomery, D.H. Starr, Diane  Adams Normally, I wouldn't give an overall five rating to an anthology - but this one rates it even if you don't read the stories. Please read them, it's a shame if you don't as there are some real gems here, but even if you just buy the book to have it sit on your e-reader, you've done a positive, wonderful thing.

Proceeds from this book go to Lost and Found, an Atlanta based organization dedicated to helping get GLBT youth off the streets. This isn't a cause you'll see get much coverage in the mainstream media, but the fact is that homelessness among GLBT young people has reached epidemic proportions. Depending on the study you read (and clear, accurate numbers are hard to get since GLBT youth may not be comfortable revealing personal information even in anonymous surveys) 5-10% of young people (ages 12-20) in the US are GLBT while 40% of our homeless youth are GLBT. 40% This is a staggering number made much more tragic because so many of these kids have been tossed out like yesterday's garbage. Anything adults with hearts and consciences can do, we should.

Lost and Found

The stories in this anthology are all about kids who have been rejected for who they are, their struggles, and ultimately their triumphs large and small.

Most of the stories are real-world contemporary, though several have paranormal elements and one is a historical set early in the 20th century.

While they were all good reads (often heart-wrenching, often harrowing for any parent who can't fathom the psychology of someone who can do something so unnatural as abandoning his or her own child) there are a few that I would particularly recommend.

The Clay/Zeke story, told in two parts by Caitlinn Ricci and T.A. Webb is one of the lighter ones - more heartwarming moments than gut-wrenching. This is an important point in a collection that could easily have been unrelievedly dark if not for the authors' insistent optimism.

Bridges and Angels by M.F. Kay is one of the darker points of the anthology - but the emotions are so clear and vivid, it shouldn't be missed. While there are some hints at paranormal here, they could be explained away as circumstance and memory cascade, so the reader and the protagonist are never certain.

Blessing by Dakota Chase is a beautifully written historical/paranormal piece full of anguish and discovery of self-worth.

Another share story in two parts, the Never Mattered/Always Mattered pairing by Michele Montgomery and D.H. Starr is perhaps the most complete in its characterizations and its cataloging of a journey from frightened despair to confident hero. Even if Randy never sees himself as a hero, we know he is by the end.

These are just my personal favorites, though - I enjoyed them all quite thoroughly.

The Lion and the Crow

The Lion and the Crow - Eli Easton Well done period piece set in a time often neglected (or badly painted) by M/M authors. Eli did a wonderful job, though, making certain everything fit the period and making certain we understood exactly where we were in history, which I very much appreciate.

The MC's were well drawn as well - two young men who slowly come to terms with each other and the feelings they've had to keep secret all their lives. While homosexuality was not accepted in medieval times, it was still a part of life. Edward II, who is king during this story, had two male lovers (which, unfortunately, gained him the enmity of his powerful queen and contributed to his eventual deposition.) Royalty aside, medieval communities were much more likely to turn a blind eye to same sex pairings than later periods, even if church and state did not condone it.

Still - for noble sons like William and Christian, the problem of marriage and the expected behavior of a lord's son would have made public acknowledgment of such a match impossible.

Because of all of this, the eventual solution is perfect - suitable, acceptable to the sensibilities of the time and wonderful for our heroes. :) It's a story full of self-discovery, of personal peril and heart-wrenching moments. Loved it, Eli, thank you!

Dogs of Cyberwar

The Dogs of Cyberwar - Jamie Fessenden Love me some cyberpunk. I don't really like the label, since if you label a story, you risk limiting it both in authorial creative soup ways and in reader expectation. But I will admit that it's a convenient shorthand to evoke certain themes. I've probably been reading cyberpunk for longer than a lot of you GR denizens have been alive. Isn't that a scary thought? From Gregory Frost's disturbing visions to C.S. Friedman's genius world building and gleeful pandemonium.

So - always pleased as purple punch to find cyberpunk offerings in M/M.

Once again, I caution readers against approaching any story with pre-set conditions. ("I will only like this story if XY and Z.") This is not a typical, traditional romance - you're not going to find pages and pages of angsty whining, er, emoting, nor will you find a full third of the book swallowed up in sex scenes. The romance element is drawn in fine pencil strokes here, in a minimalist way that follows the spare, "just what I need to worry about now" way that the MC thinks.

Fessenden concentrates on the SF portion of SFR and he does it well. He made me believe in this world where individual freedoms have been subjugated to corporate whims, where the plutocracy has degenerated into constantly warring fiefdoms, a shadow world of espionage and violence just below the thin veneer of what civilization remains. And, in the wrong parts of town, not below the surface at all.

(A little shout out to the Cu Chulainn references - my favorite Age of Heroes guy mostly because he was completely certifiable.)

It's a short work and it certainly held my interest every step of the way. I only have one complaint.

Our protagonists fight to keep their secrets and they fight hard - we're just starting to see what's behind the curtains...and then it ends. We were just getting started, just getting to the meat of the matter. There was obviously meant to be more. I hope there will be more. There had better be more. Seriously.

That said - an enjoyable, exciting piece with characters who manage to win you over and keep you guessing. Always grab good cyberpunk when you can find it.

Infected: Lesser Evils

Lesser Evils - Andrea Speed This is one of those times when I wish GR allowed you to review a series as a whole rather than book by book. While not always perfect, this has been an incredible ride, being able to read Roan's story in a few weeks time up to now (yes, I was behind, what else is new?)

Before I go any farther, though, I need to say something about this story, Lesser Evils:



Okay. I feel better now. While I understand by now the episodic nature of this series, this one felt less focused, less tightly plotted than the previous outings (which were often complex but I never got the feeling of being scrambled.) And to leave us where it did? I may just join Roan and lion out a bit. Though with my luck, I'd end up a serval or a Norwegian Forest cat or something really not threatening.

That said - it doesn't mean I won't keep reading. I will. Roan and Dylan and all of their cronies have my attention. I adore them. Andrea manages to create such a diverse cast of odd-ball characters, all unique, all very much themselves, most of them damaged in one way or another, from Holden the hooker-vigilante, to Tank the I'm-crazy-deal-with-it goalie, right down to minor characters like Seb. For the most part, the dialogue is cracking good, the little hints at things below the surface well done, the locales portrayed with a painter's eye.

(Speaking of locales...I was momentarily excited when Delaware got a mention but then rather disappointed, as I have been with other mentions, that it was basically a throwaway locale. Somewhere Not West Coast. Milford was an odd choice. Especially to place an insurance company. *shrug*)

If I didn't love the characters so much, I wouldn't care where the story left off. But I do. And I care. Dang it.

Second Chances

Second Chances - T.A. Webb Ten years ago, I wouldn't have touched a romance with a fifty foot pole. I know, most of my women friends look at me oddly, especially other romance writers, but it's true. The same, dang drivel over and over it seemed to me. I was wrong, of course. Oh, not about mainstream romance. It really is often the same drivel over and over, but m/m romance and gay romance have so much to roam. Sure some of it's written by rote - the same commercially successful formulae again and again. But I've found an awful lot that's not.

This is not.

This is freaking emotional open-heart surgery.

First person narrative often makes me cringe, but it was the right choice, the only choice for this novel. It's so bleeding personal, so very raw at points. Yes, yes, we all know I'm a big sissy and I cry during kid's movies, but most books will make me tear up at most. This book...I had to put this book down and cry not once but three separate times. I'm not saying when. That's private. *sniff*

Is the prose perfect? Not always. Did the editors catch everything before they published? No. But the honest, searing emotions in this book just blow everything else away.

Honest. Simple. Real in the complications people create for themselves and each other, in the ways we find to deny and justify our actions. It hurt. It was beautiful. I'm completely verklempt.

Yes (Vasquez & James Series)

Yes - Lou Sylvre Rounding up to five because really, any nits were so not vital to the story. I adore Luki and Sonny, so when I first saw the subject matter of this book, I yelled at Lou. All right, more squeaked in dismay, but Lou, in her kind, gentle way, said that while she wouldn't give things away, she could promise that it would be okay.

It better be, I muttered to myself, after Delsyn and all that anguish in the last book...grumble, grumble, grumble...

But without giving things away...yes. Everything's going to be okay, gentle readers. Yes, I cried. Yes, my heart broke for them and with them and around them, but this book isn't about dying. True to the title, it's about affirmation - the affirmation of will, of love, of choosing life while you can.

There are no bad guys here, no guns, no car chases or harrowing fight scenes. It's a simple story with a simple plot, but told with such sympathy and understanding that it's no less engaging than Luki and Sonny's other stories. The only antagonist here is the cancer, the struggles all internal. I would have liked to have more Sonny, perhaps, but i understand. While Sonny is his rock and his support, this really is Luki's fight.

Lou's spare, simply poetic prose is perfect for the subject matter, never over-explaining, never over-indulging in long passages of angst and self-recrimination. Things are. This is how and what they are. She sets them before us just so, through Luki's eyes and his odd, often detached way of dealing with the world.

"...he gazed at the axial CT images, which was a view from the top down, and made his lung look like an almost egg-shaped hole, and the tumor look like a yolk splatted in the middle of it. Mr. Vasquez, I'm afraid you have a fried egg in your lung."

Yes, I had to work myself up to read this, but I'm so glad I did. Strength isn't always in the physical and courage is sometimes found in something as simple as saying yes.

Geoff's Teddy (Synchronous Seductions)

Geoff's Teddy - Havan Fellows Full disclosure - I won this at the Bear on Books anniversary celebration.

I'm so pleased I did, too. This was just the book to clear the clouds from a not-so-great week. There's no high drama here, no drawn out angst, no chase scenes or battles or mystery to be solved. It's simply a sweet story about two men who discover each other and discover they're really good together.

Gay for you? Nah. Fuzzy is clearly bi, though he hasn't acted on half of the equation previously due to social pressures and his own misguided belief that he needs to be a "ladies' man." But when you're bi, it's about meeting the right person, not about the person's gender, and he's known for a long time that his relationships are empty, hollow farces.

Geoff changes this - with patience, humor and understanding. They so obviously click from nearly the first moment, that we the readers know that they'll work things out, but it's still fun to watch. Fuzzy's gruff and no-nonsense, but he has a tender, vulnerable side, while Geoff is more outwardly sensitive but has a solid, stable core to him that Fuzzy can lean on.

Sweet and funny, this is a story to go to when you feel down. You can't help but smile. (And, Havan, don't think you slipped the Simon past me. Nope. I'll just be Simon's middle name is Dave...)

The Prince and the Program (The Mordred Saga, #1)

The Prince and the Program - Aldous Mercer Let me start by saying what this book is not. Some of the issues readers have had, I believe, might have been headed off by adjusting expectations. I know this is a Dreamspinner title, so people walk in with certain expectations. Please leave them with your shoes at the door. We've just had the carpets cleaned.

First - this is a book for grownups, but it's not erotic fiction. Second - there is a romance or at least a desperate romantic longing as a centerpiece to the story, but it is not a traditional romance. Do not expect HEA. Third - there will be more, Aldous assures me, so don't despair.

Now let's move on to what this book is. Freaking brilliant. Written by an engineer about a software start up and the exiled, desperate mage who lands a job there, the pages are necessarily filled with computer geek and programmer in-jokes, jabs and nudges. I would love to say I understood every word, but that would be a lie. (The farthest I got into programming was learning HTML and that's sort of like saying, 'hey, I can roller skate, that's just like flying a plane, right?') You don't need to be a programmer, though. The story, from Mordred's initial frustrations in finding a job to the very end, is captivating. The all-too real struggles of keeping an apartment and getting enough to eat while the money runs out live side by side with visits to Unseelie relatives, memories of other planes, and the ever-present, charming oddness that is Imp, Mordred's not always helpful familiar.

We know, from the introduction and certain hints, who Alan, the head programmer, is. We know, but we're fascinated watching the strange pavane of minds that is Alan and Mordred's courtship, all danced in cyberspace. The connection between them surpasses anything purely sexual (though Mordred longs for something physical, at least a meeting) and is one of the most poignant romances I've ever read. To say too much more would give things away, but to me this intertwining of intellect was as satisfying as any physical encounter.

Just so you don't think it's all cerebral, there's plenty of real life peril, a huge helping of dry humor, evil things afoot, cosmic misunderstandings to clear up, and lessons about the dangers of pranks in the office. There are digs at Canadians, programmers, Americans, coffee addicts, gamers, corporations (and their HR departments) and bill collectors, just to name a few. The quirky characters (including our hero Mordred, the Prince of Quirk) nestle close to the reader's heart with breathtaking speed and refuse to let go. There's even a puzzle contained within the book, with a prize offered for the solution, if you happen to be numerically gifted. (Sadly, I wouldn't know where to begin.) Yes, serious things happen. The world could end if our heroes fail kinds of serious. But the story is told with such dry wit that you very seldom feel its true weight, as if it skated along on some unseen EM field.

Did I have a little "aw, man" moment at the end? Perhaps. But the reader paying attention will expect it and we know it's not the end. There were only a couple of minor elements that didn't quite come together for me (which I intend to ask Aldous about - it could have simply been me missing something crucial in my desperate devouring of the story) but taken altogether this is an amazing work.

Have I said it already? Brilliant. Just Brilliant. Leave your preconceptions about what a gay romance should be at the door and enjoy the ride. Your brain needs nourishment in its entertainment sometimes, too.

An unprecedented 95%. It's one I'll be thinking about for a long time to come.

When I Fall

When I Fall - Belinda McBride Ah, SF. My greatest and first love. Too much M/M Science Fiction is mislabeled. It's M/M romance that someone stuck on another planet. It may as well be down at the corner bar or the local club.Without the imaginative settings, tech, speculative futures, well-developed alien cultures, don't bother to label it SF. Just stick to your contemporary writing and leave the SF fans alone.

Rant over. Belinda has written Science Fiction. My biggest complaint(s) about the first book were that the universe building was a bit sketchy and the coincidences a bit too neat. This second book is the perfect companion to the first, in that it truly addresses so many of those issues.

Here, we see what motivated the baddies to invade Helios and Griff's world in the first place and come to understand a little better why they spared Helios rather than execute him with the rest of his family. We also see that the years of separation, the habits of keeping secrets, and the responsibilities heaped on both our MC's are wearing on their relationship. The first book was entirely in Helios's POV, and I mourned not being allowed Griff's. Here we get Griff - all Griff, all the time - and our brave, stalwart warrior of the first book is slowly unraveling at the seams. Partly, this is delayed trauma reaction, for both of them, partly it's coming to terms with having to share Helios with an entire planet.

While the alien races are still touched on only here and there, we do get a better picture of the galaxy and its government, of the issues facing our boys at home, of the economics and social dynamics involved. All the stuff the SF fan lives for. There's a bit of tech thrown in here and there as well (always a plus :) )

This is not a happy book. Much of it has the MC's wrapped in increasing isolation and anxious guilt. (But never fear, it is a romance. You know the drill.) I enjoyed it, in many ways, more than the first, since there was more care taken with setting and history, with motivations and consequences. My only niggles would be what felt like a bit of a rushed ending and the need for Griff to regain and redeem himself (I think he's on the right track, but he's still working on it.) I fully anticipate another, since we've been introduced to Raven Hawke, huge Weres, and the possibility that Markus Dayspring was not a traitor (omg!) With so many teasers left lying around, there better be another. (Are you listening, Belinda?)

A very solid 85% - a truly enjoyable read for the SF fan.

Crucible of Gold (Temeraire)

Crucible of Gold - Naomi Novik Oh, thank goodness. Naomi is back. While I can't say this is the best work in the series - the character growth is sketchy and some of the plot twists a little hard to swallow, especially in the timing - but things are happening again. Hooray!

While it's still sad to see Laurence so world-weary and defeated, his earlier fire banked way down low, he did at least decide to move forward in this book instead of staying mired in endless guilt.

And Hooray for Naomi! as well - since she's decided to give us a heroic, likeable, sympathetic gay character. Of all the book's characters, John grows the most, though he remains stalwart and courageous throughout.

Fast-paced, often thrilling, this is a relief after the last dreary trudge of a novel.

Whistle Pass

Whistle Pass - Kevad The curl of cigar smoke, the seedy bars, the town filled with corruption and veiled intent...

1940's noir? No, it's KevaD's Whistle Pass, which takes place in the 1950's but still retains a very gritty noir feel which I love. In Charlie, you have a classic noir hero - bitter, knocked about by life, carrying demons on his back. He's not a nice man; he's dangerous and sarcastic. But this doesn't diminish him as a hero in any sense of the word.

The historic setting (and yes, I hate to say it, but 57 years later, 1955 is now historic) is painted so fully and so convincingly, I smelled the pall of cigarette smoke and tasted the grit of coal and diesel fumes in the settings. The bigoted attitudes, the social structures and strictures are all there to make life more dangerous and difficult for our MC's. There are most likely some romance readers who expected more "romance" out of the plot, but I do think, if that's the case, that they came in with preconceived expectations and didn't pick up on the obvious cues.

If I had any objections at all, it might be in the final reveals, where motives became a bit muddy. But that scene had a very Chinatown feel to it, and real motivations aren't always crystal clear. ("Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.")

Before I go, I have to say I adored the dapper, generous hearted Gabe. He is in many ways an archetype for the small town gay man of the era, and yet, he is his own person with a brand of courage all his own. I hear rumors of sequel...I hope not too far in the future, please, KevaD.