Cheers, everyone! We at The Novel Approach are back again today with our list of weekly recs that just might make for some great weekend reading. Here’s hoping you might find your next great book!
Loose Cannon by Sidney Bell
Publisher: Carina Press
Length: 448 Pages
Blurb: Released after five years in the system for assault, streetwise Edgar-Allen Church is ready to leave the past behind and finally look to his future. In need of a place to crash, he’s leaning on Miller Quinn. A patient, solidly masculine pillar of strength and support, Miller has always been there for him—except in the one way Church has wanted the most.
With his staunchly conservative upbringing, Miller has been playing it straight his whole life. Now with Church so close again, it’s getting harder to keep his denial intact. As they fumble their way back to friendship after so many years apart, Miller struggles to find the courage to accept who he really is. What he has with Church could be more than desire—it could be love. But it could also mean trouble.
Church’s criminal connections are closing in on the both of them, and more than their hearts are at risk. This time, their very lives are on the line.
The Brief: What happens when you take one streetwise and angry teenager, add a man eight years his senior, and then turn their unusual first meeting into a friendship? You get Edgar-Allen Church and Miller Quinn and the start of something really beautiful.
I’m going to tell you virtually nothing about this book because every word, every page, every brilliant chapter needs to be experienced without the flailing of one ecstatic fangirl ruining the story for you. Suffice it to say that after reading Sidney Bell’s debut M/M novel, Bad Judgment, I knew I’d stumbled upon a storyteller whose narrative voice and talent for revealing hidden little things which make a character real, as well as finding that elusive chemistry that exists not only between the people on the page but that builds and solidifies between those people and the reader, was significant. If Loose Cannon accomplished any one thing, it’s this: Bell proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will read every single word she ever writes.
Sidney Bell builds her characters into fully formed and multi-layered people with pasts and presents, and then she works towards building a future for them that readers can feel safe in investing every emotion in and pinning every hope on. Church? Well, his life has been supremely shitty, to be blunt—an abusive alcoholic father who has drilled Church’s every inevitable failure into him with his words; a mother who plays into the psychology of domestic abuse and of her abuser; and, on top of that, Church has a tendency to lead with his fists and suffer the consequences later. When Miller catches Church in his apartment, attempting to make off with his television, it begins a back-and-forth of Church showing up and then disappearing again, but Miller always leaving the window open for his lost boy. Miller becomes Church’s safe place to land when life on the street gets too hard. The one thing they have going for them is an easy banter that doesn’t always come naturally to Miller, and when Church finally confesses to Miller that he’s gay, it couldn’t have gone better.
Until it went worse. So much worse.
The Undercover Pet by Samantha Cayto
Author: Samantha Cayto
Publisher: Pride Publishing
Length: 130 Pages
Blurb: When a distant planet’s ownership is in dispute, conquering aliens turn defiant human males into pampered sex slaves.
Ben Miller has volunteered for a near-suicide mission. He’s been offered as pet to a vicious traitor in order to infiltrate the Travian rebellion. His goal is to learn the identities of all the traitors so that the Empire can end the murderous scheme for good. Terrified, but determined, he yields his freedom and virginity to the coldly brutal yet surprisingly appealing Dane.
Kath, banished from his family due to a stupid indiscretion, has been given a chance at redemption. While gathering intel on the rebellion, he is whisked away by Dane for his personal pleasure. The unexpected change gives him a chance to really make a difference, so long as he can survive Dane’s use of him and his own growing desire for his master.
Having spent most of his life bored on his mother’s estate, Dane has found a way to make his mark. Donning the mantle of a murderous traitor, he seeks a way to bring down the rebellion. Using the boys under his control is a necessary evil. The pleasure he finds in them is both disturbing and unexpected.
Ben, Kath and Dane are hidden allies — if they can only learn to trust one another and use their growing affection for their common cause.
The Brief: This series is not for the faint of heart. This most recent (and possibly the last?) book is pretty brutal in some scenes. There is blatant torture that happens somewhat on page, but in the corner? It’s there, it happens, and while it’s not described graphically, readers know what is going on. It is brief, but it highlights just how brutal the leader of the rebellion is and how dire the situation Ben, Kath, and Dane are in.
What I liked about this book was how it introduced a triad. In the first five books, there is only a Travian and human pairing. Most of the books feature a Travian master and his human pet, with book five flipping the roles. This book has a Travian master with his human pet and Travian boy. I loved the way the three interacted with each other, especially Kath and Ben. As the two boys, they had such a sweet, caring relationship. Kath was almost nurturing when it came to Ben. And then when the two of them team up together, readers realize they can be pretty devious. I loved it!
Lord Mouse (Audiobook) by Mason Thomas
Narrator: Joel Leslie
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Run Time: 9 hours and 25 minutes
Category: High Fantasy, Mystery/Suspense
Blurb: Scoundrel by nature and master thief by trade, Mouse is the best there is. Sure, his methods may not make him many friends, but he works best alone anyway. And he has never failed a job.
But that could change.
When a stranger with a hefty bag of gold seduces him to take on a task, Mouse knows he’ll regret it. The job? Free Lord Garron, the son of a powerful duke arrested on trumped up charges in a rival duchy. Mouse doesn’t do rescue missions. He’s no altruistic hero, and something about the job reeks. But he cannot turn his back on that much coin – enough to buy a king’s pardon for the murder charge hanging over his head.
Getting Garron out of his tower prison is the easy part. Now, they must escape an army of guardsmen, a walled keep and a city on lockdown, and a ruthless mage using her power to track them. Making matters worse, Mouse is distracted by Garron’s charm and unyielding integrity. Falling for a client can lead to mistakes. Falling for a nobleman can lead to disaster. But Mouse is unprepared for the dangers behind the plot to make Lord Garron disappear.
The Brief: I enjoy high fantasy. Throw me some wizards or elves or dragons or whatever, and I’m fine with it; though, I know that’s not the case for everyone. And even I can get a bit overwhelmed by the weird, un-pronounceable names, crazy-detailed maps, and knotty political tangles that seem to be the bread and butter of typical high fantasy fare. That being said, Lord Mouse might be the most accessible high fantasy book I’ve come across yet.
Mouse isn’t anything special, really. He’s not magic; he doesn’t have a best wizard friend or ride a magical unicorn into epic battle against denizens of the deep. He’s just good with his hands and works hard at his trade, for reasons of his own. Through the course of the story, he does bump up against a bit of magic—because that’s the world he lives in—but by and large, the true trappings of high fantasy don’t impact his day-to-day much. And, they don’t have much to do with this story. It’s actually really refreshing—high fantasy for the normal guy.
We Are Fallingwater by Xavier Mayne
Length: 329 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Bisexual Romance
Blurb: Trent Jackson is a single dad, doing the best he can to raise his son Oscar. He hadn’t realized how lonely he’d become until Arlo Wheeler strolls into his life. A devoted househusband, Arlo becomes the friend Trent didn’t know he needed.
The two become fast friends, getting closer than either of them ever expected. So close, in fact, that Arlo’s wife Cara grows concerned; several of her friends consider Trent and Arlo the cutest gay couple in town.
Their new friendship doesn’t seem to have boundaries—finally they admit their attraction for each other, but then they must figure out how to preserve their relationship and Arlo and Cara’s marriage.
Trapped between their love for each other and their devotion to their families, their happiness depends on Cara’s willingness to redefine the very nature of her marriage to Arlo. Is their bond strong enough to welcome Trent to share it with them?
The Brief: We Are Fallingwater is an exceptional journey with wonderfully crafted characters, and stands out as one of the best stories surrounding multiple partners I have read in a long time.
What made this story stand out? For one, it made me think about so many different gender roles and stereotypes out there that get overlooked. It took on some topics that I know I generally don’t think about, and I had to take a long, hard look at my own misconceptions. Arlo is such an intriguing character, with an open heart and an equally open mind, and through his views on gender roles and fluidity, I had a lot of “Wow, I never considered that!” moments. Books that push me beyond my comfort zone and force me to take a good look at myself are ones that I really enjoy. It challenged me to see situations from a different perspective, and I respect a story that makes me check myself. I realized through this story that although I try to not put people in boxes, without realizing it I still do in certain areas.
Rainbow Sprinkles by Anna Martin
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 77 Pages
Blurb: Cooper Reed has a fairly relaxed life for someone who lives in LA. He’s no celebrity—just the guy who makes sundaes at the Dreamy Creamery, and that’s the way he likes it. The highlight of every week is the beautiful guy who turns up and orders a sundae with rainbow sprinkles. Cooper still isn’t sure if that’s a code, because he has a huge crush and the hot guy is terrible at flirting.
Drew Tanner, it turns out, is an original California dreamer. He’s as wholesome as apple pie and twice as sweet, a real-life Disney Prince at Disneyland. But while Drew’s head is in the clouds, Cooper’s feet are firmly on the ground, and their different outlooks might be more than their new relationship can take.
The Brief: New relationships are tricky business, especially when one of the partners has never really had a boyfriend before and isn’t quite sure how to act/react when it comes to even the simplest of conflicts. Even more difficult, though, is when you see such potential in your newfound love and they seem to be adrift, happily avoiding moving forward in their lives and career. It’s Cooper’s inability to commit himself to any real sense of a future, business-wise, that has the very dedicated Drew turning in circles. You see, Drew is determined to make it in the acting field and while playing a Disney Prince at Disneyland is hardly his life goal, he considers it a stepping-stone to realizing his ambitions.
Cooper, on the other hand, seems fairly content to sling ice cream in the local creamery as well as tend bar a few nights a week just to make ends meet. When these two finally stop flirting at the walk-up window, and start dating, it’s difficult for Drew to bite his tongue when it comes to questioning why Cooper won’t go for his dream of one day running his own ice cream business. It doesn’t help that Cooper hides a real fear of failing behind that lazy, carefree attitude that changes to rather icy indifference when Drew pushes just a bit too hard, causing Cooper to question whether this boyfriend stuff is just too much to handle.
Fangs Like Me by Lyssa Dering
Publisher: NineStar Press
Length: 120 Pages
Blurb: Lane, a newborn vampire, still feels the pain of betrayal. Two years ago, a faithless boyfriend took his life, and now, Lane’s Maker has also left him behind. The pain of separation burns strong when all Lane wants are arms to hold him and enough warm blood to satisfy his voracious appetite. At a shifter party, Lane is drawn to a hunky Alpha werewolf who tries to console him.
Parker is more than a thoughtless hookup. Since his family disowned him for finding boys just as hot as girls, all he wants is someone to love and look after. The sweet little vamp calls to his protective instincts, but he sure is jumpy. Cuddling with boys is new and delicious, but when this boy also wants him as a food source, things get complicated.
Vampires and shifters aren’t supposed to get along, and Parker’s rough dominance triggers bad memories for Lane. But Parker’s wolf wants Lane, and he knows he can give Lane what he needs. Can Lane learn to navigate his past and give the thing growing between them a chance? Or will the very real possibilities of heartache, abandonment, and even death, keep them apart?
The Brief: For a short work, this story had an incredible scope. Our protagonist, Lane, is a baby vamp, freshly killed and turned two years ago. He’s trained and protected by his vampire family, who become a bit nervous when he starts hanging out with shifters at parties. Still dealing with posttraumatic stress disorder from being killed by a past boyfriend, Lane is struggling with any type of violence, abandonment, bloodlust, and all kinds of domination, and shifters have been known to be a rowdy bunch. Lane’s maker leaves for a conference across seas, and it’s sort of a perfect storm when Lane stumbles upon Parker, a wolf shifter, and the two hit it off.
Parker is dealing with his own issues. Though packs are supposed to be tight-knit, Parker was ostracized for being bisexual, something that shouldn’t have make his family turn away from him, but did. When he meets Lane, it’s almost the last thing he needed. On top of that, he can’t help but be slightly forceful and growly around him, now that he and his wolf know who he wants as his mate.
Though there was romance, I wouldn’t call this story a Romance. There’s a hefty amount of vampire and shifter history that goes into this piece, and it seems as if paranormal culture has been experiencing some troubles in their world and could do with an update. The majority of Lane’s issues have less to do with Parker and more to do with Lane’s unresolved posttraumatic stress and the fact that he doesn’t feel loved or cared for by his maker, which is another symptom of those larger vampire cultural issues.
Leap of Faith by Jackie Keswick
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Length: 125 Pages
Category: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Blurb: Close friends and partners at FireWorks Security, Joel Weston and Kieran Ross know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They have each other’s backs, make a formidable team, and carefully ignore their volatile chemistry.
When Kieran struggles with the aftermath of an assignment gone wrong, Joel is there to help. When Joel is caught in an explosion, Kieran jumps into a burning marina to rescue the man who means so much to him. But they never discuss what’s closest to their hearts, not prepared to risk their friendship for the mere possibility of something more.
Faced with bombs, assassins, and old ghosts, Joel and Kieran must find out why they’re targets, who is coming after them, and—most of all—how each would feel if he lost the other. Should they continue as best friends, or is it time to take a leap of faith?
The Brief: A hostage situation gone wrong finds Joel Weston watching over his long-time working partner, Kiernan Ross, and he prays it’s not a suicide watch—Kiernan has seen more than his fair share of devastation working undercover for the DEA. Both men are loyal partners and friends who each struggle with their feelings for the other. When a disagreement with his DEA bosses costs Joel his job, he takes Kiernan to Lissand, Connecticut, where he settles to work out his demons and begin a career at FireWorks Security, a firm owned and run by the Weston family. When Joel needs a distraction, and decides they both need a break, he goes out on a meet up with the team. The distraction, however, leads to Kiernan saving Joel’s life after a series of deadly yacht explosions.
Joel is seriously injured and under Kiernan’s watchful eye in the hospital. When one too many dangerous and suspicious situations occur, Kiernan’s ready to move Joel somewhere safe. With the help of Dr. Dale Weston and Dr. Marius Leven, they get Joel out of the hospital. But not without someone following them, and Kiernan puts his life on the line to get all three men out of harm’s way.
The Bones of You by Laura Stone
Publisher: Interlude Press
Length: 394 Pages
Blurb: Oliver Andrews is wholly focused on the final stages of his education at Cambridge University when a well meaning friend upends his world with a simple email attachment: a video from a U.S. morning show. The moment he watches the video of his one-time love Seth Larsen, now a Broadway star, Oliver must begin making a series of choices that could lead him back to love—or break his heart.
The Bones of You is full of laughter and tears, with a collection of irritable Hungarians, flirtatious Irishwomen and actors abusing Shakespeare coloring Oliver and Seth’s attempts at reconciliation.
The Brief: What a LOVELY book. *happy sigh* I’m such a sucker for these types of stories. Laura Stone’s The Bones of You ticked so many of my fave story elements boxes: it’s New Adult (with a little YA also); it’s friends-to-lovers; it’s a second chance love story; the character development and relationship histories—and not just between the two MCs—are fantastic; and the dialogue and writing style are fresh and engaging. I fell right into this story. And despite a couple of verrry minor issues, I was completely on board for the entire ride.
I loved what Stone did with the initial setup. We first get to know Oliver as he learns what his first love, Seth, is up to via a video an old friend sent to him. Because of making an initial connection to Oliver—watching him agonize over whether to go to New York to see Seth, or whether to try to talk to him if he does go, and seeing how devastated he was over their break up—it was easy to make certain assumptions about what happened between them. As everything unfolds and we see things more through Seth’s eyes and heart as well, we’re reminded that things are rarely that black-and-white.