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W_L last won the day on February 9 2010

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    Non nobis, Domine, non nobis, sed Nomini tuo
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    Boston, MA
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    Science fiction, History, Writing, Politics, economics, and philosophy

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  1. 1 more review later today then it goes on hiatus.

  2. Give it some time and try reading it in a different setting. I read it during a hot summer day after a jog with a cold ice tea and some chocolate covered almonds. Some stories are better read on certain days and circumstances, you also might want to try reading short stories like this in one sitting.
  3. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/55982904 This story about a bisexual former Army Ranger going through PTSD and a loving gay animal trainer was interesting and surprising from its origins. It deals with serious topics like veteran reintegration into society, PTSD with service animals used for comfort, and remarkably candid reflections on American society’s biases towards veterans in everyday life without platitudes. As a reader and a writer, I like stories that are different and at the same time, necessary to frame current realities. Nora Phoenix and K.M. Neuhold are two authors in recent years that I have developed a fondness for different reasons (Phoenix is intense with her character narratives, Neuhold is experimental and comedic), this story exhibits why collaborative work between two differing styles of gay romance authors can work. It’s hard to co-author a gay romance book, let alone a series like they did. On our website, it's quite hard to find collaborative stories between 2 dissimilar authors like this, most of us who have collaborated write with people we share styles with. This novella is a spin-off from their main series Ballsy Boys, a series surrounding the loves and lives concerning a group of gay porn stars. I am not sure if readers enjoy that kind of story as I do, but I like learning how the sausage was made, so to speak. 😊 (I considered reviewing that series, though the subject might be too risque) At 238 pages or 6 hours and 33 minutes on audible, this is nice moderate sized novella for a single sitting read. I think this is a good introduction to both authors styles. Mack Stone, who prefers to be called by his nickname Ranger, is going through a rough time having left the US Army Rangers nearly a year ago after the traumatic loss of his squad-mate, Alex. He has been having nightmares and lacks the drive or energy to do everyday chores around the house. In truth, Ranger knew he can’t keep being depressed and allowing himself to waste away, so he calls his gay brother, Lucky, for help. Lucky suggests he get a service animal through a friend of his named Julian. Julian is an animal trainer, who works with a program called “Pups for Patriots”, which offers service dogs for veterans suffering from PTSD along with other battlefield related issues. In addition to his work with the non-profit organization, Julian primarily trains animals for movies and television productions. Julian currently owns several horses, a deaf donkey named “Doc”, a grumpy goat named “Butler”, several rotating dogs including his own husky “P.P” and the prospective pup Benny for Ranger, and several chickens he’s named after the Golden Girls: Dorothy, Blanche, Rose, and Sophia. When Julian brings Benny over for the first time to give to Ranger, Julian accidentally trips and triggers Ranger into a PTSD episode, where Ranger hallucinates that he was back in Afghanistan with Alex. By training, Benny takes on his role as a service dog and helps coaxes Ranger out of his episode, while Julian watches without judgement. Several incidents happen that demonstrate Benny’s ability to help Ranger cope with civilian life, slowly opening him up to his true self. It is revealed that Ranger’s squad-mate Alex was gay and likely had feeling for him, but Ranger never considering himself gay did not understand his feelings toward Alex until Alex died during an attack on their unit. Ranger deeply regrets failing to confront his feelings for his friend, never allowing Alex to know his feelings were actually returned. That is what triggered him and made him unable to continue his career as a member of the elite US Army Ranger. Ranger and Julian acknowledge their mutual attraction for one another, but during their first kiss, Julian’s goat Butler rams them preventing any sexual advances. Later on, in the privacy of Julian’s ranch home, Ranger was at first very excited about having sex with Julian, but another PTSD episode occurred, when he felt guilt for not having done this with Alex, causing him to freeze up. However, Julian is patient with him and slowly, the two begins their relationship from cuddling to showering to hand jobs. Just as their casual relation appears to be heading to something more romantic, California’s wildfires unexpectedly flared up and caused a mass evacuation to occur. Ranger rushes to save Julian, who was frantic over the prospects of releasing his animals. Ranger concede to taking on Doc, the deaf Donkey who couldn’t survive on his own, and the four chickens, which culminates in a comedic living arrangement in a motel, when Julian could not bear to leave his animals outside after the wildfire. During the tense situation, Ranger and Julian consummate their love for one another by having sex inside Julian’s truck, since the animals took over their motel room without triggering a PTSD episode from Ranger. While sex seems to have made Ranger happier, it doesn’t completely eliminate his PTSD, it still lingers, but the love from Julian is filling the darkness with renewed life and hope of a brighter future. Julian tells Ranger that he believes Alex knew Ranger loved him too, despite him never saying it by the way he acted towards Alex, when he was alive. Julian tells Ranger he loves him and Ranger promises he will always tell Julian he loves him. While emotionally, both men have acknowledged their feelings, the wildfire has forced Julian and his animals to move with Ranger. Luckily for Julian, all his animal survive, who he couldn't take with him including the stubborn cock-blocking goat Butler, who returns back the site of Julian's destroyed ranch with a black coated male goat, who is inseparable from Butler, Julian named him Buddy. Ranger, Julian, and his menagerie of animals live happily ever after in the end despite the struggles that are ongoing and likely to continue. The most wonderful thing about this short novella is that the real-world issues like PTSD aren’t resolved at the end of the book, it’s a lifetime issue for Ranger. While he could move on and find love with Julian, he will never be able to completely heal from the mental wounds that he suffered in war. Sometimes romance writers go too far on the happy endings, gay romance especially writers attempt to offset the dismal reality of our lives with the magic of “sex” and love being the cure all for everything. It’s a good thing that some authors remember that believable romance should also reflect real solutions to issues, even if they're imperfect. To me, the most perfect happy ending is one that gives you believable hope and keeps your characters striving, it's like giving them an endless happy ending full of future possibilities. In terms of realism, my favorite line in this book can probably be encapsulated in this short exchange between Ranger, a veteran who suffers from PTSD due to a soul crushing emotional loss of someone he loved, and a young guy who is trying to help out his own brother, who has lost limbs from a bomb: “Tim, the cashier inquiring about a dog as well for his brother, who lost a limb as a soldier in Afghanistan due to an IED: I want him to be better you know Ranger: He’ll never be the same. You can’t go through something like that without it changing you. Tim: I understand that…I just want him to be…happy again…like he has a reason to live.”” That made me tear up, considering how hard it must be for someone to find a purpose to live after coming back from war, losing so much in the process of serving his/her country. Veterans deserve something more than just holidays or some extra benefits can offer, there's a human need for a purpose and reason to still be alive after all that. I feel like this particular genre of gay fiction is quite underserved and underexplored. War and gay romance aren’t new, writing about finding love on the battlefield isn’t new, the Greeks have done it well, the Japanese from my research into their epic poetry about Samurai/Bushi warrior and Shudo page-boy lovers did the same. However, stories about the warrior after the war, the losses they face psychologically are worth exploring seriously, especially now with the reality of military withdrawals in the middle east. Afghanistan and Iraq war happened, the consequences are still being felt and the costs are still being assessed, including the costs that cannot be counted in dollars or bodies. There is a psychological cost that hits at my generation, which I am grateful for authors like Nora Phoenix. She has a penchant of exploring those aspects in her gay romance fiction regarding gay male veterans. While she does get into psychological issues and motivations in many of her books, I’ve found her characters with military service background to be very engaging. Her style is dark and realistic, there’s always an undercurrent of psychological suffering in her characters that moves them into a certain direction, like Leta Blake. I was introduced to her work through her No Shame series, featuring a gay Boston guy on the run from his abusive Irish mob boss boyfriend and meeting up with several interesting characters and the love(s) of his life, several of those books would get 5 ratings from me for the emotional tension, plot, and characters. For those wondering, I know Nora Phoenix also does have her own 9-book Omegaverse series, Irresistible Omegas, if I did rate them, I’d say they were 3-4 out of 5 depending on the book. Her standalone style in Omegaverse fiction is interpersonal with limited world-building, it’s good for the genre, but I prefer Leta Blake’s style a bit more, since I am more of a Sci-fi and fantasy oriented reader at heart and Leta Blake broke far more ground for me. As for K.M. Neuhold contribution, for me, she’s what I consider gay romance’s “geek lover”. I love her stories that feature very reserved nerds, dorky experts, and geeky gay characters, who are subject matter experts with an introverted demeanor, but sexually not so innocent . She’s to the gay fiction world what Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon are to Television. I personally enjoyed her Love Logic book series, where she pairs up geeky and nerdy gay main characters with various mates, or each other in a poly-cube combinations. She’s good at bringing out an intellectual geeky side of gay romance, while simultaneously maintaining the zeal of feelings with experimental ideas. I can see her hand in the creation of Julian’s character, he’s just the right kind of gay dorky (Gorky?) that I’d expect from her. Funny quirks like the introduction of a cock-blocking goat, who turns out to be gay and just jealous at his owner getting action is quirky ridiculousness that comes with her style. Underneath it, scientifically speaking, there are zoological examples of gay goats with weird behaviors seeking to dominate other males. Her style sometimes does fall short or she overcompensate by making sex scenes a little too drawn out/nerdy descriptive to be fun, but when it works, it's unique. The main collaborative book series of these two authors referenced throughout the novella, Ballsy Boys, with the side characters of Lucky, Mason, and Heart making a cameo appearance is fun if you are interested in reading the personal issues of gay porn stars, who are dealing with real life issues like alienation, relationship insecurities, money, and identity alongside their co-stars and directors. While it is sexy as you can imagine, the actual story can be more comedic sometimes with their boyfriends relating to their careers as adult stars. I liked some of the books early in the series, but some of the later books just didn't feel as interesting and the last book felt like an one-line story concept, so rating would probably go from 4.5 to 2.5 out of 5. It's a pitfall of writing series with two writers, you can sync well and clash badly with different styles at work. On its own though, this novella is very nice, it has a good story to tell with very low emotional tension despite the subject matter, along with a good dose of comedy. My Rating: 4.5 out of 5, it’s a nice read with a great concept and plot. The PTSD issue isn’t resolved completely by the romantic relationship and there’s good humor.
  4. Yeah, I think doing a daily publication was too ambitious even if they're mostly under 2K words. Today, I just noticed that I am ranked #4 in GA's monthly ranking of authors for chapters published. I overdid it on content and too much zeal to share gay fiction books, especially romance novels with others.
  5. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/27407335 At this point in the book series, you are likely committed to the ride with the author, so I think Leta Blake gave her readers the much-deserved sexual release that has been coming for a reason. Everything has added tension and deepened the character development of Will and Patrick, along with the characters of Healing, South Dakota. This series is thought-provoking, intelligent, and comedic with its realistic issues and surreal situational comedy. The holiday novella within the series is no different, covering the period from Thanksgiving to New Years, we are left feeling satisfied and ready to embark on a journey with our beloved dysfunctional gay married couple. At 97 pages and around 4 hours on Audible, it’s another short read for most people. Thanksgiving occurs at the home of Elanora, Will’s paternal mafia-connected grandmother, which ends in near disaster. Patrick does build a rapport with 2 of Will’s younger half-sibling: the snarky independent free-thinking Olivia and the innocent redhead Connor. Patrick and Connor enjoy building Lego sets together, while Patrick correct Olivia snide remarks about him with facts. Olivia was told misinformation about Patrick from her mother Kimberly and older sister Caitlin, including everything from Patrick seeking to steal Will’s fortune to potentially causing Will to die of AIDS due to his presence. Through his interactions with Will’s siblings, Patrick learns that Kimberly believes that Ryan, Will’s abusive ex-boyfriend, was keeping Will safe. During thanksgiving dinner, Kimberly makes a scene that caused Will to react and jump to Patrick’s defense, which nearly ruined the event. Patrick reads a text message from his foster mother Dinah that reveals his humanity and inner most desire for family connection. Will blurts out a private admission to Patrick that Ryan has refused to have anal sex with him, but Patrick is oblivious to the comment. After thanksgiving, Will and Patrick settle into a routine of work, Patrick begins to get more cases from his old Atlanta practice and after work, Will and Patrick enjoy nights eating room service, while watching streaming shows. Elanora confirms after thanksgiving that the Molinaro spies had left Healing, South Dakota, indicating that the mob family believed in Will and Patrick’s marriage. One weekend in December before Christmas, Patrick agrees to go out with Will and they do some Christmas shopping together. Patrick figures out exactly what to get Will for Christmas. He also has a flashback when he began playing on a piano again to his traumatic childhood. The following day, when Will returned to his foundation, Good Works, he is confronted by Owen, his AA sponsor and attorney again. He admits that the AA program hasn’t worked for Will, while Will’s new path with Patrick appeared to be doing him good. While Owen appears to be supporting Will throughout his speech and offering him a “soft sell” alternative to AA dogmatic rituals, along with agreement that Ryan may not be the proper partner for Will. However, he does leave Will with the statement “I think you hit rock bottom, when you married a stranger” as Will was about to head home to spend the evening in companionship with Patrick (I missed this initially during my first reading, but now recognize what the speech held in context). During Christmas on the family farm, gifts were exchanged between Will's extended family. During a lull in the festivities, Will and Patrick have private conversation in the horse stalls, we learn Patrick has a fear of horses. Patrick surprises Will with a medical alert bracelet, so everyone will know he has type-1 diabetes to ensure his safety. Will is touched by the act and nearly kisses Patrick. Christmas was going well until Ryan visits Will’s family; he was invited to the party by Kimberly. Will confronts Ryan outside the house, while Ryan berates him about being “perverse”, “sick”, and “a drunk who die alone”, Patrick overhears the entire dramatic confrontation. Will in a fit of anguish over being thoroughly disparaged and dejected by Ryan secretly goes to a bar. However, luckily for him, Patrick kept an eye on him and drinks all his alcoholic beverages for him, then causes a public spectacle to prevent Will from returning to the bar that night. Patrick assures Will that Ryan never loved him, he only loved the power he had to harm Will through Will's desire for love and destroy his sobriety with his words. Will is grateful for what Patrick had done, he fell into a fitful sleep on the bed, having been completely exhausted by the night’s events alongside Patrick for the first time, since their drunken hook-up in Las Vegas. Will and Patrick maintain a sexless sleeping arrangement after that, both of them cuddling each other at night providing comfort and warmth, feeling more assured of the others benign intent. During New Years Eve, Ryan and his new boyfriend Heartily attend the same reception as Will and Patrick, where he announced their intentions to leave Healing, South Dakota. After a terse conversation, Ryan punches Patrick for bad mouthing him. This act of violence forces Will to accept the reality once and for all that Ryan is a hurtful and destructive human being, while seeing Patrick as the man, who has been true friend to him. Their passions rise to the point, where Patrick and Will have consenting sex with one another without any alcohol clouding their judgement. This was the culmination of build-up throughout the other books in the series and helped define the relationship that Will and Patrick shared. While many gay romance stories would likely have granted a night of passion after Will’s near miss with alcoholism and Patrick’s heroism, the simple act of accepting Patrick in nightly cuddling felt far more intimate than the sex they had at the end of the book. I am happy that they released their sexual tension, but I think when Will accepted Patrick literally in his bed, he accepted Patrick’s love already. Sex in this case was a foregone conclusion that was only missing a catalyst. Additionally, we got a deeper view of Will's psyche in this chapter, like I mentioned in previous reviews; Kimberly, Will's mother, and his gay Uncle Kevin have left him emotionally vulnerable to people like Ryan. It's incredibly sad that a fear of dying from HIV and AIDS brought on by Kevin's dead partner, Roy, through his infidelity to Kevin has to led to Will's current psychological suffering. We learned that Will has been taught upon his coming out that he must always "love" just one person and remain faithful to them, no matter their flaws in order to not be another "Roy". In terms of Kevin's motivation, I wish Leta explored it more in her books, because he doesn't strike me as a vindictive gay man, just a lost soul who still hasn't dealt with his own pain from his partner's betrayal and grief over his death. Kimberly on the other hand came off in this book as an absolute hypocritical B**ch, she is having affairs with 2 men at the same time, while preaching and even manipulating for Will to go back to his abusive boyfriend Ryan. Knowing what she knew about Ryan's willingness to throw punches at people or Will's lack of sobriety around him, this women must know on some level she's sending her son into a potentially deadly situation. Worst still, she continuously tries to alienate and belittle Patrick, despite his obvious care and love for Will. I think she has her own set of psychological issues stemming from Tony, Will's mobster father and her ex-husband, where she views Will as his surrogate and cannot let him be with someone who could provide him love. There's a reverse Oedipal complex thing going on here. Other psychoanalysis, Patrick's observation in this book that Will has a deep seeded sense of masochism is very thought provoking to me at least. If you read the subtle hints in earlier books, and the revelations of Will's kinks in later books, it makes a type of sense. Patrick knows Will's subconscious interests. I'll probably discuss the psychology behind Will's needs for pain and pleasure later in Book 4, when all his kinks are on the table, but that throwaway line from Patrick telling Will he needs to rise above his self-loathing and mindset from his upbringing to be happy opens a lot of thoughts upon a re-reading as to his motivation and drives. The main villain of this book is Ryan Whitehead as it has been throughout book 1-3, but as I tell readers, do not forget to keep an eye on Owen, either. Ryan is openly abusive and cruel to Will, emotionally being the reason why Will nearly loss his sobriety again. Personally, I’d wish Patrick confronted Ryan in the snow, when he spouted all that crap about Will’s desires being perverse and how he was doomed to die alone. That SOB deserved a slap at least for what he was doing to Will. For readers who read up to Book 7, you know Ryan’s fate and I think this confrontation can work as a mirror into his own soul. Ryan is not a good man, but I would speculate a psychological component in his hatred of any gay sex with Will, Oral or Anal, and his fate has led me to think Ryan may have been sexually abused at some point. I am not apologizing for his actions, but what is said during Christmas confrontation with Will appears to indicate this to me. The best scene of this book came, when Patrick goes to the bar to stop Will from succumbing to his alcoholic fueled depression. Patrick drinking all of Will’s drinks, telling him that he won’t stop him on his “self-destructive train to hell”, but will join him was perfect. Patrick acted with so much gallantry and actual love in this scene. He showed how much he cared about Will’s health, both body and mind, without any filter. He also admits to Will that his own father was an alcoholic like Ryan, who never loved him, just as Ryan never loved Will. This was a powerful revelation and breakthrough for this character, who has been building throughout this book’s tension riddled suspense about his childhood abuse and sexual trauma. Patrick is a complicated character, he has no filter due to his autistic spectrum disorder, along with an inability to easily process his emotions. Will’s issues with Ryan forced him to confront his own demons, choosing subconsciously at this point to reveal the truth to the man he loved in the hopes he won’t fall into the same trap of alcoholism. My Rating: 4.5 out 5, it’s a solid plot with emotional payoffs throughout the book. The sexual payoff was great as well, if you are just interested in a consummation of their relationship.
  6. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/52268562-reading-the-signs I think most folks will probably have noticed the theme for this week seems to be Sports related gay romance fiction, since I have covered books on American Football and Hockey. With this book, Keira Andrews weaves a tale of love between professional baseball players, ironically between a catcher and starting pitcher. The old Catcher-Pitcher analogy has long been synonymous with Top-Bottom positions in the gay community, so there’s a slight tongue-in-cheek joke there. It has some light-Dominant/submissive roleplaying between the couple (no leather, whips, or BDSM gear), so if you are offended by a little kink or spanking, be aware. On the technical side, the talk of Earned Run Averages (ERA), no-hitters, and baseball injury details were very well-researched by Keira, so gay baseball fans would miss out if they don’t explore this book. At 293 pages or on audible 8 hours and 29 minutes long, it’s a decently long romance novel for a dreamy and steamy summer day. Jake Fitzgerald is a closeted gay 34-year-old catcher in American Professional Baseball league, who has lost his passion for the game that he once loved. He lost his passion after causing a rift with his best childhood friend, Brandon, who he had an unrequited love for, but he could never admit to. When Brandon announced his plans to marry a woman, Jake acted out and insulted Brandon’s future wife out of jealousy, which Brandon never understood the reason for, causing a rift to form and eventually Brandon leaving San Francisco baseball team they belonged to. At the start of the novel, Jake is unexpectedly traded by the management of San Francisco to the new Ottawa professional baseball team, where he is reunited with Nico Agresta, the 22-year-old younger brother of one of Jake’s old friends in high school and fellow Professional Baseball player. Nico has spent most of his life hiding his sexuality, having sex with random women to prove his masculinity despite deep desire to be made love to by a man in the reverse roles. Nico has had a crush on Jake ever since he was a young teenage boy watching him and his brother play baseball. Beyond just his repressed sexuality, Nico also had deep self-hate, because he blames his birth for causing his mother’s death. His family never speaks of her and he blames himself for that. He sees himself as a freak of nature for being secretly gay, submissive, and the root cause of his own mother’s death. His repressed sexual frustration causes Nico to have issues during games with pitching confidence and overcompensate by acting aggressively, causing others to view him with a general air of cockiness and arrogance. As the new veteran Catcher of the Ottawa’s young baseball team, Jake’s job was to train with pitchers like Nico to improve their game and coordinate with various baseball hand signals for different pitches. Jake grows to care about Nico over time and learns one of Nico’s more obvious secrets, he intentionally throws up before baseball games in order to avoid the fear of being laughed at for throwing up due to his nerves, stemming from an incident in his youth, when his father berated him for embarrassing him. Sexual tensions simmer between Jake and Nico, until Nico explodes after a loss, when the pitching coach wouldn’t let him complete a full game. Out of an aggressive impulse, Jake grabs Nico and spanks him, resulting in a very hot sexual encounter allowing Nico to admit to Jake his sexuality. Jake and Nico begin a sexual relationship soon after that and Jake learns more about why Nico was so nervous. Nico’s father held very staunch homophobic views as an Italian American and veteran professional baseball player, causing Nico to fear rejection throughout his life of never living up to his family expectations or “being a Man”. Through the strength of their relationship, Nico comes out to his family eventually and Jake during a coincidental meeting with Brandon at a charity event also confronts his former friend with the reason why he acted out. Thing come to ahead as Ottawa team is nearing the end of the season, a playoff run appears to be within their grasp, but Jake is seriously injured during one of their final games. Nico without hesitation jumps to side of his lover and publicly outs both of them with a tender moment. The story ends with Nico reconciling with his family, his father attempts to be far more understanding of his sexuality and relieving Nico of his self-loathing over his mother’s death, and Jake is going through physical therapy, but he is unlikely to play baseball again. There’s a happy ending of Nico winning the Rookie of the Year award, demonstrating he was always just as good as anyone else, no matter who he wants to love. Despite what the tag-line might make you think, there was relatively less gay sex than I thought there would be with the subject matter and relationship. Jake was a very believable and mature gay adult, who happens to enjoy being a Dominant gay male during sex. Jake was very relatable to any other gay male, his background and his tragic insecure past made him an engaging character that readers can root for. He started out his career in professional baseball being afraid of being out as gay due to not wanting the distraction in the team or being “poster boy” for gay athletes. However, over the years, even as society has accepted gay athletes in professional sports, he just never could come out, because he had lost passion with both his profession and he had no real long-term lover. His lack of passion and love were borne from his unrequited love for his childhood best friend Brandon, a fellow professional baseball player. A lot of gay men have had one guy that you never got the courage to tell him, you loved him from their youth, especially if the friend in question is straight, more often than not. His issues with his old friend Brandon may not be necessary for the overall romance of him and Nico, but I think it added a significant consequence and resolution to their relationship. While Jake never grew the same kind of courage as Nico did to come out to the world, Nico gave him the courage to come out to the person he needed to the most, his first love and oldest friend. I am not a psychologist, but I think Jake needed a cathartic release for him to settle down with Nico later on. Nico to me was the star of the book, Jake was the narrator and dominant character in the book, but I think just like their relationship, it’s the submissive partner who ended up driving the plot. Nico is inherently insecure and overcompensate for the fact that he’s gay, including having sex with women every chance he could despite receiving very little pleasure from it, except the fleeting release of orgasm. He is an example of a guy known to be a womanizer to the outside world, but still is deeply gay inside. Beyond just his sexuality, Nico had a deep-seeded self-loathing for himself, because he thought he was the cause of his mother’s death. His birth had led to complications that ultimately caused cancerous cells to forms that killed her. His guilt over his mother’s death made him a character you just want to comfort, explaining a bit of his need for love and approval represented in his hidden gay submissive persona. His internalize anguish at wanting to exhibit his tendencies, including his innate submissive tendencies, was fascinating to read. He acted aggressive, tried to portray himself as the Macho-baseball player to please his father’s homophobic ideals, and sadly couldn’t really allow anyone get close to know the real him out of fear. We saw glimpses of his fears with his father’s homophobic comments. It took Jake’s love and friendship, along with his need to be there supporting Jake in his time of need that ultimately gave Nico the strength to be himself, while accepting comfort and submission to Jake. His journey from guilt and self-loathing to a public gay sports icon was subtle, but it is worth the opening to Jake in the end. Little details about baseball statistics, types of pitches, and the variety of hand signals used to demonstrate what catchers needed to do in order to manage the mound were great. It shows a genuine interest from the author, which I believe Keira Andrews noted was among the reasons she wrote this book. When writers are passionate about something, it shows in the final product. Personally, being in the heart of Red Sox nation, I am somewhat knowledgeable about baseball, but it is by no means my favorite sport, which is a close tie between Hockey and Football. I do enjoy it, but it is not my passion sport. As for the sex and relationship, I will freely admit, their first encounter in chapter 7 was unexpectedly rough and fast, but I was grateful that the sexual tension was released. Nico is by most definitions an absolute bottom, despite how he tries to hide himself. Reading him finally getting to release his sexual desires was satisfying. However, the sex just opened the door for the two to develop a relationship, Jake and Nico shared other interests beyond rough gay sex and baseball. For one thing, it was cute they both into rich modern board games, like Pandemic, a cooperative board game that has gained infamy in the recent year, partially due to COVID. Cute little moment, like them playing a game of tag and roughhousing with each other in the tunnels, felt just as intimate as the rough sex. I loved the tender moments between the two guys outside the sex, just as much as seeing Nico giving himself heart and soul to Jake. My Rating: 4.5 out 5, I just loved Jake and Nico’s backstories and their progression as characters. There’s a lot of details and actual baseball gameplay that made this book fun to read. The rough sex might be a good selling point, but the plot is what kept me coming back and made the characters believable.
  7. Tom Daley, 27 years old, 4 times openly gay Olympian representing the UK, Diver, and now gold medalist gave some really inspiring words on Monday after he won a Gold medal: Sometimes I think people need a message of hope out there Hope there's other inspiring words out there
  8. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25690047-home-away My first thought after reading this novel was: “I’ve read this before” It’s a nice novel from 2015 that probably would settle well on this site with @MrsgnomieBoss Nanny, along with classics like @Bill WCastaway Hotel, basically a gay romance with found family. Samantha Wayland is someone I can understand, being a fellow New Englander and Hockey fan, but I’ll try to avoid giving her book favorable treatment based on those two points alone. Her story is very nice and cozy on its own without a tense emotional roller-coaster type issues between the male couple involved. At 404 pages and an audible length of 12 hours and 12 minutes, I must note that this is not light reading by any stretch of the imagination. You will be spending a full day reading this novel. If I had a partner, I think this would be the kind of book I’d snuggle up to him and spend a lazy day enjoying. Rupert Smythe is the manager of the Ice Cats, a Canadian hockey team. He’s quiet, shy, and a bit introverted, but he’s a very good business-minded manager and can objectively make decisions without being influenced through interactions with others. Rupert originally came from the UK and we learn through inference that he is financially well-off due to his family along with the fact that he is minor nobility, a Scottish Earl, with lands and an estate, but enjoys working. He is openly gay. He is annoyed at his job, when one of the co-owners Callum Morrison enters the picture. Callum is an American professional Hockey player, a goalie, who was on the medal winning winter Olympic team. Callum has been hiding his sexuality due to the fear of professional backlash, up to the point of asking for his best friend Michaela to pretend to be his girlfriend for public appearances. Rupert begins to open up to Callum over drinks, when his personal issue began to creep into his life. Rupert has a 4-year-old half-brother, named Oliver “Ollie”, who he has been searching for nearly a year. Rupert’s father had died a year ago and he had heard disturbing news that his young brother has been mistreated by his stepmother Lydia, who spent the money meant to care for Oliver by partying across Europe through alcohol and drugs. Rupert and Callum effectively rescued Ollie from a poorly maintained London apartment. During this period, Oliver develops a close attachment to Callum, clinging to him like a life preserver. Callum, having had several younger siblings, felt an innate urge to take care of the 4-year-old, while Rupert was worried over how to react or handle the situation. In fear that he could not secure Oliver’s freedom, Rupert instructs Callum to protect Oliver, no matter what happens during his negotiations with Lydia. The situation is resolved and Rupert gains full custody over Oliver, so they return to Canada. We are introduced to Alexei and Michael, who were hockey players on the Ice Cats Hockey team (Note: their story is part of a Samantha Wayland's Crashing Series). It turns out they were secretly a gay couple in a relationship. Callum was introduced to Rupert's friend, the reclusive writer Reese, whose insecurities and fears prevent him travel. After a series of encounters, Mike and Alexei made an offer to Rupert. They had an extra apartment, which Rupert was in desperate need to settle Ollie in. Through a series of interactions, Callum and Rupert begin to settle into a sexual relationship and organically became a gay couple through trial and error. They meet a young boy, named Christian Shaw, who enjoyed figure skating and had an abusive homophobic father through a charity skating event. Rupert is revealed to have been a famous award-winning figure skater in his youth. Christian’s home life spirals downhill and there were signs that his father was being physically abusive. This resulted in Callum, Rupert, and their friends rescuing the Christian from his home, Rupert adopts him into his new makeshift family as a result. Callum is distraught that he couldn’t be as brave as Rupert with his sexuality, but he finds courage eventually in coming out and becoming Rupert’s partner in their new family. The story ends in a wholesome hockey game during the Holidays with Callum’s family. This is not one of those stories with overly complicated characters, motivations, or plots. It’s simple and crisp as a story. I enjoyed it for it’s fluffy quality and happy “found family”-type storyline that I have been accustomed to for years. Does that mean it’s a great story worth reading? Yes and No, depending on what you are looking for. As I said, I consider this something I’d read on a lazy day, but it’s not a story that is thought provoking or provocative. I think the found family genre has been done a lot over the years, it’s a good wholesome concept within the LGBT community and one I am proud to have been a reader and contributor to at times. Still, the themes of the stories usually follow similar patterns: LGBT lead character encounter or must take care of a child with a potential romantic partner, main character “rescues” a kid, or adopts a child into an unconventional family unit. The addition of hockey players is neat, I know it is window dressing, but good window dressing can brighten up rooms and sports themes can improve storylines. There’s some sex scenes, but it’s very tame in comparison to other novels within gay romance, I’d argue Sarina Bowen’s Him series had far more intense sex scenes for instance among hockey players/partners (though it's close at times, I think Samantha and Sarina are Two Towers of the gay Hockey romance genre for their series). What set this story apart was its family oriented plot. The little wholesome details about correcting language in front kids and attempting to be good role models were also nice touches to this story. The little details about raising kids and being attentive was also sweet. When Olivers frightened 4-year-old need to be close to his parental figure, Callum in this case, and his fears made it hard for him to speak to others, it just felt like I reading a tender moment. The conversations that Rupert and Callum had with Christian about how he felt and his sexuality were things I wish every queer kid had as they grew and found their identity. Rupert's lack of experience with kids due to his upbringing and detached experience with his own father played off a little bit like a British stereotype, but it worked to make his lack of knowledge far more believable. The fun part was that despite his lack of experience with kids, Rupert experience as a gay man can still play an important role for others being an advocate, rising above his own fears. I also appreciate the fact that Callum despite being in love with Rupert and being acknowledge by their friends to be in a relationship, is still reflexively unable to be public about his sexuality and feeling shame for his lack of inner strength. Callum might possess fame and fortune, but he isn't perfect, nor does his physical appearance as a dominant muscular male archetype correlate to his personality. Important little details like that helped give the narrative a sense of focus and touchstones for readers to relate. Although, the amazing serendipity of friends offering assistance and twists of fate were a little too "perfect" at various points, but I am used to it in this genre. It made me feel like I was watching a gay hallmark movie, probably an R-rated one due to the amount of sexual content, but still well below X-rated amount versus story content. I compared this story to @Bill W Castaway Hotel, because when I think of Rupert and Callum’s relationship, along with the kids they saved, it just made me think of that Bill W’s story. Some of the extraneous details involving, Rupert’s wealth, gay friends, and other character backgrounds also made me think of Brew Maxwell’s Foley-Mashburn saga from Cryboy.org as well, outside of our site. Like I said, I have read a lot of stories in this genre. For me, those kinds of stories were things I read as a gay teen trying to find an adult voice on how to be a decent gay adult male someday, when the internet was mostly filled with hot erotic stories that gave me masturbatory fantasies, but no north star to guide me on what is right and wrong. Wholesome stories like this one are needed in the mainstream, because we all need this kind of comfort story. For that, I think Samantha Wayland is doing a service by her writing. I compared this story to @MrsgnomieBoss Nanny, because the premise actually mirrored Samantha Wayland's novel of an older brother taking care of a younger toddler brother, absent any parents, with a prospective romantic gay partner, along with some sports themes (Hockey instead of Football) in the background. As I've said, I've read similar stories and enjoyed all of them for years, I don't think I am in the minority on this sentiment. My Rating: 4 out 5, it’s worth reading as something a bit more wholesome and less sexually charged; though there are some hot scenes. Sometimes, readers need a break from heavy plot-lines and interpersonal conflicts, if you need to escape to a safe world where issues get resolved through love and family, give this story a try.
  9. https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/35501577 An Interesting tale from a relatively unknown female southern author of gay romance fiction, Mackenzie Blair’s only book from 2015 featured a closeted gay college quarterback and an openly gay Korean college student, who was thrown out of his house by the shame of his family. I know gay romance is a niche readership, but I am kind of shocked such an author with clear skills has no other books or readers. Maybe I have been hoodwinked, because I am gay Asian man and I enjoy her refreshing take on certain kinds of homophobia, there’s just as much cruel intolerance among the Asian community as well. Personally, I hope readers will be interested in at least giving her book a shot after this review. It is 9 hours and 35 minutes long on audible and I cannot find any text versions of the book on sale. Matt Lancaster is Senior classman quarterback of Bodine College, an NCAA Division II school in Alabama. To the world, he appears to have everything as the stereotypical Quarterback of a college football team: good looks, fans, popular friends, and a girl swooning over him. However, he has been hiding his sexuality for the last 3 years. His best friends Connor, Ryan, and Damien unbeknownst to him, knew he was gay and while they do not share his interest, wanted to help him unwind from tightrope of fear. They invited him to a massage parlor that offers “Happy Endings” and orders a male masseuse for Matt. Trevor Kim is a struggling senior class college student at Bodine College, he’s Korean by ancestry, but he grew up in Texas. When he came out as gay to his parents, he was kicked out of his home and have been struggling to make it on his own as a college student. He works in the massage parlor for extra money to offset the costs of college, along with another job as a barista at the campus coffee shop. Matt leaves their initial massage session in panic, when Trevor attempted to touch Matt’s ass, but he came back for another massage. Trevor enjoyed giving pleasure to Matt, he liked exploring Matt’s body and the sounds he made. Matt had his own burgeoning desires for Trevor as well and wished he could come out. He had a close gay friend named Brett, but couldn’t come out to him either in fear of the repercussion. We learn Matt has a con-artist father, who is currently holding the reigns over his twin sisters, so he had to wait until they turn 18 and become legal adults before announcing his sexuality. After an intense message session, Trevor couldn’t continue doing these kinds of messages anymore. He couldn’t continue being paid to pleasure Matt, a boy he had a crush on and began falling in love with. Matt searched for Trevor at his dorm room. They began a sexual relationship. After several session of sexual foreplay, Matt is discovered by Trevor’s gay roommate and best friend Drew, who is a hilarious flamer with a theater arts major. After a college party that turned violent between Fisher, a racist and homophobic football kicker, and Jamaal, his African American replacement kicker, Matt had a very tender moment with Trevor, trying to offer him iced peas to help with a black eye he received from Fisher. During this event, Matt’s “pretend” girlfriend Jocelyn had made both feel uncomfortable. Through of a series of near break-ups, beautiful reconciliation brought on by friends and tend lovemaking, Matt and Trevor each confront their personal demons and conflicts. Trevor over Thanksgiving break was able to finally call his family at Drew’s home, where he spent Thanksgiving holiday, but his family rejection of his homosexuality was unchanged. During the same time, Matt confronted his father about his con-artist tactics and his sexuality, resulting in Matt being punched in the face and being sent to the hospital. In an act of vindictive hatred, Matt’s father outed him to the national media before the Division II national championship, but it no longer mattered to Matt, since he and Trevor had found the strength to commit to one another. In the end, they both move to California and we as readers get a very “happy ending”. Let me point out a fact, I love sports. Gay romance stories with ingrained elements of sports and team-play will usually attract me. The concept in this story isn’t new and its sensual description of massages that turn sexual is the plot of many gay erotic fictions, but why this story is more than just a porn can best be summed up by the its characters. Matt Lancaster isn’t just a dumb closeted jock, he knows what he wants and he does believe in doing more than football, majoring in Environmental science is not an easy path, nor lucrative one. His background is complex, but not quite overly melodramatic, his father enjoys conning people through investment schemes and using money to control others in his sphere of influence. His sisters are innocent bystanders, who he wishes to protect even if it means bearing to remain in the closet until they reach their age of adulthood. His father may be deeply conservative, but he is a morally corrupt and abysmal human being. His aunt and uncle from his mother’s side may be the stereotypical southerners on the outside with traditional family values and southern motifs, but they are warm and welcoming towards their gay nephew, when the truth comes out. It might be a fantasy for gay youths in the deeply conservative US southern areas such as Alabama, where the story takes place, but sometimes, you just wish there was a bit more fantasy rather than despair. Trevor, on the other hand, was casted out by a new American southerner, an Asian segment. I do not know how well readers of the book or my reviews know about US demographics, but Asian immigration in the Southern US is a steady fact for decades. On the surface, it would seem odd that a minority population would be prejudice against homosexuality, being themselves prejudiced in recent times, especially now after the advent of violence against Asian Americans. Truth is many of the Asian immigrants in the Southern US areas are ideologically not so different from evangelical conservatives Caucasians, they believe in the same Christian ideals and have had a tradition of family values ingrained in them that mirror that of western civilization. Trevor’s ordeal with his family and his rejection for being gay, an antithesis of their belief systems, isn’t off the mark. As a character, Trevor is quite a study in contrasts. He is fiercely independent and fairly experienced in being an exile gay kid, but there are points in the story, when you know all, he wants is for Matt to cuddle up to him and give him that comfort he lacks. His interactions with others show us he’s not unreasonable man, he’s just unwilling to settle being treated as anything less than what he is, even by the man he loves. In terms of sex, let's boil it down, even you don't like complex characters or stories; most readers enjoy gay sex, especially when written with descriptive detail and sensual elements. For me, the sexual component of a story should never be lacking. The scenes of Trevor and Matt going through massages, exploring each other's bodies, and Trevor finally being allowed to penetrate Matt were deeply satisfying, especially considering Matt's fear of anal penetration. A big guy afraid of bottoming is a charming concept and unexpected, I felt it made their relationship richer and deeper. I am not prudish about sex, nor exploring sexual interests. Side characters throughout the story are great, especially Trevor’s roommate Drew. There’s something about flaming gay character that bring a smile to me. I’ve encountered many kinds of gay people in my life, but I have never encountered a true unapologetic flamer. With the acceptance of LGBT people in everyday life, I guess it’s harder to find someone, who stands out like that. Drew delivered many witty lines throughout the book, when he’s around, he can be a deeply defensive diva like when Trevor comes back with bruises from the part altercation, or he could be jumping up and down like a little kid with too much sugar near the end. Other characters like Connor, Ryan, and Damian were good sounding boards for positive friendships. While characters like Fisher and the Bodine’s Dean played off as one-dimensional homophobic villains, which never amounted to much more than a minor menace compared to Matt’s father, but even he was a minor villain who acted like a plot device. It’s a good modern day gay fairy tale of boy meets quarterback, like the old tales of a Damsel meeting a knight or prince. My Rating: 4 out of 5, it is worth a read if you like this genre of gay romance. I also hope that Ms. Blair continues to write gay fiction. She only wrote one book and it’s a shame to me that she didn’t continue. I think she had a lot of original ideas, unexplored territories, and fun characters in this book. It is unpolished, but it’s her first book. As an amateur writer, who has never published something even close to this quality, I just feel it’s a waste of talent to stop.
  10. When I hear New Jersey, I instantly think about these boys: Something about Broadway that just makes me want
  11. I shall risk it All to Claim what is mine: And with every throne must come
  12. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/68094.Dressed_for_Death An interesting mystery novel with gay and trans themes worth a reading during a rainy day. It’s an old mystery book, published in 1994, and it’s set in a mainstream mystery novel series involving the exploits sleuthing of Commissario Guido Brunetti, an Italian police officer from Venice during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The story starts off as a murder mystery, then transforms into a tale of corruption, seedy political hypocrisy, and reveals layers of humanity within its characters. The book is 352 pages long, or, on audible, 9 hours and 48 minutes long. It’s a decent bit of reading, but the best mystery novels usually take a lot of time and energy to build suspense, plots, and characters. The story begins with the discovery of a body outside a slaughterhouse in Marghera, a town near Venice, Italy. The slaughter house worker found a beautiful shoe on the ground, which he knew was an expensive luxury item, then he found the body of a man in a red dress. The local police conclude due to the manner of death with how the face was smashed in and the fact that the man was dressed in female clothes, the victim was a transvestite prostitute. They further did not have, or perhaps wish to use, resources on the investigation, so they called in the much larger Venetian police force for assistance. Guido Brunetti was scheduled for a family vacation, but he was recalled to take over the investigation. Through careful investigation and examination of the evidence, the true identity of the murdered man is discovered, he was in fact the director of the Bank of Verona, Leonardo Mascari. Brunetti through a series of events discovers a connection between Leonardo and a young petite gay man who appears far younger, named Francesco Crispo, but during his investigation, he meets Jean Carlo Santa-Marlo, who was scrambling away. Jean Carlo is the head of the morality league, an ultra-conservative Italian organization that is associated with various social and political activity, becoming quite powerful. After an old gay friend discussed the issue over dinner, Guido discovers several facts. Francesco has a history of sleeping around with powerful gay men for support, including paying for his apartment. Additionally, Jean Carlo Santa-Marlo is well known in the gay community of Venice as a hypocrite, who enjoys sleeping with little boys as young as 10 years old and at the same time acting sanctimonious. Further investigation from Guido’s police team discovers inconsistencies with Italian Morality league’s activities and irregular rental properties. Guido himself questions a friend of Leonardo, the new director of the Bank of Verona, Marco Ravenello. Guido finds the man’s straightforward answers and detailed explanation of Leonardo’s sexual activities to be quite strange, considering how open and honest he appeared. During this investigation, there’s a major side-plot involving Vice Quaestor Patta, Guido’s superior in Venice and his wife’s eloping with a pornographic filmmaker after some unknown issue between Patta and his wife. Brunetti through the assistance of Vice Quaestor’s secretary Ms. Elletra was able get financial records of Jean Carlo Santomarlo. Autopsy records show Leonardo did not bleed from any of the cuts on his legs or arms, considered to have been created from a razor during his hair removal. Guido ponders this new evidence as further proof Leonardo may not be a transvestite or crossdresser after all, when Francesco called asking for a late-night meeting at a parking lot. Guido knew this unexpected meeting may be a trap, so he arranged for a stakeout with several police officers, including a female officer named Maria to help pose with another colleague as lovers. Francesco never came to the appointed meeting, so Guido was prepared to leave with his police contingent, but on their way back to the police station, a car slammed into them intentionally several times attempting to force them off the road as a threat. Due to the encounter, Police officer Maria was killed through by the unknown assailant’s collision into their vehicle. The following day of the fatal encounter, Guido went to find Francesco Crispo, but Guido knew that the only reason Francesco did not show up would be due to his own murder. The body counts are building now: a director of an Italian Bank dressed like a transvestite prostitute with business in mysterious financial transactions connected to an ultra-conservative political organization, a young gay prostitute who knew too much, and an innocent female police officer in the line of duty. Guido continued to investigate the murder of Leonardo Mescari. Then, another young gay prostitute named Roberto, who Guido met and befriended during his initial canvassing of the gay underground in Venice, revealed the details of the actual payments for his apartment. It turns out that the Morality League’s apartment for rent was a tax dodge and false front. Roberto would pay 100,000 Liras per month to the Bank of Verona under the assumption of Rent to the morality league, but subsequently, he would pay 1.5 million Liras per month in cash to a man at a bar in order to keep living in his apartment and be allowed to practice his trade there. The transaction begins to unravel the corruption and illegal dealing of the Jean Carlo Santa-Marlo and Marco Ravenello, they are in actuality pimps for the gay prostitutes in Venice, providing a place for living and sex. In a frantic chase, Marco Ravenello is killed by Malfatti, the criminal associate of Marco Ravenello and Jean Carlo Santa-Marlo. Jean Carlo Santa-Marlo originally thought he had escaped justice, including the testimony of Malfatti implicating him in the murder and corruption. However, the shoe that was purchased by Jean Carlo Santa-Marlo. Through the building case and evidence against both men, Guido solves the mystery and exposed the criminal conspiracy of murder and corruption. “” …Once mud has been thrown, Commissario, it can never be fully washed off. People like to think badly of other people, the worst it is, the happier it makes them. Years from now, when people hear Leonardo’s name, they will remember the dress and they will think of whatever dirty thoughts they want to think”. Brunetti knew she was right…” No one can apologize for human nature, Commissario”” I loved this story despite how dated the themes and language was. Donna Leon may not be as famous as some mystery authors, nor as well known outside European readers and the few American fans that she has gained over the years. Her story came during a time before such things were widespread or TV worthy topics, like a weekly episode of Law-and-Order Special Victims Unit has become with similar storylines. It is a brilliant tale of murder, greed, and the destructive impact of sensationalism. A kind man like Leonardo Mescari, who only attempted to seek the truth, was murdered and his name was dragged into the ground by his well-connected murderers, can never get true justice because human nature itself is foolish and fickle, especially in our age of social gossip and conspiracy theories. Yes, Guido unveiled the truth, exposed the hypocrisy of those in power, and even toppled them, but he can’t change popular opinion. The job of the police to reveal truth is sadly ineffective, when confronted with the vanity of human nature and perceptions. I believe Donna Leon was far ahead of her time in this story, considering the concepts that we are now living with today, where perception rather than facts rule our world. For newcomers to the LGBT mystery sub-genre, I do recommend reading this book. It is quite riveting and the background of a hot August Venetian summer felt viscerally tangible. The descriptions of the notable monuments, roads, and famous landmarks were great additions to this story, despite how dated the technology and thoughts were. I enjoyed the police procedural investigation that Guido Brunetti undertook in this story, we quickly figured out that the body was not a transvestite through observing evidence by common sense, i.e. the lack of scar tissue from bleeding if Leonardo Mescari truly had interests in crossdressing as his body’s presentation would indicate. That brings us to terms, we no longer use terms such as transvestite anymore in our common tongue rather preferring to clearly delineate gay and trans people by their gender identity and habits such as crossdressing. You can be a drag queen without be a trans. It’s a good reminder to remember how the world viewed our community once upon a time in the late 20th century. On a character level, I am grateful to read characters like Guido Brunetti, a tough and capable police officer, who is not homophobic at all. He reveals himself to be quite open to his sexuality and his thought process regarding his love for his wife. Yes, he does admit to himself that he had enjoyed watching men’s crotches at one point out of curiosity, but he revealed that knowledge to his wife early on in their relationship without any resentment or questions about his own masculinity. He may not be gay, bisexual, or even bi-curious, but Guido does show he isn’t afraid to explore sides of himself and be honest about it. I appreciate a heterosexual character like him, who views human beings without prejudice and seek to find the truth within a mystery. My Rating: 4 out of 5, it is a very dated story and the language used by Donna Leon is no longer in common use to describe within the LGBT community. However, the mystery and the storyline have a timeless quality to it, the theme, perception being sadly far more prevalent than truth, is a reflection of our modern world. We live in times where false narrative permeate our lives. When perception bias obscures rationality, then facts and truth cannot provide justice even to the dead.
  13. Some food should never be forbidden, or used for torture:
  14. I had to review this just to get my raw reactions down. I wasn't expecting to have so many thoughts on this book, but here I am. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34233780-slow-heat I have to begin this review with some soul searching, I have never read a story or fictional universe quite like what Leta Blake created here. I was around during the early days of shifter fiction and Supernatural fan-fiction that spawned the Alpha/Beta/Omega (ABO) or otherwise known as Omegaverse. Few ever quite appealed to me as much as pure gay romance, because quite frankly, the romance and impregnation of a male usually ends up with the pregnant character acting as a stereotypical heterosexual female. Some authors, like Aiden Bates and Jill Haven Guardian Dragons 6-book series, have made the stories interesting through plots, despite the lackluster character development. Now, I have unexpectedly read a story series that has a very complex characters and plot. I’m lucky that I’ve gained perspective in recent years by befriending trans and non-binary members of the LGBTQ+ community, because I think if I had read this novel four years ago or even earlier, I’d reject its concepts and ideas without a second thought. For female readers, I can only imagine what this story means and why its topics are pertinent. Maybe, it’s too close to home for your reading and I can understand that, but from a gay male's view, I am grateful for female authors like Leta Blake, who create science fiction universes like this that explore sides of humanity that I would never think about. I have only read book 1 in the series and know that there are currently 3 books within the series. This book contains 406 pages and 14 hours on audible, it’s well over 118,000 words. This is a long story that sets up a massive science fiction universe, which at first appears to follow the guise of a fantasy elements of Omegaverse, but as you read and realize, it’s a dystopian science fiction novel. This is not light reading, it’s an entire fictional universe that Leta Blake has created with rules and concepts, if you dig beneath the surface of Alpha, Beta, and Omegas being males’ sub-types, you will see this is a social commentary about sexual orientation, gender identity, and reproductive rights. This story is set in a future, where a “great death” occurred. The cataclysm wiped out many species on earth through the elimination of the female gender, except for felines. Humanity being able to use technology and genetic engineering were able to save our own species by manipulating male genomes through splicing our DNA with those of wolves to allow for certain males to give birth. As time passed, three subtypes of human males began to develop: Alphas, who hold hyper-aggressive and dominant position equivalent to males in the past with the ability to reproduce with Omegas. Alphas are the wealthiest and most powerful subtype of human beings. Betas, who become the administrative, clerical, and labor force of society, who have no ability to reproduce, they do have relationships with other Betas and appear to be equivalent to the gay male community. Betas represent a working and professional class that is subject to commands by Alphas and are supposed to be servile based on their genetic nature. Omegas, who can give birth to new human beings of Alphas, Betas, or Omegas, are essentially a much more restricted subgroup in society with no property or individual rights by law. Through centuries of development, the true history of this society’s origins are obscured via religion under the “Book of Wolf”, which praises an all-knowing and all-powerful wolf god for creating the new variants of humanity with political and social institutions similar to conservative Judeo-Christian sects. Educated people and higher echelons of society know their true origins based on genetic engineering, but many others believe in the religious concepts of “Wolf God” created to give legitimacy and a spiritual connection with the current social order. However, unlike many other stories within this genre, the social structure and the genetic manipulations of human beings hasn’t created a perfect society with clear delineation of roles between dominant Alphas, submissive Omega, and servile Betas. Jason is a young wealthy 19-year-old Alpha college student, who through his body’s hormones and genes, finds his Erosgape, soulmate or scientifically a biological match, and imprints on Vale, a 35-year-old Omega professor. At the same time as Jason begins following his biological urges, he has to deal with his teenage best friend and roommate Xander, another 19-year-old Alpha college student. Jason and Xander are engaging in Alpha Expression, which is forbidden and illegal in society similar to how Sodomy was outlawed. Xander enjoys being penetrated by Jason, or “unmanned” in their slang. Xander wants to be “his Omega” despite being biologically an Alpha like Jason. When Jason’s bond with Vale intensifies as the story develops, Xander confesses his love for Jason, but Jason with a heavy heart after their last sexual encounter, tells his friend he can’t love him the way Xander wants Jason to love him (This was an emotional scene that reminded me of the movie Farewell My Concubine, it’s heart-wrenching). Following that, Jason commits to courting Vale, who under the legal system of the society is negotiating a contract with Jason’s parents, Buell, Jason’s Alpha father, and Minor, his Omega Pater. However, both Jason’s parents and Vale hold major secrets from the past around their ability to bear children that causes tension. Vale tried to separate himself from Jason and deny him the full bond between them as partners, in order to preserve Jason’s happiness and potential children. Through a lot of drama and soul searching during a miscarriage by Minor and Vale undergoing a spontaneous heat, Jason and Vale are able to work through their issues. Leta Blake took concept that I’ve given up on, then created an entire world with dynamic characters and a true dystopian feel that reminds folks of Aldous Huxley Brave New World. As a civilization, humanity has made a rigid social structure that appears to be unstable and unsustainable without authoritarian means, including execution of violators from social and sexual norms. Usually ABO, also known as Omegaverse, stories involve animal shifters, like werewolves with a hierarchy. However, her novel does not rely on shifters, instead the wolf-like similarities are due to genetic engineering to allow a male-only society of humans to survive. Yet, even with only males, humanity has still figured out a way to segregate and disenfranchise people. The Omegas of Leta’s universe are tragic figures, they are amalgams of females throughout history, they are their Alphas property and anything they owned prior to marriage or “contract” as this universe calls it, belongs to the Alpha partner. The Omega males also are prevented from seeking abortion or birth control, because the population in such a society divided in 3 subgroups, with Beta group being incapable of reproduction, makes their ability to create children a necessity. However, character like Minor and Vale shows readers exactly why such draconian measures are inhumane, they cannot have children without risking their own lives and due to the genetic manipulation of their subspecies are shunned by society. Leta made me realize how precarious the issue is among women, my position on abortion has been one of Pro-Life, but I am not a monster who doesn’t take into account the needs of other human beings before that of a child. Little things like material deficiencies of condoms due to materials known to cause allergic reactions and lack of access to necessary birth control pills in this world are also present in our world sadly. I get what Leta is saying in her social commentary hidden within the male-based society about female reproductive rights. I probably would agree with her, there’s a problematic standard in society. She made the story far less about knocking/knotting a male with a child, actually asked the questions other writers failed to do, what if the Omega should have a kid, but society and family pressures them to? Consider me neutral on the politics of abortion, I’m not there yet to be Pro-choice, but the points Leta Blake raised in this book has challenged my thoughts on Pro-Life stance. If it was only the above paragraph, I probably would have waited until next week to address this story, but Leta Blake had 118,000 words in her novel, she didn’t just touch on one subject. Jason and Vale are the traditional Alpha/Omega couple, but they are separated by extreme age gap. That alone didn’t appeal to me, but I did enjoy the actual reflections of Vale on the issue as a sensible adult, who knows Jason is young and impulsive with his feelings. Vale has internalized self-loathing partially due to his age and his romantic partners wasted potential. Ageism is an issue in our society, something that is far more ubiquitous than homophobia and racism, because we apply it to standards, we don’t even realize we have. I like the veiled arguments that are brought up about how we view each other and our self-worth based on what time and experiences we hold. It’s incredibly thought-provoking. Lastly, but probably the most emotionally resonant for gay male readers, we have the relationship of Jason and his best friend Xander. Jason isn’t a stereotypical Alpha, he enjoyed having sex with his best friend and fellow Alpha, Xander, who he calls Xan. This relationship reminded me of the unrequited gay love in the movie Farewell my Concubine between the male protagonists. In the Omegaverse, I have not read of an analogy to homosexuality before, because essentially most people assume 2 males mating is already gay. Leta Blake created Xander, who is essentially a gay/queer boy in this universe. You can be born one way and still want to be something else, but such activity and desires are illegal in a society that prizes Alpha superiority. Xander is one of the saddest characters throughout the story, his few scenes with Jason are poignant and emotional. In a society that would arrest or even execute his type of behavior, Xander is someone I can relate to from the perspective of a gay male. Xander’s revelation that he wants to be an Omega despite all the issues they face speaks volumes about his own sexual identity and gender identity issues. His relationship with Jason represents the gay male experience. His impossible dream of being accepted by another male as his Omega, represents the trans experience. I especially loved the final time Jason and Xander had sex, it was tender rather than sexually charged. Jason cares for Xander, but he doesn’t hold the same feelings as Xander does for him, in effect, Jason isn’t what Blake’s universe would be equivalent of “gay”, but he still loves Xander deeply. It also rounds out Jason’s character, he’s an analogy for a bi-curious guy, who enjoyed having sex with other guys like him, but he ultimately has stronger attractions based on his biology. I love that Leta brought up that aspect in her world and made it so heartbreaking. For other writers of Shifter/Non-Shifter Omegaverse stories, I highly recommend you to incorporate such bonds and relationships, it adds a level of supreme meta-commentary on the concept that should be included. Beyond all the world-building and amazing character moments, I do have a few nitpicks. The technology of the human civilization doesn’t fit the futuristic aspects of the setting. I know Leta Blake tried to explain it away due to regressive religious reforms and anti-science movements pushing back technological progress in favor of a “Wolf God” approved interpretation, but even so, I do wonder how crazy a society must become to regress to 20th century combustion technology, when it has achieved genetic engineering to the point of creating new human sub-species. There’s also the ending, which felt far too rushed for such a long novel. Jason’s recognition of his priorities and friendships didn’t quite feel organic, it’s akin to “last second” save trope in adventure stories. I know this was an early story in Leta Blake’s career as an author and have read better things from her. However, it did detract from the overall story and its imaginative scope. My rating: 4.5 out 5, I really loved this story and if you are looking for something different than the run of the mill, Alpha meets Omega romance, I would suggest you give this massive book a chance. It’s long and very involved in terms of its world-building, but it’s worth a read. Its Sci-Fi aspect are limited, which is a shame, but I can understand why she did it that way.
  15. You and I must be visiting the same cowboy themed McDonald's knock-off
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