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Brita Addams

A History of the Civil War

A History of the Civil War - Benson John Lossing Tons of history and photographs. Just what I wanted.
Love a Rebel, Love a Rogue - Shirl Henke Not my favorite Shirl Henke novel. Too many characters introduced in the beginning started it off badly for me. The hero, Quint, is not hero material for me. I didn't like him from the start. Devon is okay.

Doesn't keep me from being a Shirl Henke fan, but this one just didn't move me to read the series.
Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War - Jeff Mann Purgatory: A Novel of the Civil War, is an extraordinarily well written gay romance, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War. Told in first person, present tense, it flows beautifully, with emotion, drama, villains, heroes, and good friends.

This rest was pure poetry. So lyrically told, the story of loving a man during the Civil War came to life with memorable phrases and passages that evoked a setting without a simplistic description.

There is a wonderful grittiness to this story, created by the hardships of war--Drew's lack of shoes and most clothing, the tortures he undergoes for the amusement of those in the Rebel camp. The fact that most of the men looked upon Drew as something less than human, and how the blond Colossus appears strong, but is but a little boy inside, missing home and craving human touch.

With Mann's command of prose, you hear the campfire crackling, feel the anger between the enemies, both in the war and within the camp. We smell the gunpowder and the sizzling bacon, you hear the pain and longing in the character's voices, as well as the cracking of the bullwhip. The character's pain touches you as though it was your own. The story causes you to examine your own feelings on a variety of subjects.

Mann gives us a history lesson without the lecture. You sense the cruelty of war, empathize with both sides, and you want most everyone to get home safely.

Anyone who reads or writes gay fiction should read this book, and then read it again. This is the way it should be done. The subject of male/male love isn't glossed over, but rather dealt with in a realistic way, with the feelings of guilt and anger commensurate with the historical period. You cheer Ian and Drew on, but fear for their utter destruction at the same time. The story delves deep within your soul, turns you inside out and rights you again, with your senses as you've never known them to be.

This isn't a boy meets boy, boy loves boy, let's get it on kind of book. Their relationship is one of secrets and worry, doubt and danger. It is raw and fierce. Drew faces unimaginable horrors, while, to keep more than one secret, Ian must sit back and watch.They must fight against religious zealotry, the incongruity of which is profound in Mann's portrayal of Sarge and George.

For Ian and Drew, what starts out as compassion and simple emotional comfort becomes the foundation upon which their attraction is built, and upon which Mr. Mann has created this masterpiece.

The punishments Drew faced were indeed congruent with punishments and tortures delivered on both sides of the conflict--lest we forget Andersonville and its ilk. Neither side was exempt from cruelty. http://www.civilwarhome.com/civilwarpunishment.htm

The one problem, for me, is first person. Ian, who tells the story, supplies rich details of his surroundings, the people he deals with, his prisoner come lover, Drew Conrad, all the evil that exists in the hatred for those on the other side of the war, but we know precious little about Ian himself.

He likes bear-like men, he has lived for years as a coward, but found his feet upon meeting Drew, but I got no sense of what Ian looked like, other than he was a small man, compared to the Achilles Drew. Minor point, perhaps, but I like to imagine the characters. The lovely cover doesn't portray the men as described, particularly Drew.

I will read this again, because Ian and Drew are such special characters. Gay fiction will never be the same for me. Jeff Mann raised the bar considerably.
Reckless Embrace - Madeline Baker The last installment in the Reckless series was in many ways the best, after the first book.

I hadn't a vested interest in Blackie prior to this book, but Ms. Baker quickly immerses the reader in Blackie's world and I fell in love with him right away.

Joey - I felt badly for her, knew girls like her growing up, but I never truly connected with her. However, I rarely connect with the heroines anyway, and I did enough to understand Blackie's love for her.

Throughout this series, we got a wonderful does of Shadow and Hannah, two of the most endearing characters I have ever read. They will live with me for a very long time, and will beckon me toward a re-read of their story.

The family is populated by wonderful, rich characters, Hawk, Cloud Walker, Victoria, Mary (though I have to say the women, save for Hannah, aren't as richly treated as the men,) and some of secondary characters, like the Spragues were happy re-visits.

This volume tended toward a more modern treatment, as it takes place in 1908. I missed the old atmosphere, but enjoyed the lamentations of how Hannah and Shadow missed the old way of life. I guess we all feel that way about our younger days, when life was simpler.

All in all, I give this series a 4.5 star rating, and have review each book individually. This will definitely go on me re-read list, if only to visit once again with the characters I grew to love so much.
Reckless Desire - Madeline Baker I have enjoyed the Reckless series, and while I enjoyed this book, I didn't enjoy it as much as the first two.

This was written, "in the good old days," when passive voice didn't matter, when multiple POVs abounded, and when repetition didn't catch an editor's eye.

While passive and multiple POVs existed in the other two installments, they weren't as distracting as they were in this book. Even an infant had a POV, and every secondary character. I would have loved to have Shadow's POV, and skip everyone else's but Hannah's.

One massively annoying thing was the repetition--the recounting of past incidents, in detail, took up a great deal of word count. Phrases such as "carried under her heart," are fine once or twice, but there were many more incidents.

There was also a repetition of scenarios, with a change in character names. For one, Cloud Walker kills Mary's husband in the woods. Previously, Shadow had killed Hannah's husband. Likewise with the law hunting them down, they are in jail, acquitted. They must live in the wilderness, the wife pregnant, and are accosted by raping whites. The respective husband (Shadow or Cloud Walker, or even Hawk in the previous book) shows up in the nick of time and dispatches the dastardly evil doer.

Every Indian in the story ends up in jail, which is sad. They are drawn in to situation where they can't control their temper and something bad happens, usually murder and mayhem.

I have to say that I love Shadow and Hannah. I can't say that about the next generation, to the same degree. They are likable characters, but they don't possess the same endearing qualities that Shadow and Hannah do.

I will read the last book, Reckless Embrace, but to read more about Hannah and Shadow, as I'm not enamored with Blackie at all.

On another note. The editing lacked greatly in this book. Many misspelled words, odd punctuation, and missing words. All in all, a miss in an otherwise terrific series.
Reckless Love - Madeline Baker Wonderful continuation of the Reckless series. I love "time passage" stories and this one brings alive the dynamic characters, a rich story, the artful weaving of historical events with the characters front and center--what a beautifully written book and series. These characters will live with me for a long time.
Reckless Heart - Madeline Baker So beautifully rich in historical detail and characters so real, they pop off the page. I loved this book and as I've started the second, I am plunged back into the world of Shadow and Hannah.

Wonderful reading. Thank you, Ms. Baker for a tale I'll read over and over again.
Capture the Sun - Shirl Henke I loved the characters, particularly Hawk, Carrie, and Kyle. They popped off the page.

Given the original publication date, 1988, I'm imagining that omniscient POV was accepted by editors. While I tend to like multiple points of view, that of the two main characters and then important secondary characters, in this story, everyone had a POV, including an infant and a horse.

I accept that as part of past publication norms, but with several points of view in one paragraph, the reader has to keep their head on straight always. A bit of a ping pong match for me.

Great story, terrific characters, and I do enjoy Ms. Henke's writing.
The Headmaster's Confession - Laurel Bennett I am a fan of historicals, as well as a writer of them. I research constantly, so when I read something that doesn't quite ring true, I am jarred. Such was the case with The Headmaster's Confession.

The establish the time period, we have Bedlam and a quill thrown in, as was "I have to take my wife to a ball in two hours," but all else read like a modern day piece of not very good erotica.

A jarring line in the beginning - "I pull out my watch fob and flipped it open."

The following is the definition of a watch fob: watch fob, short ribbon or chain attached to a watch and hanging out of the pocket in which the watch is kept; the term can also refer to ornaments hung at the end of such a ribbon or chain. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/636738/watch-fob

The headmaster of a girl's school was referred to as my lord. The proper form of address is My Lord, but more, there is the unlikelihood of a nobleman as the active headmaster (office and all) of a girl's school. Noblemen were notoriously indolent and certainly didn't work for a living, as it was looked down upon. He might have owned a school, but actively participate in its operation - doubtful.

Advertised as a Regency, one expects it to read as one, but this simply didn't. Bedlam and quill were thrown in, but that was the total of the effort to establish the time period.

Disgusting, for me, was the fact that this man was a lech, who sported tented trousers every time the young girl, Miss Winters breathes. In one scene, she is sent to his office for touching herself. He asks, "Where did you touch yourself?" She answers, "Down there." *eye roll* Young girls wouldn't have discussed such things with a man, not even their father. A matron would have handled the issue. Then there is the whole issue of her being discovered doing it, but that is something else entirely.

The character, Miss Haughton, had various names - Miss Loughton and Mrs. Haughton. A good editor would have caught that right away, which leads me to believe this wasn't edited at all.

Modifying phrases matter. This one provides a bizarre visual:

"...corset and stockings, with her breasts spilling over the top."

Would a young girl's breasts spill over the top of her stockings?

I suspect this was self published, which is a shame, because it truly gives credence to the argument that anyone can self publish. An editor would have never allowed this piece to carry the author's name as written.
Seven Day Loan (The Original Sinners, #0.5) - Tiffany Reisz Quick read, fun, well done. Makes me want to read more by Ms. Reisz.
The Hired Man - Jan  Irving Lovely, well written story. I loved the characters and the story of haunted men who find each other. I will miss these characters and hope there is more to their story. Ms. Irving - perhaps part two?
A Younger Man - Cameron Dane Up front, let me say that I loved the premise of this book, I loved the two main characters, and the story. On a superficial level, I also loved the cover. The character development was strong enough for me to get a true sense of each of the main characters, as well as the secondary ones. The pacing was good, enough angst to make me want to click to the next page on my Kindle.

All that should give this book a 4 or 5 star rating but I couldn't do that.

The editing in this book didn't do the author or the story, any favors. I've been there, I know how it feels. An editor should have caught and requested changes on many of the following. Sadly, it is the author's name on a book where the editor has failed to properly edit. That doesn't release the author completely from responsibility, however.

Sticking points for me:

While the sex scenes were hot, they were way overlong and largely repetitive. Page after page of every movement, every gesture, every thought (people don't think that much in throes of passion.) They were cumbersome and gave a good story too much drag. I skimmed over the last three or four completely. Also, the afterglow conversations were, many times, author intrusion, in that the dialogue was unrealistic. Zane - "I followed you into the abyss."

A pet peeve of mine is LONG paragraphs, with dialogue buried within. That situation is abundant throughout. It tends to make the reader skim over them to find the dialogue.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love exposition, but I've seen the light. The above pet peeve was littered with loooong bits of exposition that explained everything in excruciating detail, which was then repeated several times in other places. Too much telling throughout the book, and not enough showing.

The use of euphemisms - channel, alternately ass channel, chute, tunnel, passage, hole, grew old quickly, especially when they flamed, fluttered, flickered, pulsed, shivered, and at two different points, Noah's channel collapsed, which struck me as terribly painful and worthy of ending the session and rushing off to the ER.

Then we had "Knifed his shaft into Zane," "Speared into Zane," "Raw moves sliced through Zane," "Pierced his way into him." These visuals aren't pretty. Dramatic, arguably melodramatic, but not something for a romance novel.

More euphemisms for penis, beyond the usual unfortunate choices - pole, club, shaft, rod. I suppose you could call me a purist, and in and of itself, these aren't terrible, but the cumulative effect forces me to include them. Vein-engorged cock struck me funny. A cock has veins, which are engorged with blood, but a cock isn't engorged with veins.

Do guys really rake, comb (with fingers), brush (with fingers), tunnel fingers, slide fingers, push fingers through their hair, constantly? I've lived a few years, and I've never known any guy to do any of the above, ever. Comb and spray or gel, then keep your hands away from the hair. This affectation is used in romance novels too much and strikes me as unrealistic, unless of course, I don't know guys who like to be unkempt.

The jerky movements of the characters stood out simply by their overuse. Crushed, slammed, punched, dived (dove would have been a better word for flow purposes,)jumped, jerked, etc. At times it seemed like an effort to stand up as they propelled themselves into each other.

Does anyone really "slap his hand" over the mouth of his companion when he doesn't want them to say something? This occurred several times.

Do guys bite their lips or stick out their tongues at someone?

The "banding of tightness in the chest" was overused, as was "lines mapping his face." Phrases like this stand out and because they do, should only be used once per book.

"Eyes, a haze of espresso desire." I understand it, but at first blush, it sounded like, in the middle of lovemaking, he wanted coffee. Not the author's intent.

Also, "The flint in his eyes." Now that's painful! I know Ms. Dane meant a flinty look, but a flint is something tangible - A very hard, fine-grained quartz that sparks when struck with steel. Perhaps different phrasing wouldn't have made the sentence stand out as an impossibility.

Other food references - Mushroom head, espresso colored eyes, black coffee stare, chocolate stare.

Each time the oral sex was over, one or the other of them "spit out his cock." Again not a great visual. And although kneeled is a good word, it's clunky. Knelt would have served better.

"Slashing his lips against Zane's." "Slanting his lips against Noah's." Again, the visuals don't say romance to me.

Guy's hair shouldn't be referred to as tresses (long lock or ringlet of hair) or locks for that matter, which is a long length or curl of hair. Neither guy had long, curly hair and tress and lock are decidedly feminine words.

With the quality of the story, singularly, none is terrible. However, they were because of the grievous repetition.

I've never read Ms. Dane before, but I likely will again. This series, no. I didn't care for Sirus or Gray, who made appearances in this story. They appeared self-centered and childish.

As I said, I loved Janice, Matt, Seth, Duncan, Hailey, and certainly loved Noah and Zane. The requisite villains were villainy, but not over the top. The portrayal of Noah's parents, particularly his father, was touching. Hoyt's questions were realistic and understandable, and while you wanted him to understand his son, the reader could readily understand why he didn't. Noah was understandably flummoxed as to how to explain to Hoyt, and I thought that scene was amazing.

Again, word choice matters. Editing matters. Giving the reader a visual they can understand matters.
Final Admission - Sue  Brown A terrific story of domestic abuse where you might not suspect it exists. A wonderful story by Sue Brown--again.
Wolf Shadow - Madeline Baker I'm giving this a 3.5 star because I love the characters and the story. Endless descriptions bog the story down (and I'm one that loves description in historicals) but this one has a bit too much. I found myself skipping over parts to get on with the story.

I love Ms. Baker's books, and have a ton to read. I'm looking forward to them. Of all I've read, this one isn't my favorite, but I could see picking it up again in the future for a re-read.
Cut Hand - Mark Wildyr This is the best book I have read this year. A skillfully written historical, depicting the life of a young Tory boy, who grows into a life he never foresaw for himself. Cut Hand, a young Yanube Indian brave has a physical and very real impact on Billy, one that lasts over the span of more than 30 years.

I laughed and cried as the story unfolded. A heartfelt depiction of what led up to the demise of the Plains Indians and the aftermath.

The love between these two men is poignant and uncompromising.

Beautifully written, the characters will stay with me for a very long time. What a privilege it was to read this book.
The Endless Sky - Shirl Henke I loved this sweeping story. The characters engaged me from the start and kept me reading. I was prompted to write to the author, telling her how much I loved her book. Lovely writing style, great story, what more could a reader ask for?