Category Archives: Contemporary

Books centering in the current time period.

Floodgates by Mary Calmes

FloodgatesFloodgates by Mary Calmes
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  71,040 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Nobles
Roses:  3
 

Tracy Brandt considers himself a lucky man. He has a wonderful family, good friends, and a dependable job. His love life, however, features a cheating ex who, though out of the house, is not yet out of the picture—with a past that just might get Tracy killed.

Homicide inspector Cord Nolan wants nothing more than to show his best friend’s little brother that he’s a reliable man, but to do that he’ll have to get Tracy to look past the player he used to be. It’ll be a tough sell; reputation is everything, and Cord’s is tarnished by his past indiscretions.

Tracy and Cord have spent five years trying to suffocate their fiery attraction under a blanket of grudging antagonism. When Tracy finds himself with a target on his back, Cord finally has the chance to ride to the rescue and break through the dam of Tracy’s reserve. But he’d better be careful: if Cord is breaking the floodgates to wash away the past, he’s going to have to hold tight to Tracy to make sure they’re still standing when the tumult recedes.

 Excerpt

I really am a fan of Mary Calmes.  I don’t care that her style is a bit formulaic.  It works for me:)  This particular book though was not as good as others.  It was mainly that it felt…loose.  There were threads that made no sense to have and then leave hanging, in particular Tracey’s boss. I know it is accepted in the end but it just felt like there was more there.  Then there is Breckin’s cheating.  I get the crazy stalker going after those that Breckin cares about but what about the man Tracey caught him with.  This is a friend of Breckin’s but is never gone after…doesn’t make sense.

The writing itself is good.  Mary Calmes has a way to draw you into the story and give you details without making it totally overwhelming.  I quite enjoy her writing style.  The plot is a bit thin and seems a bit stretched.  I don’t buy the whole going to another state with police escort for something like this even with family involved it was a bit much.  The characters are what always make me smile.  I love the possessive, domineering alpha and the snarky “bottom boy”.  It’s a thing that works for me and makes me smile.  This isn’t the most stimulating of writings but for a comfort read that makes you feel good it is great.

So overall, the characters and writing worked for me.  I thought they gave something different to the story and made it fun to read.  The plot though and storyline had a few too many holes to make this a great read though.  If you want a feel good read though this is a good one.

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Knitter in His Natural Habitat by Amy Lane

Knitter in His Natural HabitatKnitter in His Natural Habitat by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  51,455 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

Stanley’s life took a left turn at a knitting shop and hit a dead end. The closest thing he’s had to a relationship breaks things off to date a “nice boy,” and none of the pretty young things in Boulder’s limited gay scene do it for Stanley. He needs to reevaluate whether working as a floor designer for a series of craft stores is really where he wants to be.

Then Stanley does a peculiar thing: he starts to live the life he fell into. Stitch by stitch, he knits his life into something meaningful. Just when he does, Johnny, the store’s new delivery boy, walks in.

Johnny is like no one Stanley has ever met: he doesn’t believe in quickies in the bathroom and has a soft spot for theater and opera. There has to be a catch. When Johnny’s dark past comes back to haunt them, Stanley realizes how much he loves his cushy life in the yarn store—but he’ll give it all up to keep the man who makes his ordinary life extraordinary.

Excerpt

This is the fourth book in the Knitting series by Amy Lane.  I have enjoyed this series with its humor, real life characters, and its life lessons all wrapped up in knitting.  We go outside the insular little farm to the big city of Boulder to Craw’s ex, Stanley.  Stanley is aging and is realizing since “losing” Craw that there might be more to life than a steady stream of meaningless sexual hookups.  It’s not long after that that he meets Johnny and finally starts opening his heart to a real relationship.

The author’s use of description and referencing it all to knitting is an interesting tactic.  I loved seeing all the other couples from the series and getting a little update on life.  Stanley wasn’t quite what I was expecting.  He wasn’t very solid to me.  He kept aging himself with the hair plugs reference.  I know that is part of the character because of his life before and how crippling aging is in that world but it really threw me off this character.  I didn’t really like him as much as I would have expected.  The author has always done well with connecting me to the main characters she writes about.  In this case I feel like the story was pushed.  It just didn’t flow and contained characters that just didn’t meet up to the usual standards in a book by Amy Lane.

Johnny was…unknown.  There is reference to him talking a lot with Stanley but I get very little sense of his character in the overall text of the book.  He remains elusive to me within the story.  Stanley for all his talk in the book, as the voice of the story, ends up really giving me very little to work with.  These characters do not behave like they should in regards to Johnny’s life.  WITSEC and yet here goes Stanley telling everyone.  Danger comes and Stanley runs out of town to where there is even less protection.  It is never explained how danger even follows Stanley when he runs.  Then even with these people in jail the danger to Johnny could still be very present.  None of the situation there really rang true to me.  NONE of it!

When I don’t consider any of the situations with WITSEC then the story is cute, sweet, and shallow.  This is a nice enough story but has a bit too many troubles with it.  I would consider this a one off for this author though.  She has wonderful work even within this series so there is no doubt I will continue to read her and this series.

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In Search of a Story by Andrew Grey

In Search of a StoryIn Search of a Story by Andrew Grey
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  60,852 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

He’s searching for a story but finds so much more.

Brad Torrence is next on the chopping block at the newspaper where he works. Hungry for any source he can find, he runs across an ad in the classifieds: For Sale: Nursery Items, Never Used. It’s the lead he’s been looking for. Thinking a piece about the loss of a child will give him the edge he needs to keep his job, Brad follows up. He doesn’t expect a single man to answer.

Rather than being offended, Cory Wolfe finds sharing the story of his grief and pain liberating. He’s even surprised by the spark that strikes, and one story leads to another.

Brad digs into his stories and Cory’s life, eager to know everything about the man who’s caught his attention. But when a lead points him to the hospital where Cory works, he unearths a mystery that might have been safer left buried. Brad’s search for a story could prove deadly….

Excerpt

He’s searching for a story but finds so much more.

Brad Torrence is next on the chopping block at the newspaper where he works. Hungry for any source he can find, he runs across an ad in the classifieds: For Sale: Nursery Items, Never Used. It’s the lead he’s been looking for. Thinking a piece about the loss of a child will give him the edge he needs to keep his job, Brad follows up. He doesn’t expect a single man to answer.

Rather than being offended, Cory Wolfe finds sharing the story of his grief and pain liberating. He’s even surprised by the spark that strikes, and one story leads to another.

Brad digs into his stories and Cory’s life, eager to know everything about the man who’s caught his attention. But when a lead points him to the hospital where Cory works, he unearths a mystery that might have been safer left buried. Brad’s search for a story could prove deadly….

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No Tea, No Shade by Clancy Nacht

No Tea, No ShadeNo Tea, No Shade by Clancy Nacht
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Loose Id LLC
Novella:  37,721 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

When Hank’s father catches him in a not-so-innocent childhood embrace with the neighbor Hank’s older brothers refer to as “Ladyboy Lindsey,” he forbids Hank ever to see his best friend again and sends Lindsey home in tears. Later, despite landing on opposite ends of the social and sexual spectrum in high school, neither can forget the boy who gave him his first kiss. While Hank becomes a sports star and bully, Lindsey throws himself into an elaborate sexual game played from afar for Hank’s benefit. When Hank’s football scholarship takes him away to college, their tenuous bond seems severed for good.

After Lindsey finds his calling as drag diva Miss Anne Thrope, embracing both his male identity and the natural androgyny of his intersex body, he’s finally in control of his world…until the night his first love disrupts Miss Anne’s show after a decade of silence. Hank’s dysfunctional behavior, crazy father, and their bittersweet history together threaten to destroy their fragile new romance before it’s truly begun. Should they let go of the past, or is this unique love one worth saving?

This is a story of two childhood friends that are forced by one’s father to part but never really “closed” the relationship.  Lindsey is a drag queen and quite happy with the life he leads.  He had no ambitions in school and loves to dress up.  Hank was Lindsey’s best friend in childhood but when Hank’s Dad catches them in a compromising situation he bands them from ever playing together any more.  Hank stalks Lindsey throughout high school with Lindsey’s full knowledge.  All of that ends though when Hank goes away to college and the two part ways.  Now Hank has returned and they beginning seeing each other.

This was an interesting read.  I really didn’t connect to the characters.  Hank went from totally jerk to fool in love.  I just thought his character a bit wish-washy.  Lindsey’s character was more even keeled.  The two of them fit together though and the story was cute.

Now the writing itself was not as well executed as it should have been.  I enjoyed the descriptions.  The plot was good and could have made a really good book.  I think the author just crammed too much into too little.  The characters aren’t developed enough.  The critical points aren’t well developed.  They skim over everything and then develop “easy” solutions.  There isn’t the growth of the story that could turn the book into an excellent read.  It makes the story too soft but without the mushy feel that make “soft” books comfort reads.

Overall it was an ok read but really missed the mark on execution of the plot.  The book itself is a nice read.

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Fantasy for Sale by Sage Marlowe

Fantasy for SaleFantasy for Sale by Sage Marlowe
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Totally Bound Publishing
Novel:  62, 570 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

What’s the price of reality when a fantasy is for sale?

Cam is young, sinfully sexy and willing to play without limits, a combination which makes him a fantasy turned to flesh for men and women alike—and he’s for sale.

Nate is curious when it comes to carnal delights but hasn’t found the right man to explore his desires with.

When a friend buys Nate a few hours of pleasure with Cam, it’s not much of a surprise that Nate ends up intrigued. He keeps coming back for more and the attraction between them
appears to be mutual but while Nate finds himself falling for the sexy hooker, Cam makes no secret of the fact that for him, sex is just a job.

Determined to win him over, Nathan tries to show him that sex is about more than physical satisfaction but Cam’s walls seem impenetrable until a dramatic event forces him to
reveal some of his secrets and Nate begins to understand that Cam pays more than just the price for the reality behind the fantasy.

Excerpt

This is a fairly typical troupe of a customer falling for a rent boy.  I will say there are some twists to the story and the ending wasn’t what I expected at all.  Nate’s best friend buys an escort for a party she must attend and though she told him she wouldn’t sleep with the escort she does.  The next morning when Nate meets “Cam” Nate’s friend decides Nate needs to get laid and proceeds to buy more time with Cam for Nate.

I will admit I was a bit disappointed to see Nate fall so fast to having sex with Cam.  The beginning seems to imply that Nate is a little more ethical than that.  So I could get Nate sleeping with Cam and even falling for him, which seems to happen with little cause, it’s the back and forth of Nate’s character I didn’t like.  One minute he is straight laced and the next sleeping with Cam or back to his boyfriend Keith.  I really didn’t like that.  This is a romance and I was seeing a lot of sex and not a lot of committed love.

I think the writing was good.  The plot develops in a logical way and the descriptions aren’t overblown and too much for the overall feel of the book.  The characters are well developed.  Cam/Noel is a wonderful character that draws you in and makes you hurt for him.  Keith, Cyn, and Nate are interesting characters.  We see little of Keith but what I did see made me wonder why Nate was with him.  Cyn is also not seen a lot but seems a bit jaded and callus.  Nate flip-flopped in his character a lot.  He wasn’t very consistent.  One minute he is straight laced acting like he would never do…and then he does it and never seems very bothered by it.  He wants a monogamous relationship but settles rather easily for the open on the open one with Keith.  He won’t sleep around on his boyfriend but does with Cam.  It’s on and on like that.  I could buy a character like that except he is never bothered by his own changes.  I think the characters are well written except for that.

I could not like the characters of Keith, Cyn, and Nate.  I just was off put by the way they were all slinging around whore, hooker, trash, and rent boy.  They seemed very unfeeling of what the others would feel by saying these things and others and yet are all suppose to really care about each other.

One other thing is that the author created a relationship that just happens.  There doesn’t appear to be any growing feeling or reasons for them until suddenly Nate loves Cam/Noel.  Then everything that happens at the end of the story just jumbles all together and it’s suddenly over with little closure for the relationship.  I just didn’t care for that.

Overall, the story just wasn’t for me.  I couldn’t care for most of the characters or understand how Nate falls for Cam.  Most stories that involve prostitutes don’t have the sleeping around by the other character that this one does.  You expect it for a while with the prostitute character but not the other especially after they proclaim they are falling for them.  The ending was a big disappointment as well.  The thing that was good was the plot.  Though it wasn’t an original idea the author did a wonderful job turning it into something unique.

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Love the Sinner by Arvil Ashton

Love the SinnerLove the Sinner by Avril Ashton
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Novel:  69,594 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  2
 

Detective Gabriel Ashby has never looked twice at another man, yet the criminal across from him, the man he’s interrogating, isn’t like any other. Gabe can’t deal with the sudden, intense need he has for one of NYPD’s Most Wanted. Everyone close to Angelo Pagan ends up dead, with the smug gang leader standing amid the rubble. Gabe would love nothing more than to bust Angelo’s ass and lock him up. So why is he seeing the bastard in his dreams at night?
Angelo Pagan knows attraction to Gabe is suicide. He’s resolute to ignore the chemistry…until a police raid goes wrong. He critically injures Gabe, changing the trajectory of both their lives. Now the two can’t get close enough. They settle into a forbidden affair threatened by lies and betrayal, living on different sides of the law with no way of breaching the gap between them. With the authorities looking to make an example of Angelo, Gabe has to decide if it’s really worth it to hate the sin but love the sinner.

Excerpt

Interesting book but very hard to rate.  Gabe is a cop who interviews Angelo the local gang leader after Angelo’s sister is killed.  There is instant lust/love when they meet.  Gabe is straight and has never looked at a man that way when you add to that Angelo being the leader of a gang that Gabe is on a task force for you have some problems.  Gabe is then shot but Angelo during a raid.

There is an overload of sex in this book.  I’ll be honest…I don’t get the relationship.  They should have never got together and then it seems that sex is all they have.  They are constantly fighting about the relationship or getting jealous over others because they have to hide.

The writing is good.  The author does a great job with descriptions and details.  Unfortunately the sex is a bit repetitive.  It is hot at times and rather rough, which I like but it gets a bit too much.  The characters are likable, even Angelo who kills during the book is likable.  The author really did a good job trying to portray Angelo in a good light.  I have my doubts about how realistic he is but he does end up being likable.

Overall this is an enjoyable read but it does come off as a little too much porn without plot.  Also the plot is very unrealistic and the attraction between characters unbelievable.

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Superhero by Eli Easton

SuperheroSuperhero by Eli Easton
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Harmony Ink Press
Short Story:  35,121 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

It’s not easy for a young gay artist like Jordan Carson to grow up in Jefferson, Wisconsin, where all anyone seems to care about in middle school and high school are the sports teams. But Jordan was lucky. He met Owen Nelson in the second grade, and they’ve been BFFs ever since. Owen is a big, beautiful blond and their school’s champion wrestler. No one messes with Owen, or with anyone close to him, and he bucks popular opinion by keeping Jordan as his wingman even after Jordan comes out at school.

Their friendship survives, but Jordan’s worst enemy may be himself: he can’t seem to help the fact that he is head-over-heels in love with a hopeless case—his straight friend, Owen. Owen won’t let anything take Jordan’s friendship away, but he never counted on Jordan running off to find a life of his own. Owen will have to face the nature of their relationship if he’s to win Jordan back.

Excerpt

This was a super sweet YA story.  It was shorter than I thought it would be.  The story shows the development of the relationship between the two main characters from meeting in second grade to college sophomores.  The story contains little that is surprising. 

The writing was good.  The beginning of the story is very slow.  I know this is part of the development of the story, but it just didn’t draw me in.  After the boys hit high school I was more into the story as more happened and developed. 

I wanted to really like this book.  I did like it but was unable to connect to the story so didn’t love it.  The characters just felt flat and the ending was swift and a little too pat.  Still it was enjoyable and as a YA I think the ideas behind it will appeal to a younger audience.

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Mastering the Ride by J.P. Barnaby

Mastering the RideMastering the Ride by J.P. Barnaby
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Short Story:  15,874 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

Josh, a young gay submissive with a strong desire to serve, is searching for the Master of his dreams. After being released by yet another Dom, he takes the advice of his trainer and leaves Chicago to accept the invitation of a Montana rancher—a real, live, modern-day cowboy. With his new Master, Wade Mallory, Josh may just find what he’s looking for… and more.

Excerpt

This is a short story and as such has some of  the typical  inherent flaws of shorts.  It ends just when it is getting good.  I would love to know more.  Josh is a sub and looking to be one full time to a Dom.  He is having trouble though and is in despair as another Dom dumps him.  Josh has lots of self doubt when it comes to his worth.  His service to his Dom helps him with that.  He wants to be necessary!  Wade has had a long road to get to where he understands himself more.  He left behind his life that he was living for his father to find a life for himself.  After he discovers his desire to be a Dom he begins his search for a Sub.  No Sub seems to want what he wants.  It isn’t about a thrill for him.  He wants a Sub to serve him but is having no luck.  Luckily for both men they have a common friend that sets them up.  Now they have to see if they each are what the other is looking for.

As the story is the writing is awesome.  I love the build up to the meeting between Dom and Sub.  It lets you know so much more about the men involved than a usual short would.  This does mean that the relationship part is very short.  This is where the short has problems.  You just start to see what these two men can have and it ends.  I still loved it.  It was a wonderful short that gives you a great view of this author and her writing.  Her abilities to write vivid and touching characters are shown here.  I usually have issues with the depth of characters in shorts.  Though we don’t get all the background on these characters, with even more hinted at, you still get a full enough one to start to really “see” them.  Readers will leave this short wanting more.

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Billy’s Bones by Jamie Fessenden

Billy's BonesBilly’s Bones by Jamie Fessenden
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  73,735 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

Kevin Derocher was thirty-two when he walked into Tom’s office, newly married, a baby on the way, and the collar of his red flannel shirt pulled up to hide the bruises around his throat from when he hanged himself in his garage. After his initial consult, therapist Tom Langois believes he’ll never see Kevin again—but Kevin turns up three years later to make repairs on Tom’s new house.

Kevin and Tom become fast friends, and Tom begins to suspect Kevin may be interested in more than friendship. However, Kevin remains haunted by something from his childhood—something so terrible he blocked it from his mind. These suppressed memories make it impossible for Kevin to get close to anyone without panicking and lashing out, sometimes violently. But as his past begins to surface, it becomes apparent that Kevin may hold the key to a twenty-five-year-old mystery: what happened to Billy?

Excerpt

This is a very different read.  There isn’t the sex that is in many books.  There is a good reason behind it and adds I believe to the story line.  Kevin is a very emotionally damaged young man.  He doesn’t seem to want to change or to some degree even think he should.  I believe the author’s intent with that was to should how difficult and emotionally damaging his trauma was.  He is a confusing mess of contradictions for Tom.  Tom met Kevin first one time as a therapist and then again after 3 years when Kevin comes to fix Tom’s hot tub.  Tom is very intrigue but Kevin.  He finds himself developing a friendship with Kevin and then a crush.  Tom doesn’t believe that Kevin is gay.  When Kevin finally admits his attraction to Tom the two begin to delve into Kevin’s issues and uncover more than expected.

I think the author did an amazing job with this story.  He approached the subject matter from an informed point of view.  You can tell he has done some research into the subject.  He shows the reader one of the possible outcomes of childhood trauma.  I will admit to some surprise that Kevin’s issues weren’t discovered and treated when he was intuitionalized as a child.  I don’t know if that would bother a reader or not but it did catch me a bit, not that I don’t think that it couldn’t happen.  The story line leads the reader in a logical and emotional way through Kevin’s psychological discoveries and the start of his recovery.  You twist and turn through their discoveries and relationship.  You are left to wonder about Kevin and what else they will discover as you go through the story.

I think where I did have some issues with the story was the relationship between the main characters.  I didn’t feel that love that the two men had.  It had a friendship feel to it.  I do think by the end that they were heading toward a romance.  I think until then that Kevin’s issues so dominated the relationship it just didn’t feel romantic.  The characters were well developed though.  The author draws the reader easily into the story by way of the characters.  Kevin’s character, even without being the “voice” of the story, is compelling.  He changes and grows during the story.  Other than what the author explains about the need to change some of what a real person would go through with Kevin’s issues, you see some of what happens to a person with his abuse issues.  It was emotionally devastating for the reader to find out what happened to Kevin.  Tom on the other hand I never really got as much of a connection with.  He does show how a partner’s mental issues affect those around them but other than that he was a bit flat.

The ending of the story also didn’t work for me.  I would think that Kevin would have to recover some more before the two men would even consider further commitment.  I have no doubt that Kevin might have offered but I didn’t feel that Kevin was enough emotionally steady yet in his recovery.  (I know many have complained about the mom issue.  I didn’t think it was that out of character.  I know many that have terrible trauma with a parent but still hope to have a connection and continue to reach out.  Kevin’s character seems like one who would do this.)

The story was an excellent read and one that will stay with me for a while.  Compelling and emotional as it was there was a wonderful, hopeful message about recovery contained within.  I think it a very worthwhile read.

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Masters & Boyd by S.J.D. Peterson

Masters & BoydMasters & Boyd by S.J.D. Peterson
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novella:  26,648 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  3
 

Carrick Masters and Edward Boyd have already found true love—it’s the happy ever after that’s eluding them. Between Carrick’s job as an orthopedic surgeon and Ed’s career as a defense attorney, they have hardly any time to spend together, and what time they do have seems to be poisoned by resentment. Carrick and Ed know they need to refocus to make their marriage work, but they seriously need more than a spicy once-a-week date night to get them back on track.

Excerpt

This was a story originally done from a photo and a prompt in the Goodreads M/M Romance group.  The author has done a wonderful job within a short story format.  This is about and established couple and how their very happy marriage crumbles under real world pressures.  When the two men hit a point of their marriage almost breaking under the strain, they resolve to fix it.  The story itself chronicles their relationship for about 2 years.

Carrick is a surgeon and his husband, Ed, a lawyer.  They are both very successful but busy.  They notice that their relationship is becoming all work with the occasional night of sex.  They are losing touch with each other and the small things that mean so much to the relationship.  They finally take time to fix their marriage.  In the course of doing so they stumble across the fact that Ed likes to be spanked and Carrick likes to be in control during sex.  They start to explore this difference in their love life and find it something they both enjoy.

I thought the writer did a good job with the plot.  The whole of the story was pretty much a flash back which contains flash backs.  That sounds confusing but the writer manages to make it very smooth and with no confusion as to what is happening.  The believability of a relationship “hitting the rocks” like this makes the story interesting.  How do they change where they are headed?  And how did this vanilla couple put these kinks into their love life?

The characters are simple but easy to sympathize with.  They are made believable by how they are letting just the little stuff intrude and tear them apart.  I will say that I really didn’t connect with them though.  I think it is a bit of the nature of a short that it is very difficult to create a character that connects to the readers.  In this case I just didn’t have enough emotion devoted to the story to connect with the characters.

This is a sweet little story and good read.  I would recommend it to anyone.

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