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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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Dex in Blue by Amy Lane

Dex in BlueDex in Blue by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  120,308 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  4
 

Johnnies: Book Two

Ten years ago David Worral had plans to go to college and the potential for a beautiful future in front of him. One tragic accident later, he fled to California and reinvented himself as Dex, top porn model of Johnnies.

Dex’s life is a tangled mess now, but the guys he works with only see the man who makes them believe even porn stars can lead normal lives. When Kane, one of Dex’s coworkers, gets kicked out of his house, the least Dex can do is give him a place to stay. Kane may be a hyperactive muscle-bound psycho, but he’s also a really nice guy. What could be the harm?

Except nothing is simple—not sex, not love, and not the goofy kid with the big dick and bigger heart who moves his life into Dex’s guest room. When they start negotiating fractured pasts and broken friends, Dex wonders if Kane’s honest nature can untangle the sadness that stalled his once-promising future. With Kane by his side, Dex just might be able to reclaim the boy he once was—and if he can do that, he can give Kane the home and the family he deserves.

Excerpt

This is actually a companion book rather than a book 2.  The time line is the same for the first book Chase in Shadows and we view what events happen in that book from Dex and Kane’s point of view along with Dex and Kane’s story.

I love this author’s writing.  The characters are usually vividly portrayed with “warts and all”.  Kane/Carlos is not well educated but a very sweet character.  He loves animals and has adopted ones that aren’t usually as well loved.  Kane loves them and manages in the story to make other love those critters, or at least hate less, too.  Dex/David is a caregiver and planner.  If something needs to happen he tries to make it happen.  Dex is a much or complex character with issues that reflect that.

As far are the plot line of the story, it holds together well.  It isn’t the emotional draw and crush that Chase in Shadow was so it made for a bit of an easier read.  There was only the one hiccup for me and that was Dex and how he falls into this relationship.  Dex seems so against risking his heart again and has issue with the age difference but falls pretty fast for someone with those issues.  Kane is slower to figure things out than he is which if not for Dex’s past would make sense.  As I said small hiccup and really didn’t get in the way of my enjoyment.

The read was a solid piece of work.  You feel the characters and the angst level is just enough to keep the story from getting flat.   Overall I enjoyed the book.

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Chase in Shadow by Amy Lane

Chase in ShadowChase in Shadow by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  103,210 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  5
 

Chase Summers: Golden boy. Beautiful girlfriend, good friends, and a promising future.

Nobody knows the real Chase.

Chase Summers has a razor blade to his wrist and the smell of his lover’s goodbye clinging to his skin. He has a door in his heart so frightening he’d rather die than open it, and the lies he’s used to block it shut are thinning with every forbidden touch. Chase has spent his entire life unraveling, and his decision to set his sexuality free in secret has only torn his mind apart faster.

Chase has one chance for true love and salvation. He may have met Tommy Halloran in the world of gay-for-pay—where the number of lovers doesn’t matter as long as the come-shot’s good—but if he wants the healing that Tommy’s love has to offer, he’ll need the courage to leave the shadows for the sunlight. That may be too much to ask from a man who’s spent his entire life hiding his true self. Chase knows all too well that the only things thriving in a heart’s darkness are the bitter personal demons that love to watch us bleed.

Excerpt

I was very unsure starting this book.  Chase has had a very difficult childhood and it has caused him issues in how he interacts with the world.  He wants “perfect” (though I will admit I really didn’t see that it was “perfection” he was striving for).  Chase starts making gay porn to supposedly make money for school and his life with his girlfriend but it is really about letting himself have the freedom to be with men.  While there he meets Tommy.  Tommy is everything he wants but thinks he can’t have.  Tommy and Chase fall for each other.  Chase allows himself to be talked into an affair with Tommy, but Chase is being torn apart and is unable to handle the fallout.

Normally the one thing that will REALLY turn me off a story is cheating.  If you are like that DON’T read this.  Yes, Chase cheats on his fiancé and though Tommy knows I still feel he is cheating on Tommy.  I don’t like that.  I have never understood it and do not find it something that I can read objectively.  (This is not the same as an open relationship, triad, or a poly relationship.  These kinds of relationships all have an understanding between all parties and hurt no one.  EVERYONE was hurt here.)

That all said I enjoyed the writing.  The author is a wonderful writer and creates worlds that are so real!  The characters are so personable and fun but still real.  I have always loved the characters in the books I have read by this author.  I really think she has a gift for writing.  Even with the cheating I enjoyed the story.  Chase’s struggle within himself and wanting what he thought he couldn’t have and shouldn’t want.  The guilt and the buildup effect it had on Chase.

There was a touch on Tommy and his problems.  Since the story is from Chase we don’t get a lot of that side of the story.  Tommy isn’t perfect and had a good home but he still had his issues.  Mental problems can affect any and all.  Chase’s depression was well described.  I can relate to that.  I think everyone suffers at some point a degree of depression but the level that Chase reached and how he felt when he starts with the razor is a perfect look at how someone can be so far gone to it that nothing matters.  It’s all far away.  I think that was well done by the author.

Now I have looked at other reviews by some.  They address the fact that Chase is a self centered, child.  That he isn’t the only one to have a bad childhood and they didn’t do like Chase.  I don’t agree with it all.  I think people are individual and can’t always be grouped like that.  What can destroy one person’s mind may be more easily dealt with by another.  I think as a child Chase’s mind dealt with his life in a way that made sense to it.  To me this story is one example of how a mind can trick itself.

I didn’t like the cheating but it was central to the story.  It was part of Chase’s denial.  I did feel that Chase was being childish and should have woke up to what he needed to do long before he did.  I didn’t like that aspect of the story.  I don’t know if it was the cheating or something else but I had a hard time becoming invested in the actual story.  I would have normally bawled like a baby during a story like this but I just couldn’t invest into the story itself like that.  I still believe this story is wonderful.  I think the author has amazing writing skills.  I think my issues with the story are my own and not a reflection on the quality of the book.

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How to Raise an Honest Rabbit by Amy Lane

How to Raise an Honest Rabbit by LaneHow to Raise an Honest Rabbit by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novella:  45,277 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Noble
Roses:  5
 
A Knitting Novella
Everything about Jeremy has always been a lie—including his last name. When one grift too many ends in tragedy, Jeremy goes straight. But life’s hard for an ex-con, and Jeremy is down to panhandling and hope when Rance Crawford offers him work at a tiny alpaca farm and fiber mill. Jeremy takes him up on the job, thinking this could be his last chance to be a good man, and meets Aiden, who is growing into a better one.As Aiden comes of age, Jeremy finds himself desperate to grow up, too, because Aiden starts looking  to him for things Jeremy doesn’t know how to give. Being honest is terrifying for a man who’s learned to rabbit at the first sign of conflict—more so when Aiden gives Jeremy a reason to stay that can’t be packed up and carried in a knapsack. When Jeremy’s past comes knocking at their door, can Jeremy trust enough in Aiden and his new home to answer bravely back?

Excerpt

This series is like candy to me.   Each book is so sweet.  I absolutely love the covers too.  (Aren’t they the cutest!)  So on to the story.  Jeremy is a man who had the unlucky break to be born to a grifter.  We are never told what happened to his mother.  Jeremy doesn’t even know his last name for sure.  After his father is killed he tries a check kiting scheme and can’t go through with it.  He is arrested for it and spends 2 years in jail.  He is determined to go straight.  Life is hard as an ex-con and he is desperate for work.  Along comes Rance Crawford who picks him up and gives him work and a place to stay.  This is where he meets the young Aiden.

This story is just a good old fashioned love story.  There isn’t a whole lot of angst.  Jeremy has a whole lot of fear of commitment and now he is committing to changing his life, staying in one place, and loving someone.  The characters really drive Amy Lane’s books.  They are vivid and full of life.  You can just picture these people so clearly.  The story lines are good as well.  The Knitting series is tamer than some of her other books when it comes to sex.  This just makes the romance all the more tender in my mind.  The story analogies using knitting are wonderful as well.  I use to knit some and it makes me want to start again.

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Forever Promised by Amy Lane

Forever Promised by Amy LaneForever Promised by Amy Lane
Reviewer:  Tj
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press
Novel:  127,638 Words
Purchase at Amazon and Barnes and Nobel
Roses:  4
 

Crick has been home from Iraq for five years, Jeff and Collin are finally married, and Shane and Mikhail are quietly making lives better for the dispossessed teenagers who come their way. Everything is right in Deacon’s world, but nothing ever stays the same.

When Deacon’s best friends, Jon and Amy, answer the call of an opportunity in Washington, DC, Deacon figures that’s life. You love people, and they leave you, and you survive. Even Benny, Crick’s little sister, is close to grown and ready to start her own future. But Benny loves Deacon, and she owes him—she may move beyond The Pulpit and Levee Oaks one day, but not without leaving something of herself behind. And so she offers Deacon and Crick an amazing gift… and a terrifying decision.

Benny’s offer forces Deacon and Crick to dredge up every past mistake and offer of redemption. And not just the two of them—everybody is forced to examine the chances they’ve been given and the promises they’ve made. In a real family, a child is a promise, and to the men and women of Promise Rock, keeping that promise will change their lives forever.

Excerpt

I was happy to see another Promise book.  I have always loved Crick and Deacon along with all the “family” of the series.  Amy Lane is a wonderful author that writes stories that are emotional.  This particular book is a bit different.  There are established couples and none of the difficulties that arise have to do with a romantic relationship.  It seemed this one was more about life changing, people growing up and moving on.  The “drama” is all related to that.

This was a difficult one for me to review.  Amy Lane’s descriptive writing style always leaves me in awe.  I could never imagine writing anything close to like she does.  She is usually known for her angsty books.  There was some angst contained in the book but not like she does in some.  This will turn some people off.  Difficult relationships, big disasters and crisis, action and adventure…these are what a lot of readers want out of the M/M Romance reads.  This book isn’t that.  It’s about family and friends, love and healing, building on the old to make a better new.

I did enjoy the read.  I’ve enjoyed the whole of the series.  The people of “Promise Rock” are now dear to me and my heart.  I loved seeing them grow more.  Seeing them settle into their relationships and how it was all working.  I think my biggest disappointment was not feeling more when the story was centered on Crick and Deacon’s relationship.  I just didn’t see it as much as I wanted.  There were multiple POV’s in the book so you could catch up in everyone’s lives and thoughts.  It may have drawn away from having a deeper “feel” to the book because you only really caught glimpses of everyone.  As it was the book was a gentle look at those couples from the Promise series and where they are in their lives.

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