Feb 19 2015 5:15pm

Ain’t No Sunshine: Male/Male Best Bets for February 2015

 Jackdaw by KJ CharlesAs a romance lover, this is supposed to be my month,  but I tend to find February pretty dreary, and it looks as if the m/m genre agrees with me. Aside from one cheerful Valentine's Day anthology, I'm seeing a lot of darker stories this month, with an emphasis on bad weather and strained relationships. How many ways can authors find to tear their lovers apart? Oh so many.


Jackdaw by KJ Charles

If you stop running, you fall.

Jonah Pastern is a magician, a liar, a windwalker, a professional thief…and for six months, he was the love of police constable Ben Spenser’s life. Until his betrayal left Ben jailed, ruined, alone, and looking for revenge.

Ben is determined to make Jonah pay. But he can’t seem to forget what they once shared, and Jonah refuses to let him. Soon Ben is entangled in Jonah’s chaotic existence all over again, and they’re running together—from the police, the justiciary, and some dangerous people with a lethal grudge against them.

Threatened on all sides by betrayals, secrets, and the laws of the land, can they find a way to live and love before the past catches up with them?

If you love betrayal and anguished hate sex, look no further. Unlike the other books in the Charm of Magpies series, this is a traditionally structured (and exquisitely heartbreaking) genre romance; however, it is chock full of spoilers for the previous books, so is not the best entry if you plan to read the entire series.

The Wrong Man (Right and Wrong #2) by Lane Hayes

Successful owner of an upscale boutique in fabulous West Hollywood, Brandon Good swears by his personal edict to “live in the present.” After a bad breakup, he agrees to dog-sit to keep his mind off his ex. Never did he expect the dog to belong to a man from his past, the only man to ever truly break his heart.

When Jake Westley relocates to join the WeHo fire department, the last thing he anticipates is reuniting with his secret high school love. Thrilled with the prospect of reconnecting with Bran, Jake feels no guilt in using his charming old dog as an unwitting matchmaker. As he and Bran rekindle their friendship, it becomes clear the intense attraction they once felt is stronger than ever. But as hard as they try to leave the past behind, painful memories resurface. Bran will have to confront his fears and consider the possibility that the man he swore was absolutely the wrong one might be perfect after all.

Grab this if you're a dog lover, avoid it if you're a first-person narrative hater. It's an interracial romance that focuses on the best friend of one of the heroes from The Right Words, but can be read as a stand alone.

Memories of a Past Love!

Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

People come as well as go.

Twelve years ago, Edwin Tully came to Oxford and fell in love with a boy named Marius. He was brilliant. An artist. It was going to be forever.

Two years ago, it ended.

Now Edwin lives alone in the house they used to share. He tends to damaged books and faded memories, trying to build a future from the fragments of the past.

Then the weather turns, and the river spills into Edwin’s quiet world, bringing with it Adam Dacre from the Environment Agency. An unlikely knight, this stranger with roughened hands and worn wellingtons, but he offers Edwin the hope of something he thought he would never have again.
As the two men grow closer in their struggle against the rising waters, Edwin learns he can’t protect himself from everything—and sometimes he doesn't need to try.

Glitterland fans, prepare to squee... After a number of fantasy/paranormal stories, Hall returns to contemporary romance with this stand-alone story, set in the same world as his brilliant first novel.

An Infatuation by Joe Cosentino

With his ten-year high school reunion approaching, Harold wonders whether Mario will be as muscular, sexy, and tantalizing as he remembers. As a teenager, it was love at first sight for Harold while tutoring football star Mario, until homophobia and bullying drove Mario deep into the closet. Now they’re both married men. Mario, a model, is miserable with his producer wife, while Harold, a teacher, is perfectly content with his businessman husband, Stuart. When the two meet again, will the old flame reignite, setting Harold’s comfortable life ablaze? How can Harold be happy with Stuart when he is still infatuated with his Adonis, his first love, Mario? Harold faces this seemingly impossible situation with inimitable wit, tenderness, and humor as he attempts to reconcile the past and the future.

Warning: I don't have a clue about how this novella, a “love square,” turns out. Will Harold stay with his husband, will Mario leave his wife for Harold, or will all four move into the Big Brother house together? The author is an actor and playwright, and this is a novelized version of his one-act play.

Personality Change!

A New Man by P.D. Singer

Senior year of college is for studying, partying, and having fun before getting serious about life. Instead, Chad’s days are filled with headaches and exhaustion, and his fencing skills are getting worse with practice, not better. Then there’s his nonexistent love life, full of girls he’s shunted to the friend zone. Is he asexual? Gay?

Grad student Warren Douglas could be out clubbing, but his roommate is better company, even without kisses. He’s torn up watching Chad suffer, gobbling ibuprofen and coming home early on Friday nights. If Chad weren’t straight, Warren would keep him up past midnight. They’re great as friends. Benefits might answer Chad’s questions.

A brief encounter with lab rats reveals Chad’s illness—he needs surgery, STAT, and can’t rely on his dysfunctional parents for medical decisions. Warren’s both trustworthy and likely to get overruled—unless they’re married. “You can throw me back later,” Warren says, and he may throw himself back after his husband turns out moody and hard to get along with, no matter how much fun his new sex drive is. Surgery turns Chad into a new man, all right…

…but Warren fell in love with the old one.

The effect of chronic illness on libido, and what happens when it's reversed is a fascinating premise. The author writes that she's “a big believer in research,” so the medical information should be accurate.

Opposite Sides of the Law!

Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft

Michael May is losing it. Long ago, he joined the Metropolitan Police to escape his father’s tyranny and protect people like himself. Now his father is dead, and he’s been fired for punching a suspect. Afraid of his own rage, he returns to Trowchester—and to his childhood home, with all its old fears and memories. When he meets a charming, bohemian bookshop owner who seems to like him, he clings tight.

Fintan Hulme is an honest man now. Five years ago, he retired from his work as a high class London fence and opened a bookshop. Then an old client brings him a stolen book too precious to turn away, and suddenly he’s dealing with arson and kidnapping, to say nothing of all the lies he has to tell his friends. Falling in love with an ex-cop with anger management issues is the last thing he should be doing.

Finn thinks Michael is incredibly sexy. Michael knows Finn is the only thing that still makes him smile. But in a relationship where cops and robbers are natural enemies, that might not be enough to save them.

I'm a huge fan of Beecroft's compelling and poignant Age of Sail romances, so am eager to see where she goes with a suspenseful contemporary. This begins a new series of three stand-alone  romances.

The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool, #2) by Lisa Henry and J.A. RockThe Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool, #2) by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock

All’s fair in love and war.

There’s something rotten in the state of Indiana. When con man Henry Page takes it upon himself to investigate the death of an elderly patient at a care facility, he does so in true Shakespearean tradition: dressed as a girl.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness has more to worry about than Henry’s latest crazy idea. Someone is trying to send him a message—via a corpse with a couple of bullets in it. He needs to figure out who’s trying to set him up before he gets arrested, and he really doesn’t have time for Henry’s shenanigans. Then again, he’d probably be able to focus better if Henry didn’t look so damn distracting in a babydoll dress and a wig.

But when Mac discovers that Henry has been keeping a secret that connects the cases, he has to find a way to live on the right side of the law when he just might be in love with the wrong sort of man.

I've got to hurry up and read the first book in this trilogy, because that blurb is irresistible. This is described as a light and funny story, a change of pace from Henry's usual dark novels.

Dangerous Secrets!

Road Trip by A.F. Henley

For as long as Boyd can remember, he's been pushing pins into a map. Carson City, Las Vegas, Albuquerque—all places he wants to see, for a dozen different reasons that wouldn't mean a thing to anyone else. When he finally gets a chance to purchase the '69 Road Runner of his dreams, at a price that even he can manage, Boyd jumps at the opportunity..

Oliver seems like just another kid with a broken dream when their paths cross in Vegas. Against Boyd's better judgment, he offers to let Oliver hitch along for the ride when Oliver confides the need to get out and get gone. .

But it's not long before Boyd realizes Oliver's reasons for running are more complicated—and more dangerous—than Oliver let on. But Boyd doesn't like people who play hardball, and he definitely doesn't like people messing with a man who's managed to light a fuse that Boyd forgot he had.

Just the title of this one makes me want to jump in the car—preferably chauffeured, so I can read. From the reviews, this is less dark than the blurb makes it sound.

The Truth As He Knows It by A.M. Arthur

Lies are the chains that keep you weighed down at rock bottom.

Officer Noel Carlson isn’t out to anyone in small-town Stratton, Pennsylvania, only to distant friends and family, so a relationship is out of the question. That doesn’t stop him from wanting one, though.

When a night-shift call brings him face to thonged butt with a hired stripper whose girl-party gig went terribly wrong, Noel takes pity on the guy and lets him go. But he can’t get the encounter out of his mind.

Shane has big-time debts to repay, especially to the brother who sacrificed nearly everything for him. His two jobs, in a deli and as a stripper, leave him no time for a social life. But a non-date of hot sex and takeout food with Noel? He can squeeze that in.

The bond they form is stronger than either expected or wanted. Especially since the step Shane’s about to take to put his brother—and his soul—back in the black isn’t quite legal. And he never calculated just how much his determination to make things right will cost him in the end.

This begins a new small town series called “Perspectives,” which spins off from Arthur's “Cost of Repairs” series but can be read independently. From the reviews, it will use up every hankie you own.

Unwanted Marriage of Convenience!

Winter's Bees by E.E. Ottoman

Lord Marcel de la Mont de Anges, the Marquis de Montespan is a brilliant mathematician, member of the mechanical animation movement and all around dandy. He's been in love with shy, quiet entomologist and youngest member of the royal family, Prince Gilbert André XVI, since they were children. The Emperor's plans to arrange a marriage between Marcel and Gilbert should have been the answer to all his secret fantasies.

But Gilbert is still reeling from a nasty breakup, and he cannot picture the man he regards as a brother becoming his lover. The order to marry has thrown their relationship into disorder, and if they cannot sort out the changes there may not even be a friendship left for them to save...

A marriage of convenience plot for m/m fans! This is part of a fantasy steampunk series called Mechanical Universe, but the stories are unrelated.


Please Remember Me by Jacob Z. Flores

Successful lawyer Santi Herrera couldn’t be happier with the direction his life is taking. Not only is he on track to becoming a partner in his law firm, but he’s planning his wedding to Hank Burton, a south Texas contractor who has made a name for himself despite his humble beginnings. The introverted, lone wolf Santi and the friendly, outgoing Hank complement each other perfectly. From the moment they laid eyes on each other, they were hooked, and as far as Santi and Hank are concerned, a happily ever after is their destiny.
But fate deals them a devastating new hand.
A construction accident leaves Hank with severe head trauma and brings him precariously close to death. When he finally awakens, Hank doesn’t remember Santi or the love they shared for the past three years. Santi faces the greatest challenge of his life. Can he respark a flame his lover can’t recall? And can he stop the diverging paths that fickle fate charts between them?

I'm relieved to see a reviewer say this has a happy ending, because it sounds utterly excruciating. Which is absolutely great, as long as it ends well! Flores is an English professor so I'm guessing he knows his tragedy.

The Challenges of the Modern World!

 A Clean Break by Keira AndrewsA Clean Break by Keira Andrews

They’ve escaped to the outside world—but can they really be free?

David and Isaac have found happiness in each other’s arms. In faraway San Francisco, Isaac’s brother Aaron helps them explore confusing “English” life and move beyond the looming shadow of their Amish roots. For the first time, David and Isaac can be openly gay, yet they struggle to reconcile their sexuality with their faith. At least they don’t have to hide their relationship, which should make everything easier. Right?

But while Isaac thrives at school and makes new friends, David wrestles to come to terms with the reality of the outside world. Haunted by guilt at leaving his mother and sisters behind in Zebulon, he’s overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city as he works to get his carpentry business off the ground.

While David and Isaac finally sleep side by side each night, fear and insecurity could drive them miles apart.

Problems continue for the two young lovers of A Forbidden Rumspringa as they struggle to adjust to life outside their Amish community. Be warned that this is the middle book of a trilogy and there won't be a complete HEA until the end. (That is... there had BETTER be a complete HEA at the end!)

Valentine's Day!

Lights, Camera, Cupid! by SE Jakes, Amy Lane, Z.A. Maxfield, Anne Tenino and L.A. Witt

Cupid is visiting Bluewater Bay, and he’s leaving chaos in his wake.

Nothing’s been the same in this sleepy little logging town since Hollywood came to shoot the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing—especially Valentine’s Day.

In L.A. Witt’s Just Another Day, beloved actors Levi Pritchard and Carter Samuels have an announcement for their fans, while in Z.A. Maxfield’s I’ll Be There, actor Spencer Kepler and his boyfriend Nash Holly brave a blizzard and a fan convention to spend their first February the 14th together.
Of course, it’s not just TV stars celebrating the day. In Anne Tenino’s Helping Hand, an aspiring artist eager to escape Bluewater Bay decides he just might have a reason to stay: lust-inspiring logger Gabriel Savage. In SE Jakes’s No Easy Way, a local teacher reconnects with an old lover working security on the film set. And in Amy Lane’s Nascha, a Bluewater Bay elder recalls how his own unconventional family used to celebrate the holiday.

Real life may be nothing like TV, but when Cupid comes to town, there’s plenty of romance and drama to go around.

This is our only Valentine's Day entry, but hey, it's five stories in one, by five very popular authors, so most readers should find something to enjoy. I was definitely wrong last month about this “small town meets Hollywood” series being done; there will be at least one more book.

What does February mean to you? Is there a favorite story that just says “February”? (Although it's technically set at Christmas, mine is Snow-Kissed by Laura Florand.)


Learn more about the books mentioned in this post:

Jackdaw by KJ Charles  
The Wrong Man (Right and Wrong #2) by Lane Hayes  
An Infatuation by Joe Cosentino  
A New Man by P.D. Singer  
Trowchester Blues by Alex Beecroft  
The Merchant of Death (Playing the Fool, #2) by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock  
Road Trip by A.F. Henley  
The Truth As He Knows It by A.M. Arthur  
Winter's Bees by E.E. Ottoman  
Please Remember Me by Jacob Z. Flores  
A Clean Break by Keira Andrews  
Lights, Camera, Cupid! by SE Jakes, Amy Lane, Z.A. Maxfield, Anne Tenino and L.A. Witt  















Willaful has been diligently reading and reviewing romance for the past seven years, but for some reason just can't seem to catch up. She blogs at A Willful Woman and Karen Knows Best.

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Barbara Wilmot
1. miadevlin
OMG - this is very bad news for my credit card! I've already read "Jackdaw" and, although I didn't like it quite as much as the previous Charm of Magpies books, it's still K J Charles so it's still good. My Kindle will be collapsing under the weight of all the new downloads!
2. willaful
I hope you enjoy! I liked the emphasis on romance over horror in Jackdaw, not being overly fond of the scary stuff. There's a cute graphic novel preview of it at Charles's blog, btw. I love fan art.
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