Sunday, January 20, 2013

If the Stars Fall

"If the Stars Fall (Making of A Man)" by Diane Adams

Warm, electric tinglies to my heart

Very Highly Recommended

Alex Ross has loved Jared Douglas from almost the moment he met him. He was fifteen and Jared almost twenty, but the gap was, to him, nothing. But to Jared it was the difference between consent and abuse, and he made sure Alex was nothing more than his friend for the first year of their relationship.

Now, sixteen years later, the two are partners in all sense of the word. Happily together, living in the home Alex designed for them and happier than Jared ever thought possible, a horrible accident strikes. One that almost takes Alex from him and which rocks both men to the core.

Jump ahead nineteen more years, and it's Alex's turn to be shaken at the potential loss of the other half of his soul. Jared hospitalized and ill, and even thirty-five years of loving the man isn't enough. He is Alex's for all time, until the stars fall from the sky...

Both incidents spur introspections by these two incredible men. Will they get through the pitfalls of health scares intact? How will their lives change? Is their love strong and enduring enough?

In this sentimental, stunning little book, Diane Adams had me on the edge of what Dolly Parton calls smiles though tears (her favorite emotion) from damn near the first page. I've been reading this series since "Our December (Book One)", and have read all five books plus some other smaller stories. I thought nothing could match Clark's Story. God, was I wrong.

There is a purity grounded in real life that makes these tales of love, care and family so very accessible and memorable. Alex and Jared are soulmates, yes, but they are not without their challenges. Alex is a dreamer, apt to jumping in with both feet before he looks. Jared is so self-secure and solid, but also righteous and rigid. Together, they make their friends sick with their never-ending passion and love for one another.

But Ms. Adams doesn't stop with them being a sappy couple. No, that would be selling them, and us, so very short. Alex's mother, for years and years, won't accept her son's homosexuality, and it's like a thorn in his heart for every singe minute of those years to him. All he wants is her love, and she withholds is so very, very cruelly.

And Jared, his whole persona and identity is built on an image he's carried of his father, and how a man should be. But that base is not quite as solid as an outside observer can see; Jared was sexually abused and raped as a teen, even though he refuses to call it that. And it's made for some lonely, harsh days for him. He is a class act, though, trying to be the rock for others when his feet are on slippery ground so much of the time in his head.

But when these two found each other, they truly became more than the sum of the two. Ah, and when they looked outside the two of them and built their lives with their families, both blood and of the heart, they truly shine.

So when we get to this jewel of a book, and see the two of them struggle, we know it will be okay. They have each other, they have Clark, Stevie, their families.

And they decide to marry. 

Let me tell you a little story. I love to read, and I hate to drive, so I use my Kindle speech function, with ear buds, when I drive back and forth to work and to run errands. So here I am, near the end of this damn book, struggling already to hold my emotions in because it's just so damned beautiful to read (and you should hear it, trust me) and I get the the scene where Alex and Jared exchange their vows.

I had to pull off on the side of the road. I couldn't see to drive through my tears.

And that's the whole series, to me. Seeing two men fall in love, weather life's storms and come out the other end whole and complete and better for the wear. How can that not move you? Isn't that all of our dreams?

It's not perfect, but it's darned close.

Trust me, read these giant-hearted stories back-to-back. Not many do it better than Ms. Adams.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Under the Rushes

"Under the Rushes" by Amy Lane

Steampunk meets Batman and HOLY COW!

Very Highly Recommended

How do you break a man? You take away the things most important to him. Destroy them, or give them back broken.

Ten years ago, Dorjan allowed himself to believe in his country, his leaders, and his duty. That childish way of life lead to his leaders betraying him, using him to hurt and kill innocent persons, and almost to his own death. Injured, he is used as a scapegoat and barely escapes with his health and sanity. Unfortunately for his best friend Areau, the same can’t be said about him.

Dorjan has loved Areau like a brother for his whole life, and while his friend isn’t gay, they two couldn’t be closer than most lovers. When Dorjan’s father risks everything to return Areau home, stealing him from the very men who hurt and used his son, Dorjan again knows the bitter taste of betrayal.

Now Dorjan is working from within the system, trying to affect change. By day, he’s part of the government. But at night, he’s…something more. Someone who prowls the night, costumed, helping those who most need him and battling to keep the streets clean. It’s there he meets Taern. Funny how fate throws people together again and again, until they get the message. This time, Taern is a young man working the streets, proud, funny and strangely hopeful.

As Dorjan, in concert with his old friend Areau—now…broken and in a strange, horrible relationship with Dorjan—strive to take down the cancer killing their country, Taern is added to the volatile mix. Will it help? Or will it be the final piece, the straw that breaks the camel’s back for Dorjan? Will he be forced to pay the ultimate price?

I’m not normally a fan of steampunk. I find it a little…too much, too noisy and busy and just plain weird. But, damn it, Amy Lane has taken the genre by the short, curly ones, thrown in a liberal dash of Batman and Robin, added a dash of hot gay lovin’ and given us a dashing, entertaining and oddly moving and deep tone poem on love, duty, sacrifice and good old fashioned derring-do.

I was by turns laughing and gasping at shocks to my heart with these characters. Dorjan, whose sense of honor runs so deep he is willing to give and give to the last drop of blood in his body, was the perfect hero. He has a heart so huge, and a will to match it. Faced with loss and heartbreak at every turn, he keeps plodding, one foot in front of the other, resigned to his fate.

Then we have Taern, the perfect foil to Dorjan’s seriousness. Sensual, fun, sexy and stubborn, he is reluctant and wary to give his heart, but quickly and completely falls for Dorjan. He takes it upon his young shoulders to carry the extra load of Dorjan’s burden, and makes it his mission to ensure the big man succeeds, but survives. He is the perfect companion for the seriousness that is Dorjan.

But it is Areau that captivates me. As beautiful inside as he is on the outside, he is brutally treated by those in power, broken physically, mentally and spiritually. Dorjan makes it his mission to cobble Humpty Dumpty back together, but the man that is left…he’s just not the boy Dorjan knew. What he does, what he has become, broke my heart.

Ah, but his redemption; glorious. I think he stands among Amy’s most memorable characters. I adored him, and grieved for him every moment of the story. What he went through, what he became, the potential — just heartbreaking. But then…ah, I can’t ruin the story for you.

And that’s the sign of a wonderful story. It makes you want to grab everyone you come in contact with, and force them to sit and listen to you rave about it and insist they read it. Kind of like I am doing with you right now, as I think on it.

So quit reading now, go to your friendly bookseller, and buy this epic. Now! What are you waiting for?!?