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The Apothecary's Garden - Julie Bozza

Apothecary’s Garden is a story about nature, but it is the nature of love.

It is also very much the story about the relevance of age.

As befitting something told from the viewpoint of a sixty-five year old Englishman, the pace at the start is slow, the writing almost tangled, like the old overgrown garden which had been choked by ivy with the narrative winding around seemingly endless consumption of cups of tea and digestive biscuits.

Unlike [b:Butterfly Hunter|16142617|Butterfly Hunter|Julie Bozza|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1352654032s/16142617.jpg|21476075] where the Australian references had hooked me from the very first page, I found this book harder to “get into.” The “Britishness” comes through loud and clear, and the attention to what I saw as foreign and mundane matters totally bemused me, making the story harder to relate to. However, I persevered and am so glad I did.

Perhaps this slow start was needed to impress on me, as a reader, the true nature of the man and the fact that this slowness was seen as admirable by the much younger Tom. The word “contentment” was seen as a virtue on a par with, if not higher than, sexual satisfaction.

Despite their age difference, there was no clash of cultures here. No violent disparity in music tastes or even ideology, and they had a shared appreciation in watching a popular TV show, Midsomer Murders.

The conflict revolved solely around the age difference.

While having more avenues for difference might have heightened the conflict, by keeping the conflict solely related to age, the spotlight was shone firmly and squarely on that issue. And it is a biggie.

I’ve seen readers aghast at stories with men in their early twenties hooking up with another guy who is only five or six years their senior, feeling that the difference in levels of sexual experience made it almost predatory. However, the big twist here is that the younger man has possibly had more hookups than the older man who is very much a product of the times, having come out in an era where homosexuality was against the law.

Here, I have to admit that the story became personal for me, as a much loved gay friend had an even greater age difference with someone he termed the “love of his life” so I was keen to see how that aspect would play out. Indeed, some of the phrases in the book eerily echoed ones I’d heard him express about his younger lover who.

“should be out there having fun, and getting up to mischief with other young people.”

But what is age? I’ve known people in real life who adopt all the trappings of each decade as they pass through the milestones. I’m forty, so now it’s time to put away the rock music and buy a twinset and pearls or, now I’m sixty, it’s time to sit in the corner with a book and make sure I conserve all my energy And now I’m seventy, I’ll see the Doctor every month for a check-up as I wait to die, spending all my time making the effort to stay alive even though I’m not doing anything with my life.

Other people see their age only defined by what it stops them from doing and they try to find workarounds to achieve the same result. Which is as it should be.

This is also a story about the value of age with a beautifully impassioned passage saying:

You’ve lived an examined life….You’ve read - and you’re always reading - and you’ve made a home for yourself. You have a sense of priorities. You know what’s important, and what isn’t….etc

Of course the physical relationship of their two bodies has to be taken into account and is done so very realistically.

I’ve seen men ten years older than Hilary who would still look good naked. They might not be so keen to flaunt it, but I would have fallen for someone who said:

You’re a handsome man, Hilary, and you look how you should look after six-and-a-half well-loved decades. There’s no shame in any of that.”

The book delves also into the opposite side of the coin, the younger man taking advantage of the older man for monetary gain. Again by bringing in the issue, dealing with it, taking it out of the equation, the book concentrates on the essence of the aspect, dealing with the age difference alone.

The book is full of lovely snippets about the nature of love

a loving relationship doesn’t have to last forever to be perfect.

In the end what matters is that they shared a

mutual sense of trust and comfort….An instinctive sense of relaxation in the company of each other.

They didn’t even have the luxury of bigoted, negative characters pushing this aspect home, forcing them to gang up together to withstand external pressure. It was totally up to the protagonists to work this out for themselves. Ultimately, it’s facing the fears within that matters more than reacting against external ones.

As a writer, now when I read other stories in the genre, I’m sometimes too analytical or even critical. After coping with critical reviews of my own work, it’s almost like these same people are reading over my shoulder, pointing out aspects they don’t like, plot elements they wouldn’t have included or thought the author shouldn’t have included. To a certain extent, I am the same. However, as a writer, I also thoroughly appreciated the quality of the writing and the way the author has dealt with a very real issue. I’m sometimes appalled at the way May/December relationships are seen by outsiders. Hilary was very right to be cautious about giving into his desires. He certainly fought them every step of the way until he was satisfied that the younger man totally appreciated the enormity of what he was getting in to and felt assured that the benefits would be mutual, even though they might be different.

Who are we to judge?

Who are we to deny others happiness just because their relationship fits outside the norm.

Over time, there have been many public figures who have married and had children with this sort of age difference. Yes, there are problems, but if it suits both parties and neither is exploiting the other, then I don’t have a problem with it.

In the end, that long build up showing the naturalness of their shared relationship was what really mattered. The garden served its purpose of bringing them together, but wasn’t the crux of the story, the murder mysteries that they watch on TV and the mystery surrounding the creator of the garden also served their purpose, but they were a red herring (or a blue herring maybe!)

The story is simply about the nature of love and the relevance of age.

At one stage, the younger protagonist proclaims:

”Sometimes people have said that I have an old soul.”

Perhaps Tom is right. It’s the age of the soul inside that matters most. And that can't and shouldn’t be measured by calendar years.

Red+Blue (Opposites Attract)

Red+Blue - A.B. Gayle I would like to use this opportunity to give some background to the series "Opposites Attract".In these books, I will be exploring differences between the protagonists backgrounds and personalities as this is what creates the conflict that all stories need.So, be warned if that's not the type of book you like, stay away! There will be no murders to solve or car chases. Car crashes maybe....Full length books will deal with different pairings (or back to back novellas in some cases).Familiar characters will make appearances in other people's "books" and the final book in the series "Death+Glory" will draw them all together.I've started this already, as the reporter who plays a pivotal role in "Red+Blue" actually starred in his own novella "Mardi Gras". One day I hope to write another novella as a sequel to this and re-badge the two as "Pride+Prejudice". (Mardi Gras is the term given to Australia's annual Pride parade.)Similarly, fans of "Caught" will be relieved to hear that Taylor and Daniel will be revisited in "Bound" to create "Caught+Bound", but they also pop up in the next book in the series (due out March/April) "Leather+Lace".The thing with "Opposites" is that, on the surface people may seem opposites, but they usually possess some characteristics that are common. The question then arises as to whether, when the realities of everyday life crop up, there is enough glue to bind them together in the long term.Hence, as well as these main books featuring different couples. I definitely intend to write a follow up to "Red+Blue" called "Give+Take" which takes place about a year in the future.Warning, though, I'm a slow writer so please be patient!In the meantime, check out my Pinterest board: http://pinterest.com/abgaylewriter/red-blue/

Magpie (Avian Shifters, #2)

Magpie (Avian Shifters, #2) - Kim Dare Rarely have I received as much pleasure from $5.99 as I did when I read Kim Dare’s “Magpie”. Like one of the breed that starred in her latest avian shifter story, I had been eyeing off the bright, shiny offering as soon as it was released, not daring to get too close in case it wasn’t as glittering as the previous book, “Duck”.I shouldn’t have worried. From the first page, she had me as enthralled with the story as Kane was by any coveted trinket. In fact, as I read, I could identify more and more with his cravings because my love for Kim Dare’s stories are the same.Deep down, I know there are probably more worthwhile books on the market -- ones that offer deeper characterization, more elaborate plots, more meaningful relationships -- but I can’t resist them. I have them all squirreled away on my ebook reader so I can visit them from time to time, having read each so often that I only need to look at the title to recall exactly what went on. Yet, just like a magpie who can’t resist touching bright shiny things, I’ll re-read them to gain that instant gratification.Kim Dare is a masterful story teller. True, a harsh critic might say her stories have a sameness to them, but it’s the reassuring kind of sameness that a Master gives to his submissives, giving them exactly what they expect, so they can take comfort from that knowledge. There must be some part of me that needs the kind of reassurance that Kim deals out in spades.Like “Duck” though, the increased word count allows Kim to offer more than just the quick fix. This is the soup tureen or the magnificent epergne in the middle of the table, rather than the silver cutlery or goblets that grace the edges. Kim’s depiction of the way Kane suffers through his withdrawal, and the patience and steadfastness Everet exhibits as he demonstrates to the thieving magpie that nurture can overcome nature are magnificently crafted.The scene as Everet accepts punishment on Kane’s behalf won’t be forgotten in a hurry.A lot of psychology goes into Kim’s writing. Every pairing is different, yet each person gets exactly what they need to make the partnership work. Everet and Kane’s needs bear little resemblance to Raynard and Ori’s which were all about pecking order. I’d love to discover whether this is just instinctive on Kim’s part, or if she has researched what makes people tick. I even enjoy seeing minor characters behaving badly because I know that their flaws will be addressed in future stories. Her eagle, Hamilton's, pride will definitely come before a fall. I look forward to seeing what she does with him.Kim has an understanding of people that is sometimes overlooked when discussing her books. Perhaps her characters are just stereotypes, but if so, she always has a wonderfully fresh way of presenting them to the reader.The only niggle were the three or four typos that jumped out at me. These should have been found by a half-decent copy editor. But these were only minor blemishes on the surface and were easily brushed away. “Magpie” is still a super, shiny bauble.

I'll Be Your Drill, Soldier

I'll Be Your Drill, Soldier - Crystal Rose The first time I read this book, the fact that it started in deep third POV through Ryan's eyes, then when you were happily used to that switching first to Phillip's and then later to just about every character distracted me from the story.On the second read through, it didn't bother me nearly so much and in fact makes the book work in a different way.The reader has already come to feel the deep attraction and emotion between the two men and the shifting viewpoints put that relationship into context allowing us to see how they exist within the wider framework of their friends, their friends' families and the army itself.At that point, the book's emphasis shifts just as much to a statement about army life and the relationships between those that stay at home and those that serve, totally from the POV of the former.We don't get fed the action as per Special Forces or others that concentrate on the fighting. We see it from the aspect of not only those who are left behind but those who come back and have difficulty fitting in with normal life. Even the relatively unscathed Mark, the ex-drill sergeant, has problems coping with some of the wives.Yes, it's a romance and perhaps the acceptance of their gayness is unrealistic, but leaving that aside, the sex is hot, the relationship intense and the background of their friends and relatives also plays an important part of this story.

The Office Stud

The Office Stud - Fergie Boy This is work place sexual harassment at its worst. Basically non-con. If it was a female protagonist, and they were found out, jail would be in order. While there may be a degree of coercion in other books, there was a degree of consensuality at some stage. This one made me feel very uncomfortable.

A First Time for Everything

A First Time for Everything - Fergie Boy Gay porn/erotica with a form of HEA and definite character development. Although this is described as four short stories, they are really just four stages in the hero's life. Each depicts a different degree of enthusiasm and attitude toward sex. Underneath it is an acknowledgement and wish for something deeper.
At each stage it also shows the hero very aware of what is missing. In the first instance, it's with a married man. The next is sex under the influence of drugs. A presumably accurate description of sex while on E. The next is a threesome where the more experienced hero protests the arrogance of one of the three.
This collection contains some pithy lines (as do all Jack/Tom/Fergie's books). There is a lot more to many of them than graphic sex.
Such a shame he was coming across as an arrogant bastard. But nobody's perfect; especially the ones that think they are!
The final story is the return to where he started. Acknowledging how much the casual sex and drugs along the way made him into someone he no longer respected.
It has a suggested HEA.
If you look at what the author is doing, the collection of stories lifts it above porn for sexual satisfaction.

Zack Attack

Zack Attack - Fergie Boy More gay porn with a HFN. This was interesting because of the depiction of crusing a beat in Brighton at night.

The Secret Club

The Secret Club - Fergie Boy More gay porn. You can see some of the development of the Angus character in Jack Brighton's series the Wild Side. In fact, there are a few recurring themes in all his books, some obviously being extended further using a different author persona.

Son of a Gun

Son of a Gun - A.M. Riley Once again A.M.Riley has delivered a book which is not your standard m/m romance.All the comments I made on "Elegant Corpse" hold true.For a start her characters are not always black and white. In many writer's hands, the ex-boyfriend would have been a two-dimensional character but in A.M.Riley's hands you were never sure which way things would go.If I have one tiny criticism it is that I never really got a handle on Evans and Agnes's relationship/connection. It came out of the blue and not developed enough in my humble opinion. In fact, the whole arc between Stefan and Agnes could have been expanded more.Other than that the book was great.Once again there was sex but sex with a purpose, not just to titillate the reader.Stefan, the main character, is an author of children's adventure books. The little asides about editor's comments to what he had written and what the publisher expected made an amusing side-dish to the main story. Again you had to have your wits about you as you read as at times Stefan's WIP became part of the story, sometimes reflecting back on the past and sometimes a reflection of what was happening in the present.

Hot Ticket (Serving Love)

Hot Ticket - A Serving Love Story - K.A. Mitchell Not long enough. LOL. I wanted more, more.....

Fluffers, Inc.

Fluffers, Inc. - Hank  Edwards Fluffers Inc by Hank Edwards has one of those characters that sticks in your brain. Charlie is a young farm boy from Idaho who lands in Los Angeles with a job to keep the porn stars ready for filming before and between takes.While the story is full of sex, there is still humor and interest in the way Charlie and his friends carry out their tasks.A light and enjyable read.

Power Play

Power Play - J.M. Snyder While there were many aspects of this book that I liked eg he way Ms Snyder captured the youthfulness of her protagonists, I can't rate it any higher because it's written in the present tense.As I read, I felt like translating it all to the more normal past tense. Instead of feeling immediate and in the moment, it felt forced.I ploughed through to the end to see how she resolved the storyline, but couldn't help wishing the whole time that it had been written "normally".It turned what could have been a four or five star book to something I wouldn't recommend.

Stepping Up To The Plate

Stepping Up To The Plate - J. M. Snyder Recently I rated two of JM's books 2 stars mainly because they were written in the present tense, and I found them really difficult to read.Thankfully this story isn't.Again, if you're looking for a synopsis, look elsewhere, LOL.One of the best things I liked about "Stepping up to the Plate" was the description of the setting. Not being from the US, I have no idea if Petersburg is a real place. The town Snyder wrote about is a believable, however, with its black lower class ghetto, complete with dilapidated and abandoned public buildings and other areas of soulless white suburbia.As in "Power Play", her main POV character is young. In this case the story covers the years 16 to twenty. He's not a pleasant character in many ways, mainly due to the way life and the people around him have treated him. The chip on his shoulder cuts close to the bone. JM Snyder draws these rebellious, unhappy characters well. They cuss, they swear at their mothers (even though they're trying to help them) and at times they break the law.If I have one criticism of the book, it's that having drawn Stacy's character so successfully, when he finally finds someone he respects and who he feels cares about him, he suddenly becomes much more "normal". It's like a switch has been flipped. Perhaps that change can happen in real life. It would be nice to think so.Despite this small niggle, I gave the book five stars because of the courage JM shows in writing about such flawed characters. Despite their faults you still end up caring for them and hoping they have a happy life or at least that their life significantly improves.

The Elegant Corpse

The Elegant Corpse - A.M. Riley

If you want to get a synopsis of what happens in a book, don't read my reviews. Synopsis writing has to be one of my least favorite occupations.I will tell you what I liked and didn't like about them though.First up. A.M.Riley's books all are non-predictable. In other words, whether writing a whodunnit or a contemporary romance you can't predict the ending after just a few pages.Her characters have flaws and sometimes those flaws are still there at the end of the book.Roger will always be meticulous and fussy and Sean will probably always swear too much and chew his fingernails.She doesn't have "and now they ride off in the sunset together" endings, However you do learn enough about her characters and see there are ways they can accommodate their differences, which is really what life is all about.The hot sex is there but not the be all and end all. The characters' motivations and conflicts in personality and actions are what drives the story.This book had one of the best openings I've read for a while:"There is a place for everything, Detective Roger Corso believed. And even though, in the chaotic and often grotesquely messy world of Los Angeles homicide, things could be misplaced or badly placed, still there were certain places where certain things most certainly never, and without exception, ever belonged.A mummified corpse did not belong stretched across his living room couch.", [AM Riley, The Elegant Corpse:]You do have to think with most of her books. Everything is not cut up and served to you on the plate. You may also be reaching for the dictionary a couple of times when you read. She does not "write down" to her readers, you are lifted to her level which is a high one.I thoroughly recommend reading her stories.

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code  - Dan Brown Pedestrian.

LOVE SUCKS -New York Stories of Love, Hate, and Anonymous Sex (GMP Classics)

LOVE SUCKS -New York Stories of Love, Hate, and Anonymous Sex (GMP Classics) - Ken Shakin I found this book fascinating, although the words "Oh, dear" and a low cackle were uttered quite frequently while I read it.What I liked about "Love Sucks" is the reality of the stories. "Man and his Toys" for example, a funny yet sad description of Harry and his sex aids. Ken Shakin doesn't pull his punches. The resulting images may not be pretty, but they're probably realistic.I'm glad Lethe Press has re-issued the story written back in 1997 and it is also available as an ebook through All Romance Ebooks.Whether or not the gay scene of New York has changed in the thirteen years since the book was written is immaterial.The stories are about human nature as much as anything, the innate selfishness (much as we like to think otherwise), the resulting isolation, the dissatisfaction. These aspects are usually always present, they just manifest themselves differently in each generation.It's definitely not gay romance, more gay reality.Here's a good sample of what you can expect from "I Can't Get Enough":I ask him if he has a name. He mumbles something. He barelytalks. Sex will be the language we speak. What the UN callscultural exchange. I offer to buy him a drink. No response,so I buy him a beer. He drinks it. This is not the guy youask about his work, either to suggest that standing in a baris performance art or getting sucked off a career goal. Youcertainly don’t ask him to come home with you to fuck. Youhave to be subtle.