Catching Up: Men of Smithfield, Books 2-4 by L.B. Gregg

Men of Smithfield series by L.B. Gregg

  • Title(s): Seth & David, Max & Finn, Adam & Holden
  • Author: L.B. Gregg
  • Series: Men of Smithfield, Books 2- 4
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ, Suspense
  • Publisher: Carina Press, September-November 2012
  • Source: NetGalley (Seth & David, Adam & Holden), Amazon ($3.39 ebook)
  • Length: 89/108/150 pages
  • Trope(s): Age Difference, Beta Heroes, Asshole Heroes, Uncontrollable Penises, Insta-Lust, Virgin,
  • Quick blurb: More m/m stories from small-town Connecticut.
  • Quick review: A downhill slide from the humorous angst of Book 1, with an emphasis on skeeviness and shallow suspense.
  • Grade: C, C-, D

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Men of Smithfield: Seth & David (Book 2)Book 2: Seth & David

Uptight guardian of six-year-old niece gets the hots for his hippie-esque new massage therapist.

He was everything I had never ever wanted.

I didn’t really connect with Seth — I would have loved to read the story from David’s POV. And the “meet-cute” was NOT cute or humorous AT ALL.

Grade: C-

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Men of Smithfield: Max & Finn (Book 3) by L.B. GreggBook 3: Max & Finn

Prep-school teacher and security expert reunited when they must protect a celebrity student from a stalker.

I stumbled along as best as I could, channeling Scout in her ham costume á la To Kill a Mockingbird.

I had to pick that quote because I just watched To Kill a Mockingbird last night, and I like to be reminded of Gregory Peck whenever possible. ANYWAY, I read Max & Finn right after Mark & Tony (Book 1), and I was not expecting the suspense elements — this one is long on plot and less on character.

Grade: C

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Book 4: Adam & HoldenMen of Smithfield: Adam & Holden (Book 4) by L.B. Gregg

House-bound writer finally gets to meet his sexy new landscaper when a dead body turns up in the garden.

But this was right. I felt reborn. Renewed. I felt free with him – as if the future was finally at hand and I could at long last set into the light of day. All the pain and the fear of two years had somehow brought him to me…and he was worth everything.

Asperger’s (Adam) + Agoraphobia (Holden) = Magical Orgasm Cure². Yay!

Grade: D (“yay” = /sarcasm/)

World Series of Romance: Stealing Home by Allison Pittman

Get your protective choir robes or holy underwear or whatever ready, because it’s going to be RAINING SQUEE AROUND HERE.
Stealing Home by Allison Pittman

  • Title: Stealing Home
  • Author: Allison Pittman
  • Series: The Baseball Novels, Book 1
  • Genre(s): Historical, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Multnomah Books, April 2009
  • Source: Amazon ($9.99 ebook)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • Trope(s): Celebrity & Commoner(s), Unrequited/Reunited, Beta Hero(es), Plot Moppet (but in a good way),
  • Quick blurb: A staid and “dry” small town in Missouri is turned upside down when a newly-sober ballplayer arrives to continue his recovery.
  • Quick review: The Music Man + The Natural + Field of Dreams + Places in the Heart = BIG FAT WIN.
  • Grade: A+

“Don’t worry. This is baseball. There’s always a second chance.”

Read With Me Vicariously: Status Updates

11/18/12 – 25%:
Shut up and quit bothering me, I’m reading a REALLY GOOD BOOK.

11/18/12 – 50%:
I love this book soooooo much. If this tanks in the second half like my last three books, I’m going to be upset. VERY upset.

11/19/12 – 75%:
Dear God — and I mean that in both the holy and blasphemous connotations — I love this book.

11/19/12 – 90%:
Never mind, I HATE this book.

11/19/12 – 100%:
I am going to need several days to recover from this one, and the full review is going to be a completely incoherent mess of stupid.

Let the mess of incoherent stupidity commence. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

This is also very long, so go ahead and make a trip to the kitchen for Diet Coke and cookies before we get started. Or communion wafers and wine. Whatever floats your boat.

The set-up

Picksville, Missouri – March 1905:

Dave was sending her a man. And he was coming on the two-o’clock train.

Dave Voyant is our heroine Ellie Jane’s older brother. He’s a Chicago sportswriter who somehow got himself involved in getting Duke Dennison, the league’s most die-hard drunk, dried out enough to return to the Cubs’ starting lineup.

1905 Spalding Bseball GuideWith “dry” being the key word, Dave offers up his hometown of Picksville as an ideal place for Duke to continue his recovery when he’s released from the “sanatorium.”

No saloon. Just like Voyant told the doctor. Some kind of small town ordinance. Welcome to Picksville. Doctor’s orders. For at least thirty days.

When Duke steps off the train, he makes quite an impression on his welcoming committee, especially Morris Bennett, an ambitious “Negro errand boy” enlisted by Ellie Jane to carry the royal baggage:

Now I know a rich white man when I see one. But this guy — he is almost pretty. He’s wearin this suit the color of molasses cake and one of those dandy hats and more jewels than I’ve ever seen any man wear — diamond rings on each hand, gold watch, pearl tie clip and cuff-buttons.

When the big-league city slicker turns his charm on Ellie Jane, the exchange is almost too much for our hero Ned, who’s watching from across the platform:

Ned cringed at Ellie Jane’s girlish reaction, bringing her other hand up to capture what must be a lovely giggle while allowing herself to languish in this forward embrace.

If you were expecting the Duke the Magnificent Manly-Man to be the hero of this story, you might be disappointed – but don’t be, because Ned has “hero material” written all over him. Trust me.

And yes, this is going to be one of those reviews that’s one quote and excerpt after another. Suck it up and keep reading. You’ll thank me later.

Continue reading

World Series of Romance: Just a Little Faith by Amy J. Norris

Just a Little Faith by Amy J. Norris

  • Title(s): Just a Little Faith
  • Author: Amy J. Norris
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, Inspirational
  • Publisher: Astraea Press, May 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($2.99 ebook)
  • Length: 237 pages
  • Trope(s):  Celebrity & Commoner, Halo Heroine, Magical Bible Verse, You’re Not Worthy Enough For My Love Until You’re As Godly As Me
  • Quick blurb: Jaded ballplayer Sebastian finds personal and spiritual renewal when he meets Paxson, a shy but intriguing non-profit organizer.
  • Quick review: Promising first half, blah/blech/oh-NO second half.
  • Grade: C

Once again, I get the squee bucket ready, and then…. Never mind. *~*SIGH*~*

The completely believable set-up, likeable characters, and low-key spiritual themes carried me through the first half. I came >thatclose< to giving this a B- because it’s definitely memorable, and I loved the meet-cute and early relationship-building.

Maybe she was boring him to tears? Was this his standard behavior? If so, his looks must be what attracted others to him, because as far as Pax could tell, his conversation skills were clearly lacking.

Sebastian turns out to be a good beta hero, and Pax even has some fun with her internal prayers:

“And also, give me the strength not to kill Sebastian when this is over. I don’t think the team would appreciate him not being there this season.”

But then the tragedy and the angst and the drama went into overdrive, and the “oh no, please please please don’t go there” moments became more frequent. The tone of the story completely changed from an intimate character study to a generic sermonizing soap opera.

It was a precarious path she was treading down. How do I show Seb Your love for him without entangling myself into a web of emotions I might never escape?

Somehow showing Seb the distinction between going to church for her, and going with the intent of worshipping God could be difficult.

QUESTION: How will she know when this transformation takes place? Will God send her a text message?

More than that, she needed to decide if waiting on Seb to change was worth the turmoil raging in her heart.

[emphasis mine]

When the heroine started polishing that holier-than-thou halo, I almost quit reading, but I managed to make it to the end. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a good thing, because I hate the “Magical Bible Verse” trope, and this was a particularly cringe-worthy example in the form of a page-long speech by the newly-FULLY-repentant hero, who is FINALLY God-ified enough for Her Holiness the Heroine.

I’m finding that the “You’re Not Worthy Enough For My Love Until You’re As Godly As Me” trope — which I detest even more than the Magical Bible Verse — is much more prevalent in contemporary inspirationals than historicals, which makes me very reluctant to try new inspie authors.

I read inspirationals because I love stories of faith and doubt and trust and redemption. But those elements need to happen on both sides of the h/h relationship to make it worth reading about in the pages of a novel.

[NOTE: I gave a little extra credit for that lovely cover.]

World Series of Romance: Four Corners by Kate McMurray

  • Four Corners by Kate McMurrayTitle(s): Four Corners
  • Author: Kate McMurray
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ
  • Publisher: Dreamspinner, August 2012
  • Source: DreamspinnerPress.com ($4.89 ebook w/30% off discount)
  • Length: 220 pages
  • Trope(s): Reunited, I Hate You Except When We Kiss, Coming Out, Baseball, Big Misunderstanding, Friends-to-Lovers
  • Quick blurb: The Guy Who Left returns to the old neighborhood to attempt a reunion with The Guy Who Stayed.
  • Quick review: Another tired premise and unlikeable heroes.
  • Grade: C-

I didn’t want his words to make my heart soar. I didn’t want my skin to tingle where his palms rested. I didn’t want to get aroused by the way he smelled. I didn’t want the proximity of our bodies to make me shiver. All of those things happened anyway.

A no-go on this one too. The writing mechanics are good (sometimes really good), but I found the high school flashbacks to be really intrusive, the present-day interactions were repetitive, and Jake (The One Who Stayed) was a whiny, self-righteous wanker. He did get a bit of redemption in the end, but he needed a smackdown. The “four corners” baseball friendship theme could have been a great connecting thread, but I needed a lot more of it to hold this story together.

World Series of Romance: Out in the Field by Kate McMurray

Out in the Field by Kate McMurray - Loose Id, April 2012

  • Title(s): Out in the Field
  • Author: Kate McMurray
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Contemporary, GLBTQ
  • Publisher: Loose Id, April 2012
  • Source: Amazon ($6.39 ebook)
  • Length: 246 pages
  • Trope(s): Baseball, Celebrities, In the Closet, Coming Out
  • Quick blurb: Young infielder realizes more than one dream when he’s traded to a team led by his boyhood idol.
  • Quick review: Overplayed premise was predictable and forgettable.
  • Grade: C+

“Can I try something?” he asked.

Iggy raised an eyebrow. “Okay.”

“Give me your hand.”

Iggy held his hand out, palm down. Matt pressed it onto the table, and then he threaded their fingers together.

Iggy looked at their tangled hands for a long time and then said with no small amount of awe in his voice, “We’re holding hands.”

I’ve read a few other McMurray books, and so far only one (Blind Items) has crossed my “Must Be Memorable” threshold for a “B” grade — and as you can see, this one didn’t make the cut. The premise, main characters and story arc were pretty predictable, and nothing about the writing wowed me. A few moments at the end may or may not have made me a little sniffly, but it wasn’t enough to make this a recommended read.

[NOTE: I’m reading McMurray’s latest, Four Corners, right now, so it’ll be interesting to see if maybe I’m drawn in more by her Dreamspinner stories than the Loose Id ones.]