Book Review – Ella Frank “Confessions: Julien”

*Confessions – Elizabeth – I read this book in the throes of grief over my beloved pet Schnauzer, Bee Bee, who had to be put down last Thursday, three weeks shy of her 15th birthday.

Thank goodness I can rely on Ella Frank to tell a great story.

Confessions: Julien centres around Julien Thornton, master chef and one third of the romantic unit that encompasses him, the stern and quiet Joel Priestley, and the flashy and unstoppable Robbie Bianchi. They are all unique individuals with different and, in some cases, traumatic pasts who have come together in the name of sexual attraction and burgeoning love.

In this, the second book of Ella Frank’s Confessions series, we learn even more about Julien and Joel, who have been so good to our beloved Robbie but hide secrets from their pasts that have the ability to affect this new relationship. I love how Robbie’s naturally exuberant and intuitive personality provides a needed lightness and perspective to the other men, who’ve been struggling and really need an outside look at what is going on with them. Here we are confronted specifically with Julien’s backstory and how he suffers daily from vivid memories and crippling guilt.

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Robbie keeps underestimating his own abilities to react positively and intelligently to the emotional stresses going on around him, but both Julien and Joel know that he is becoming a needed counterpoint to their obsessive and controlling natures. As Robbie also discovers an intrinsic love of submission and service, specifically with regards to Joel, we observe two different personalities who just happen to click so perfectly that we cannot even imagine them being apart.

As always, the sex scenes sizzle. They resonate, too, with honesty and overwhelming emotion. Frank wields a deft hand at describing men in the throes of passionate lovemaking that doesn’t shy away from the grittier details. It’s not fluffy romance, but hard, rough, exciting moments of pure male sexual energy and satisfaction, underscored by a strong developing attachment.

I enjoyed this middle instalment of Robbie, Julien and Joel’s story and look forward to finding out more about the “Priest” of this ensemble in book three.

*A free copy of this book was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review.

*****

Confessions: Julien, book two in the steamy contemporary MMM Confessions Series from Ella Frank, is LIVE!

Synopsis:

People are complex.

Love a double-edged sword.

And when it comes to a broken heart, there are no rules, only time…

For the past eight years, Julien Thornton has been living with a secret. One that only a handful of people know about.

To the outside world, he has it all.

A thriving career. A loving husband. And a face that the American public fell for by the millions, on a reality show that inadvertently saved his life.

But behind the shine of celebrity, behind the easygoing nature, a crippling truth fills Julien with pain and self-loathing. It’s a truth that he fights to overcome daily with the help of his husband, Joel Priestley, and now their boyfriend, Robbie Bianchi.

But unlike Priest, Robbie doesn’t know what he’s helping Julien to fight. He doesn’t know what Julien did all those years ago. And with the anniversary of his sister’s death fast approaching, the time for explanations is running out.

And thus the question: will the princess be able to forgive the prick as the priest once did?

Only time will tell.

Download today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2LYB8Wq

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/ConfessionsJulien

Add to GoodReads: https://bit.ly/2HKj17D

Start the series with Confessions: Robbie today!
Amazon US:http://amzn.to/2HdQ7IU

Amazon Universal: http://mybook.to/confessionsrobbie

Add To Goodreads: http://bit.ly/2EWp3Aq

About Ella

Ella Frank is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Temptation series, including Try, Take, and Trust and is the co-author of the fan-favorite contemporary romance, Sex Addict. Her Exquisite series has been praised as “scorching hot!” and “enticingly sexy!”

Some of her favorite authors include Tiffany Reisz, Kresley Cole, Riley Hart, J.R. Ward, Erika Wilde, Gena Showalter, and Carly Phillips.

Connect with Ella:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ella.frank.31/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/EllaFrank2012

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ellafrank1/

Mailing List: www.bit.ly/1hEYtgn

Website: https://www.ellafrank.com/portfolio

Series Review – Christina E. Pilz “Oliver and Jack”

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I just finished the sixth and final book in the Oliver and Jack series by Christina E. Pilz and am now in mourning that the story is complete.

Sometimes, in a lengthy series, the final books can seem lacklustre and underwhelming. Even if the writing continues on a level of excellence, the story can sometimes fizzle out and be less than comparable to the earlier books.

Well, not in this case.

The three books following Fagin’s Boy (which I reviewed here), At Lodgings in Lyme, In Axminster Workhouse and Out in the World, carried the story forward with the two main characters facing further challenges but feeling more and more affection for each other, both physical and otherwise and I found the final two books in the Oliver and Jack series – On the Isle of Dogs and In London Towne) – to be riveting, revelatory and supremely satisfying.

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Ms. Pilz’s unfailing ability to transport her reader to the streets and byways of 19th century London and environs is astonishing. She is able to convey the noise, the stench and, yes, the beauty of this unique setting with her eye for detail and the manner in which her finely drawn characters react to their surroundings. Her use of language, particularly, to show the difference between the social classes, is perfectly executed. Jack’s street-smart and profanity-laden dialogue contrasts beautifully with Oliver’s more polite turns of phrase in a way that keeps the characters quite distinct and beautifully contradictory.

I have to say that Pilz’s version of Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, is one of the most vibrant and colourful character representations I have ever had the pleasure to read. I fell deeply in love with his expressive language, straightforward outlook on life, and ability to find pleasure and humour in even the most bleak of circumstances.

Pilz has a wonderful grasp of human psychology and how people react to traumatic circumstances. Her 19th century world is brutal in its veracity but the way these two characters struggle to survive and barely escape some horrible situations is a testament to the harshness of the Victorian reality and its rigid social structure. When addressing less-than-appealing events, Pilz manages to maintain a sense of delicacy and honesty that, while not shying away from important details, shows her characters’ great strength in the face of adversity.

In conclusion, a beautiful series written with a deft hand and sharp mind, presenting characters at odds with the times of their existence who nevertheless find love and laughter to carry them through until they can grasp their happy-ever-after, which is all the more special because of the trials they have endured to get there.

 

 

Book Review – Christina E. Pilz “Fagin’s Boy”

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First, I must confess to putting off reading Fagin’s Boy, which I downloaded for free from Amazon several weeks ago, because I read a lot of historical literature like Dickens, George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, and I was really worried that this book would not live up to my expectations of it. I’ve always loved the story of Oliver Twist and the movie musical as well. But the idea of a follow up story wherein Oliver and Jack (the Artful Dodger) grow up and fall in love made me giddy with excitement. But I was nervous about the writing.

When I finally began this story and immediately found myself transported back to Victorian London with all its period charm as well as its grime, brutality and criminal underbelly, I was thrilled.

I usually like my gay romance reads to be fast-moving, full of sexual tension and graphically described intimate scenes. This story read more like a literary novel with a leisurely plot and much introspection on the part of the central character (Oliver) which was absolutely fine because the quality of the writing and the author’s attention to period detail supported that. Indeed, I found myself entranced by her vivid descriptions of life in middle class London, then later by the squalid lifestyles of the lower classes.

Pilz does a wonderful job of navigating the subtle dance between two men who share an unstated obsession with each other but don’t fully understand where that obsession comes from or to where it might lead. When it gets there, her handling of Jack and Oliver’s acknowledgment of their physical attraction to each other is beautiful to behold and hotter than Hades.

I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys historical romances with strong, vividly depicted characters and setting and an undeniable passion between two people struggling to survive and thrive in a harsh and unforgiving world.

There are five more stories in this series and I look forward to enjoying each and every one of them, the next being Oliver and Jack: At Lodgings in Lyme.

Thank you to Christina E. Pilz for permitting me to combine my love for historic literature with my fondness for gay romance in her painstakingly researched and beautifully written series.

Movie Review – “Call Me By Your Name”

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*Contains spoilers*

I have watched this film three times now, and it gets better at each viewing.

Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is a feast for the senses – an erotic buffet filled to the brim with symbolism, intellect and culture.

But most of all, innocence.

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Call Me By Your Name is the story of 17 year-old Elio’s sudden infatuation with 24 year-old graduate student, Oliver, one of a succession of yearly summer visitors brought to the beautiful Italian villa by his father to help with paperwork and for the chosen student’s own intellectual and spiritual enrichment. It is based on the book of the same name by André Aciman, which I read before viewing the film. In this case, the movie exceeded the promise of the book – which in itself was wonderful – by immersing the viewer in the lush Italian summer that Aciman writes about and by selecting Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer as the two lead actors.

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Their chemistry is palpable from the moment they first meet through the tentative attempts at flirting and seduction, through to the final moments at the train station when Oliver has to leave. Chalamet was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. Somehow, he is able to show every emotion and thought that crosses Elio’s mind as he tries to figure Oliver out and decipher his own confusing feelings of attraction.

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This is one of the most mature films I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. It is a story in which sex is as natural as breathing, as wonderful a part of growing up as anything else, where nothing is shameful about embracing one’s desires and enjoying the fruit of life. The peaches that ripen in Anella’s orchard are as full of promise and as sweet as Elio. They are innocent but sensual in their own right, just like him.

As Elio and Oliver bicycle through the Italian countryside growing ever more aware of their mutual attraction, the viewer is treated to such a natural growth of love and longing that it becomes a part of the landscape.

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The house in which Elio lives and where Oliver stays for the summer is a character in itself. Like Elio’s parents, the ancient villa is always welcoming, doors open wide to the sunshine, balconies overlooking vast expanses of grass and trees. But there are hidden passages and secret rooms too, where only the most loyal companions are taken. Elio’s private escape above back of the kitchen, where he brings Marzia to wile away the hours until his tryst with Oliver, is also the room where he has intimate relations with a ripe peach and later cries in Oliver’s arms over the fact that Oliver must soon leave.

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This film is a celebration of summertime, first love, sexual exploration of all kinds — opposite sex, same sex, solitary sex with a peach — beauty and desire. It is also a celebration of how a parent can let their child become an adult by sitting back and letting that child explore the world on his/her own terms. By understanding that sexuality is a natural part of living and that putting barriers around who we’re allowed to fall in love with or engage with sexually is a losing game, and why would we want to play it anyway?

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Call Me By Your Name Book

Friday Flash Fiction – Jingle Balls

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Dear Lord, it was sweltering outside. How was I supposed to get in the Christmas spirit surrounded by palm trees, surfers and ancient volcanoes?

I’d jumped at the opportunity to move to Hawaii when the possibility of a transfer had come up within the company. It had been absolutely amazing for the first six months until I’d realized that nothing was changing. The weather was the same as it had been at the start of my stay.

Of course, that had been one of the major draws of moving here, but I hadn’t counted on the boredom of waking up to the same thing day in and day out. Sure, it rained sometimes. And some days the winds were stronger than others. But I had grown up in a climate that transformed itself on a regular basis. I had gotten used to the seasons changing and seemed to unconsciously have used them to mark the passage of time if nothing else. Here, on this island, I felt like I was trapped in a constantly repeating pattern. It was a pleasant pattern, there was no arguing that. Warm and sunny most of the time, with no hassles like shovelling snow, scraping car windows or trying to find a winter hat that looked half decent.

I couldn’t believe I was thinking this, but I missed winter. Actually, I missed the gradual change of Autumn to winter and the prospect of spring returning. Especially right now, with Christmas only a few days away.

The only good thing (and it was a really good thing) that made Hawaii feel like home was the fact that the man I’d met a month after setting down roots here had moved in with me and we shared a relationship that was astonishing in its honesty and passion.

As I pulled into the drive of our hilltop bungalow wondering how I’d get through the Christmas season without the things that made Christmas, well, Christmas, I knew that at least I had someone wonderful with whom to share my nostalgia and celebrate the season.

“Hey, Gorgeous, I’m home,” I said as I pushed open the door and dropped my parcels. “No peeking in any of these, by the way.”

“In here,” came Josh’s cheerful voice from the living room.

I toed off my flip flops and tossed my keys on the stand, then wandered towards the living area. When I got to the archway between the dining area and the living room I froze at the sight that greeted me.

“Josh? What the hall have you done? And holy shit, what the fuck are you wearing?” I said, staring open mouthed at my muscled boyfriend who stood in front of an artificial pine tree that was flecked with fake snow and decorated with white and blue balls and pretty paper snowflakes, in only a pair of tight white briefs embossed with the visage of the jolly old elf himself and the Aussibum logo.

He smiled and stepped back from the tree. “Ta da! What do you think?”

“I think,” I said, feeling the moisture collect in my eyes but fighting it back (it was just a fucking tree, for God’s sake!). “I think I love it.”

His smile grew bigger and the gratitude swelled inside me again. Then he gestured down to the tiny trunks he wore. “And these? Tell me what you think of these.”

My eyes drifted over the soft white cotton that contained his familiar package and outlined his beautiful, sexy ass.

I shook my head. “I can’t tell you that, Josh.”

He screwed up his features. “Huh? Why not?”

“Because my brain just exploded. Why did you get rid of the palm tree we decorated? I don’t miss it at all, but why?”

He shrugged. “Because I could tell you hated it. I wanted you to have something more reminiscent of Wisconsin. Something that would make your Christmas a little more enjoyable.”

I walked over to him and reached out to pull him in for a kiss. His lips were soft and welcoming and tasted of peppermint. “Have you been eating candy canes, Josh?”

He grinned. “Maybe.”

“You are the sweetest man I’ve ever known. Thank you for making my Christmas this year.”

“You’re welcome. Do you like the balls?”

“Oh Josh, I like them very much,” I said, staring down at his tiny white Christmas briefs.

He gasped in mock astonishment. “My goodness, someone’s in a better mood.”

“Thanks to you. Now let’s go pretend there’s a raging blizzard outside and we can’t leave the bedroom for three days.”

 

Scrabble – Nathan’s Flash Fic Challenge for March

My buddy, Nathan, runs a Flash Fiction challenge each month. He picks randomly from a selection of genres, objects, and locations and the results for March were: a Romance, with a VHS cassette, in a fire watch tower.

So I kind of played fast and loose with those guidelines because that’s how I roll.

Also, the stories are supposed to be within a 1000 word limit. Mine’s about 1500 words but I couldn’t bare to edit it down very much ’cause I like it the way it is.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write but while researching fire watch towers I came upon this article about a guest house built as an authentic replica of a fire watch tower in Montana and my idea progressed from there. Especially when I read that it is occasionally used by fire fighters as an actual fire lookout.

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Photo by Heidi A. Long

SCRABBLE

After an intense hike to the top of Lion Mountain in Whitefish, Montana, I surprised my boyfriend, Michael, with the place we would be staying for two days and two nights to celebrate being together for six months.

“They wanted to recreate an old fire watch tower and went to pretty extreme lengths to make it authentic. And I found it on Air B&B. And now we are here.”

The wood-framed platform and cabin were perched securely on top of four wide flights of stairs that I had to force myself to ascend with the occasional encouragement from Michael who wasn’t afraid of heights.

The door was indeed unlocked and I was relieved to see the place looked just like it had on the website — the décor rustic and cozy. There was a small kitchen area, a tiny table with two chairs and a living space. I hadn’t yet told Michael that we’d have to climb down those steps whenever we needed to use the composting toilet.

“Wow,” Michael said as we looked at the panoramic view out the windows. The green and brown wilderness of Montana spread out in all directions. “This is beautiful.”

After staring for several moments we shucked our backpacks and collapsed on the banquet sofa, breathing heavily from the hike and climb.

Michael looked around the small cabin, taking it all in. I’d already seen the photos online but it was wonderful to see the place in person and know it was ours for the next forty-eight hours.

Finally, he turned to me. “But where do we sleep?”

I raised my eyebrows. As far as I was concerned, there would not be a whole lot of sleep going on this weekend.

He must have seen the desire in my eyes because he grinned and leaned closer, brushing my cheek with his nose and murmuring into my ear. “Let me rephrase that. Where is the comfortable but firm surface I can throw you on to have my depraved way with you? Please tell me there is one.”

His warm breath caused goose bumps to rise on me everywhere and my cock to thicken in my shorts. I almost couldn’t reply but when I found my voice I said, “There’s a pull-out bed in here.” I pointed down at the sofa we were sitting on.

“Oh good,” he said, nuzzling my stubbled cheek and nipping at my chin, which caused my mouth to drop open and my breaths to come more quickly. “Because I thought we might have to do it on the balcony.”

I pulled back and stared at him, eyes wide and my dick a steel rod.

“I think we may just have to now that you’ve put that idea in my head.”

He laughed softly and kissed me with increasing ardor, his hand finding its way past the waistband of my shorts.

Later, so much later, after we’d fucked on the pull-out bed AND on the balcony, and then again with me bent over the kitchen counter, we relaxed on the tangled sheets and enjoyed the peace of the dark forest surrounding us. It was so quiet but for the sounds of crickets and night birds and it made something deep inside me relax for the first time in a long while.

“This reminds me of something,” I suddenly realized and the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.

“Yeah?”

I nodded, snuggling into Michael’s side and enjoying the smell of him and the lingering scent of our adventures. “This old movie I had way back in the day of VHS players. I can’t even remember the title of the thing and the cassette always came unwound but I remember there was this one scene where the lovers — they were straight of course— were chatting like us in a cabin in the woods with darkness all around, just like this, and it was so, I don’t know, evocative of something. Something important and valuable and beautiful.”

Michael stared down at me, breathing softly. “I like the way you say things, Mattéo.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do. And I think that you are something important and valuable and beautiful.”

I swallowed, too overcome by what he’d said to reply. All I could do was lock onto his gaze and lose myself in the truth of his words.

A sound outside made me jerk in his arms.

“What the fuck was that?” Michael said as our quiet lover’s chat was interrupted by sounds of movement and talking below. We froze and listened.

A man’s voice, confident and deep: “I know. I just want to get a better look. Wait here.”

Soon we heard the sounds of booted feet on the steps below.

“Oh shit,” I cried out, scrambling to find my clothes. Michael did the same. But before we could get completely dressed the door to the cabin opened and a man stepped inside.

“Oh shit!” He exclaimed, his eyes flying over the scene of our debauchery with confusion and surprise. “I didn’t realize there was anyone in here.”

“Oh shit!” I said again, staring at the fully uniformed firefighter in his coveralls, boots and fire hat. “Is there a fire?”

The man stared at me, then at Michael as we continued to frantically dress ourselves.

He gave out a soft laugh and smiled. He looked back and forth between us again and I suddenly noticed he had the bluest eyes and a handsome goatee. “That’s what I’m here to find out. But nothing close.”

His eyes sparkled as he took off his fire hat and held out his hand. “I’m Officer Markholm. I’m so sorry to intrude but the owner lets us use this place as an actual fire watch tower when we need to. Unfortunately she neglected to tell us it was being used this weekend.”

Officer Markholm’s black hair was wet with sweat and curled charmingly around his ears. I didn’t realize I was staring until Michael told me to close my mouth. Officer Markholm laughed, apologized again and asked if he could just have a look out the back windows? He was just making sure a small fire that was miles away had been successfully extinguished.

Of course we said sure and moved aside, hoping the smell of the sex we’d had all over the place wasn’t as strong as it seemed. I suddenly noticed Michael’s jar of Boy Butter lube on the table by the window where Officer Markholm stood looking out. I nudged Michael and nodded toward it. He paled slightly. He moved quickly to the window beside the firefighter, blocking Officer Markholm’s view of the table.

“It’s so dark, what can you possibly see out there?”

I darted to the table and grabbed the bottle, whisking it out of sight. It was slippery, as lube bottles tend to get, and slid from my fingers, clattering onto the floor and rolling under the pullout bed as Officer Markholm said, “Fire. If there’s even a tiny fire, I’ll see it. But if we could switch the lights off in here, that would help.”

“Sure,” I said, backing up to do as he’d asked. At least the lube was out of sight.

We all stood there then, silently looking out the large windows, watching the forest for any signs of red or yellow or orange.

Officer Markholm scanned the distance and I tried not to imagine how hard his muscles probably were underneath that brown coverall. How it might feel to be picked up in his strong arms and carried down the steps. How comforting it would be to hear his voice in the middle of a crisis.

I noticed that Michael was watching him too. No doubt thinking the same thing I was. I grinned but I don’t know if he saw it in the darkness.

Finally, Officer Markholm turned and said, “Looks like it’s all clear. Thanks for letting me invade your love nest, boys.”

My breath caught in my throat. “Wh- what? We were just, uh, playing scrabble.” It was all I could think of.

Officer Markholm switched the light on and I could see his wry smile. “Okay. Sure.”

The blood rushed to my face. He obvious didn’t believe me.

“Who’s winning?”

“Him,” Michael and I said together.

“Uh huh. And where’s the board? Same place as the lube?”

We were so busted. We said nothing, just stared at the handsome firefighter and choked.

Then his soft laugh floated through the small space again. “Anyway, looks like there’s no fire anywhere but in this room. Just play safe okay?”

And he was gone, closing the door and clomping down the wood steps, while Michael and I stared after him.

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