October 31st, 2011

andrew potter

Jan Cox Speas (November 5, 1925 - October 31, 1971)

Jan Cox Speas was born November 5, 1925 in Raleigh, North Carolina. She attended the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina (women could not go to UNC-Chapel Hill until junior year) from 1942-46, where she studied creative writing under Hiram Hayden. UNC had a special association with Jan's family: her mother, Francis Howard Cox, who had studied as a high schooler at home in tiny Richlands, NC, was the first in the family to come to the college, taking the train in 1914 to Greensboro to study to be a teacher, and years later Jan’s daughter, Cindy, attended UNC-Chapel Hill in the first year freshmen women were allowed to enrol.

Near the end of the war Jan met and married John Speas on his return from the European theatre. Their first child, Cindy, was born in 1948, right after John graduated from Colorado State University.

After several years of travelling, the Speas family settled back in Greensboro in 1954 to be near Jan’s mother, who suffered from chronic ill health. During that time Jan wrote multiple short stories for the widely read “slick” magazine market, including The Post, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, McCall’s and others.

Cindy Speas recalls, “Mom learned to write from reading—and that's what we did as a family every night.” Jan's favourite authors included Daphne DuMaurier, Mary Stewart, Nevil Shute, Elswyth Thane, Inglis Fletcher, Helen MacInnis, Elisabeth Ogilvie, Elizabeth Goudge, Dorothy Sayer and Josephine Tey. “But the most fun Mom and I had,” Cindy confesses, “was with Georgette Heyer's Regency romances—we collected all of the original hardbacks.”

Following Jan Cox Speas death from a heart attack in 1971, Avon Publications brought out paperback editions of her romances. By 1978 there were more than a million copies of her books in print.

Jan Cos Speas's Books on Amazon: Jan Cox Speas

Source: http://www.susannakearsley.com/jan_cox_speas.html
andrew potter

Stage Whispers by Adam Fitzroy

This novel by Adam Fitzroy has written “UK” all over; in the setting, that is easy, but also in the mood and the feeling, bittersweet humor, comfortable romance, fire under the ashes sex, all bundled together in more than 500 pages, all of them perfectly timed in a slow paced rhythm.

Callum and Jon are the most unlikely likely couple you can imagine; unlikely due to the age differences, the different life expectations, maybe even a little bit their upbringings; likely since they are both actors, they understand each other without many words, and they of course are in love.

As I said this is not a fast paced romance, and I truly enjoyed how Callum courted Jon without more or less Jon realizing it, and in a way without neither the reader. Callum is probably the most complex character since, truth be told, the author was really good in making him an easy target for the reader hating: Callum is the one who drags Jon in a relationship to then dumping him and marrying a woman; Callum is the one who dares to come back into Jon’s life when he needs comfort without considering how painful that can be for Jon; Callum is the one who continues to maintain a bond with Jon when it would be better for the other man to be freed… but fellow readers, trust me and don’t give up on him since I will assure you he will be able to atone all his sins.

On the other hand I think you can love or hate Jon, there are no half-measures with him; hate him since he has that aloof halo around him like nothing can touch his heart, since his heart is wrapped in ice; love him since it’s easy to understand that it’s not ice around his heart, but simply a self-protective shield. It’s easy to like Callum, he is like a puppy, or a teddy bear, and he is scandalously and unashamedly free, really proving his young age, but he is also considerate of Jon’s feelings and troubles. It’s not explicitly written, but I think he was the one cutting their relationship since, in a way, he was trying to protect Jon, Callum knew that Jon was not ready to lose everything in exchange of his love; that was where Callum was wrong, and maybe he was a little presumptuous from his side to pretend to know what was better for Jon, but still, I think he did it with good intentions.

I really love the setting, the small town feeling of the theatre world, where everyone knows everyone else; the little gossip that was sometime reflected by the more mainstream media gossip, but that was mostly told behind closed doors, in front of a cup of tea; the tight net of relationships, marriages and funerals all in the span of less than 3 grades of connections (friend of a friend). Of course in more than 500 pages, the stories told are not only that of Callum and Jon, but also of their circle of friends, in good and bad, no one character will enter the scene without a purpose or/and its own story to tell, and like those gossiping spinsters or widows in front of a cup of tea, the reader will enjoy to listen to their bad or good outcome.

http://www.manifoldpress.co.uk/2011/05/stage-whispers/

Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading%20list&view=elisa.rolle
andrew potter

Calico by Dorien Grey

To all account Calico by Dorien Grey can easily being classified as a Young Adult novel with a Coming of Age story. What sex, or better reference to sex, you will find in it is so light weighted and generic that for sure this is not an erotic romance but I will not arrive to say that it’s not a romance. If you are familiar with the western novels (a la Louis L'Amour style), you know that the love story in that novels, if existing, was not the main theme, and the fierce cowboy was mainly concentrated in reaching a target, whatever target it was; for this reason, the cowboy could be old, sometime even “grandfatherly”, taking care of the young kids in the plot like a substitute father or uncle. This is not the case of Calico, who is 27 years old; sure he is all the same stoic like those cowboys, and sure he takes care of 17 years old twin brother-and-sister Josh and Sarah, but he is not at all fatherly. First of all since, at 27 years old, he cannot be really the father of 17 years old boys and second since he more or less “silently” falls in love for Josh at first sight. And if you are thinking that he is taking advantage of an underage kid, first of all consider what I said above, no sex at all, and second it’s Josh that makes his moves on Calico, and Calico will be the perfect gentleman.

Of course, if the target of this novel is indeed a young adult reader, then maybe having an adult fall in love for an underage kid can be controversial; well, you need to consider that, more or less at the beginning of the story, the author explains that 17 years old in the Old West was not being a kid, but for the sake of the plot, the two twins had to be under guardianship; plus while 27 years old Calico has always lived his adult life in the Frontier, and so not really having much chances to be in contact with women, 17 years old Josh is from Chicago, a big city even at the time. So where someone could question Calico’s preferences for men (he has not really many choices), Josh is way more ahead in his sexual maturity; now I’m not saying he is experienced, far from it, I’m saying he seems to be more self-conscious.

There is really not many discussion on the “I prefer boys, do you?” theme, it’s more or less a mutual acknowledgment: Calico simply asks Josh if he has left a girlfriend behind and Josh says no, expressing little interest in girls, and replying with a “like you” to Calico; that is all, that is all they need to know about each other. To Josh’s not so hidden attempts, Calico kindly resists, not really until Josh is 18 years old, but more until they are both safe. Again, Calico’s acknowledgment that now he has no more reasons to refuse Josh is kind, and Josh is satisfied with the certainty that, once they will be safe, he will have the one he desires.

The story is more about the “travel”, the slowly but steadily building of trust between Calico and Josh, than about the target; the outside threat, and its removal, is important since it serves to give a reason to Calico and Josh to spend time together, but it could have been anything else, and for that reason I don’t think the author put much effort in making it dangerous or mysterious.

http://www.zumayapublications.com/title.php?id=189

Amazon: Calico
Amazon Kindle: Calico
Paperback: 184 pages
Publisher: Zumaya Publications, LLC (October 2, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 193413533X
ISBN-13: 978-1934135334

Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading%20list&view=elisa.rolle
andrew potter

Grown Men (HardCell Universe: First Transmission) by Damon Suede

Upon finishing this novel, if someone is wondering like me why it was so short, well you can console yourself with that “first transmission” in the title, meaning that I think the author has more in storage for these “grown men” of his.

Runt is already wondering if he did the right choice when he signed for being a colonist on Andromeda; there is nothing resembling home in this land and the promised cloned wife didn’t survive the landing. So Runt is not only hungry of food he is also starving from isolation and he would welcome everyone in his little piece of lost paradise… other than a more than 2 meters tall giant. Even if Ox, the giant, is more like an oversized teddy bear than an ogre, nevertheless Runt is not comfortable: in the very faraway chance something more than friendship will blossom between them, Runt has no intention at all to play the submissive role, and with Ox there would be no other option. That would be quite true if not for the fact that I had the feeling Ox is not 100% grown… and no, there is no double meaning in my sentence: Ox is more than grown considering the “exterior”, but he is more or less like a baby on the “interior”. It’s like they shaped him with the body of an assassin to then matching the heart, and mind, of a pacifist; actually in some aspect Ox is more like a puppy than a watchdog, and I was almost expecting for him to turn up his belly for a scratch from Runt. Runt himself gave me the idea of a stray dog, all wiry muscle and guarded attitude, in a way, even if he was smaller than Ox, he was way more dangerous.

The setting was more or less simple: even if there is a sci-fi theme, they are stranded in an isolated land, and the environment is “bared”, without much furnishing. There is a bit of world building, even a little of social criticism, see the reference to the “advertisement” that replaced the old fashioned movie: you no more see movies with ad breaks, you see a continuous ad that is the movie itself.

The sex is good but arrives almost at the end, so that the reason why I hope the author is planning the following instalment in the series always with Runt and Ox as main heroes, I don’t feel like they had a closure for their story, above all Ox. There is still more to explain and even more for them to try, both in than out of the bed. And then it would be interesting to know how they will solve the “genetic” issue of not being able to procreate between the two of them.

http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/grown-men

Buy Here

Amazon Kindle: Grown Men
Publisher: Riptide Publishing (October 27, 2011)

Reading List: http://www.librarything.com/catalog_bottom.php?tag=reading%20list&view=elisa.rolle


Cover Art by Roberto Quintero