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Hidden treasures

July 21, 2013

Since my own writing isn’t doing anything new and exciting right now, I thought I’d do a different type of post this time. I usually don’t talk about other people’s books here. I’m not sure why not, except that I tend to keep things compartmentalized. I write a lot of reviews on Goodreads – over 550 so far. I enjoy letting people know about the books I love, and turning new readers on to great storytelling.

A recent book release, that didn’t get the full attention I expected, made me think about all those hidden treasures – the books I’ve read and loved, and wonder why the whole world isn’t snapping them up and loving them too. You know the ones. Although your list is no doubt different from mine, because in the wonder of human diversity, there is also diversity of tastes. But I’m sure you also have that list of the books you’ve loved, the ones that charmed, amused or uplifted you, or wrecked you for a span of time, while making the real world go away. Stories written by talented authors who somehow haven’t found the audience they deserve.

Anyway, since my email in-box is annoyingly silent on the topic of ongoing manuscripts, and real life is a bitch, I thought maybe we could give each other this – books that make life better, and that not enough people have read.

I’m going to give you my list here, with a bit of general chat about what the story did for me, and a link to my full reviews, which tend to be wordy. (Who me? Never.) These are not all of my top favorite books, by any means, but I don’t think I need to tell you to go read Amy Lane or Harper Fox or Jordan Castillo Price or Heidi Cullinan. All of them have written wonderful take-to-a-desert-island books that I love. But unless you’re very new to the genre, you’ve already sampled those and formed your own opinions. These are the lesser-known books, ones with fewer than five hundred ratings on Goodreads, often a lot fewer. I’ll give you my top ten… I invite you to list your own hidden gems in the comments below.

King Perry by Edmond Manning : This is the book that got me thinking about the topic. The second book in this projected six-book series just came out, and those who loved the first were thrilled. But there aren’t enough of us. In my review of this first book, I wrote, “This isn’t a romance. I’m not sure what it is, other than brilliant and surprising and imaginative and unexpected. There is poignancy mixed with a lot of humor…” This book startled and perplexed and delighted me, once I let go of my expectations and fell into the brilliant narrative. It’s the first book in a voyage of discovery for and about the narrator, Vin Vanbly, as he interacts with one man after another, changing them and himself in the process.

I should point out that I am now a friend of the author’s. But I wasn’t when I read the book, and wrote this enthusiastic review. This is a book I could never have written, but I’m delighted to have read. You can get a feel for the author’s voice by reading his enormously entertaining (but way too sparse, Edmond, dammit) blog; try this entry about his Mom and her post office. The same mix of humor, insight, playfulness and compassion informs his fiction writing.

Whistling in the Dark by Tamara Allen : Tamara Allen writes some of the very best historical M/M stories I’ve ever read. They are not erotic – the sex is mostly off-page – but the love, the passion, the emotions are very much front and center. The atmosphere is captivating, the characters real, the research impeccable and unobtrusive. I love everything of hers I’ve read.

And make no mistake – these are books about real men, living and loving and going through life, whose time just happens to be a century or so ago. You could know no history at all, and still love these men. Whistling in the Dark I think is my favorite, although it’s a close call. This book has two men dealing with the traumas left behind from serving overseas during WWI, surviving injuries, and loss, and PTSD. As they each work to make a place for themselves in a world that has dealt them major blows, and still isn’t cutting them much of break now that they’re home, they meet, and recognize a kinship in each other. My Goodreads review is here.

Ravages by R.A. Padmos : This is a tough read. Two professional soccer players, very much in love, and in the closet, are devastated by the horrendously vicious gay-bashing of the older of the two. This book deals with the aftermath, both physical and psychological, of the trauma, and of the younger man’s decision to come out publicly, in support of his beloved. Beautifully written and intense, with a love that is idealized and yet feels true to the core, this deserves a wider audience. For those who can handle the pain at its start, there is a rich reward of love at its end. My Goodreads review is here.

Knight Errant by K.D. Sarge : This is a lighthearted romp with a delightful main character. Although it is science fiction, the SF background is very light, and the focus of the story is heavily on the main character, Taro, and his approach to a developing relationship with former joy-boy Rafe, to dealing with the sister whose mentorship he is beginning to outgrow, and to a world that he more than meets head on. Taro may be young, inexperienced in sex and love, and trying to behave, but he is also brilliant, headstrong, wild, and talented. This is a wonderful ride, a fast, smooth, entertaining story with adventure, wit, and true love. The sex becomes plentiful in the plot, but happens exclusively off the page, making this also suitable for older YA. My Goodreads review is here.

Diversion by Eden Winters : The strength in this contemporary mystery book is in the main characters, particularly Lucky, who is smart-assed, brilliant, and prickly in protection of a vulnerable heart he would never admit to owning. The setting is unique, having its focus on the unfamiliar world of prescription drug distribution abuses. The background was well-researched, and fuels the interesting plot, but never intrudes on the heart of the story – the growing relationship between Lucky, and Bo, his honorable and self-controlled Narcotics Bureau partner. My Goodreads review is here.

Bonds of Earth by G.N. Chevalier : This is another lovely historical romance, once again about men facing the aftermath of WWI. In a different style and feel than the Tamara Allen book, this is a slower, more poignant, somewhat darker and less vigorous story, beautifully written and satisfying at its end. My Goodreads review is here.

White Knuckled Moments by Madeleine Ribbon : Amazingly, for a book whose MC is a young college guy facing a terminal cancer diagnosis, this is a positive, fairly low-angst story. It’s a sweet tale of young love, and a story about family, about coming out and dealing with life and expectations. There are great secondary characters, notably the MC’s brother. The narrator has been dealing with brain tumors since he was ten, and also hiding his sexuality from a large, religious family. Now, faced with the possibility of not living out the year, he must decide what really matters to him. Finding a chance at love makes it both easier, and harder. The author somehow found just the right tone to show me where her MC lives, caught between fear and resignation, affection and self interest, now seasoned with love, disappointment and just a touch of hope. Very well done. My Goodreads review is here.

A Hole in God’s Pocket by K.Z. Snow : This story deals with two men, exiled from their religious communities by their sexuality, trying to make sense of attraction, love and faith. It is not an angry book, but is filled with the sense of lost possibilities. This is a lament to the pain that narrow-minded adherence to doctrine can cause, and a hymn to the healing qualities of love. The love story is very sweet and the general tone is low angst, as these two men find a new community in each other. My Goodreads review is here.

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk : This is a fun paranormal, historical story with a great MC couple, especially the shy scholarly narrator, and also includes a wonderful strong female secondary character. It’s a bit reminiscent of the classic turn-of-the-century paranormal adventure stories like King Solomon’s Mines, but with a wonderful M/M romance added in. There is great sexual tension, and eventually sweet, hot sex, with monsters, magic, and the triumph of brains over brawn, although brawn is celebrated too. The sequel is also wonderful, and this has the bonus of a lovely cover. My Goodreads review is here.

The General and the Horse Lord by Sarah Black : A contemporary romance, despite the fantasy-sounding title. The horses in question are Apache helicopters. Both men are military officers, now retiring and leaving behind stellar careers in the DADT military they served. They have a long-time relationship that has deepened into unbreakable love, although one of the men got married in hopes of a family, and, unable to stay away from his lover, has been cheating on his wife all this time. With retirement, the risks of coming out are reduced, and for once these men can think about putting their relationship ahead of the careers they have loved. But there is a cost, in pain for them and their families, and in the difficulty of reworking their lives in this new image. The military mindset is hard to leave behind, and the betrayed wife is justifiably angry and hurt, and perhaps unjustifiably vengeful. I loved the realistic tone of this established-couples romance. My Goodreads review is here.

So that’s my top ten, whittled down out of about twenty-five I could have named. I hope some of you will have your interest piqued (please, not peaked… saw that error three times in the last week) by one of these books. And I’d love to hear about the books you think the world should be celebrating, and isn’t, yet…

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Cris permalink
    July 22, 2013 5:12 am

    Thanks for the recommendations, Kaje! I’ll definitely give the ones I haven’t read a shot (except for Ravages, it sounds great, but I don’t think I can handle the bashing). I completely agree with you on Tamara Allen and Jordan Hawk, both are absolutely fantastic. I hate that Tamara has stopped writing for now, her books are just so beautifully written, they’ve just never gotten the attention they so greatly deserve.

    The only ones I can think to add off the top of my head is Chris O’Guinn’s Exiled to Iowa, Send Help and Couture and his new one Fearless. Both are wonderful YA stories with great characters and compelling stories that aren’t quite what you think they’ll be at first.

    • July 22, 2013 9:22 am

      “Ravages” is a tough book – probably the most realistic severe attack I’ve read, and not for everyone.

      I loved “Exiled to Iowa” and his new book is definitely on my TBR list.

      I’m really sad that Tamara Allen has taken a break from writing – I own everything she’s written that I can find, and almost all are 5 stars for me. But it’s hard to be motivated to continue when you put heart and soul into books that sell a couple hundred copies. I don’t know all her reasons, but I’d love to see her existing work get the recognition it deserves.

  2. kiracee permalink
    July 23, 2013 11:30 pm

    Yes, Tamara Allen is wonderful. Last I heard, though, she is working on another book.

    If you like Tamara Allen, you might like Lucius Parhelion also. He (or she) is published by Torquere, mostly short stories and novellas. Indigo is my favorite, though Faster Than the Speed of Light, the only full length novel I know about, is also wonderful.

    She (or he) also has a bunch of free fiction here:

    and some of these are excellent as well.

    • July 24, 2013 12:24 am

      I’ll be hopeful, then, for a new Tamara Allen down the road. I’ll have to check out Parhelion. Thanks.

    • August 5, 2013 5:33 pm

      Kiracee, another Parhelion lover! I wish we knew more about this author. I’ve read nearly all of his/her works. There’s also some fan fic over at

      Also, Kaje, thanks for this list. I’ve read a few of them, but Jordan Hawk was new to me, and I bought Widdershins and Threshold on your rec. Loved them both, Jordan’s writing style is very appealing. I love Percival and Griffin.

      • August 7, 2013 10:56 am

        *putting Parhelion higher on my list* – I love finding new authors 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed Widdershins – I thought it was a lot of fun, and loved Whyborne.

  3. Jane wilkinson permalink
    July 25, 2013 9:28 am

    I have just finished reading Ravages, on your rec & I absolutely loved it. The attack was brutal & hard to read but the love & devotion leapt off every page. I have now recced it to my friends. It is now up there as a favourite book of mine. Thank you x

  4. Donna permalink
    July 27, 2013 1:35 am

    I read Ravages yesterday because I liked what you had to say about it. It really was idealized love, yet so believable. I made it through that vicious bashing without any tears, though only because I was prepared for it. But the love they spoke and showed to each other had me crying randomly throughout the rest of the story. And that epilogue. Yes it was happy but it wrecked me one more time! Thank you for recommending it. This was a brilliant idea.
    I’ve seen you’ve marked it as “to read” on goodreads but if I were to add to this list it would be to recommend Gives Light (series) by Rose Christo. It’s not doing too badly, it has about 250 ratings and the majority of reviews are extremely positive. It’s one of those books that shouldn’t, in my opinion, be classified as a m/m romance, though it is the story of two teenage boys falling in love. But it’s much more than that.
    Another story I thought would garner more attention is TJ Klune’s John and Jackie. I think it’s the best thing he’s written. Unfortunately I believe the only place it’s available is in the anthology Crack The Darkest Skies Wide Open, which I would hesitate to recommend. I enjoyed the complete anthology but the stories it includes aren’t typical romances. Actually some of them aren’t romances and are not what you’d expect from the authors that wrote them. But if it is available somewhere else or if you don’t mind the sound of the anthology it’s really one that shouldn’t be missed.

    • July 27, 2013 7:42 am

      I do want to read “Gives Light” – it was a book of the month for our Young Adult LGBT Books group on Goodreads, and very well liked – I just have been lazy and only two-clicking books from B&N. I need to get on over to Smashwords and buy it.

      The anthology I’m reserving for when I have more tolerance for darker stuff in my fiction; right now I’m balancing real life with fictional happy endings, but more than one of those do sound interesting stories. And I like TJ’s writing, although more his humor than his angst, so we’ll see.

  5. C.B. Blue permalink
    August 5, 2013 12:01 am

    I saw your post title and said to myself, oh I absolutely have to recommend Tamara Allen in the comments! Imagine my incredibly pleased surprise to see her listed already. I haven’t read any of the other ones on your list, either as authors or those specific titles and am busy rounding them all up so that I can since if you’re recommending Tamara Allen, then those others MUST be great too.

    What a great idea this is! I doubt I ever would have found these books on my own and rely on the recommendations of others to find “hidden gems” like this. I feel like a lot of the “popular” lists on Goodreads are dominated by prolific, if not 100% proficient, writers who drown out books that are perhaps a bit less fluffy, but that tell (what I feel at least) are much more genuine stories. I hope we get a chance to share other hidden gems we come across in the future.

    • August 5, 2013 9:10 am

      Tamara Allen is one of my favorite writers – I recommend her a lot. The others are books I really enjoyed. No one will have exactly the same list, but it’s fun to see what stories other people love. My tastes are pretty broad in subject and angst-level and sex content, and good characters can make me overlook all kinds of other flaws. Ravages, for instance, has a very idealized love especially from Daniel, the younger player. For me it was so well written it was resonance-deep, but for others it may be over the top or unrealistic. The Sarah Black has cheating – decades of cheating on one MC’s wife. I felt like that was a price of the DADT military and a hunger for family – not honorable but very understandable – but some readers won’t forgive that. Everyone has their own criteria. But I hope this post makes people take a chance on some new books or new writers.

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