The Ghosts Between Us by Brigham Vaughn (Book 1 of the West Hills Series): This is one of those books I stumbled across and can’t remember who recommended it to me. So, if you did…thank you. I wasn’t certain at first that I would like this book. It’s unusual subject matter from the first few pages. Dr. Christopher Allen is a psychiatrist who works with people at a Hospice. His life is turned upside down when his younger brother dies and at the funeral…he meets his brother’s lover, Elliot. The thing is, he didn’t know his brother was interested in men.

Early on in the book, Chris and Elliot are thrown together and as their lives become more and more entwined things get very complicated and very messy. I really enjoyed this because I’ve never read anything quite like it before. I had no idea how things were going to turn out and the turmoil and chaos seemed pretty realistic to me. As this is listed as the first book of a series, I’m hoping that some of the rest of the series will flesh out the lives of some of the other characters in this story.

Warnings: lots of discussion about death, substance abuse, struggling relationships, sex while intoxicated.

Nirvana is Here by Aaron Hamburger: This was a complicated story. It’s also a very important story in this day and age as we become aware of the pervasive nature of sexual assault. The main character experienced a traumatic assault when he was young and the past and present are woven together in this novel.

I didn’t connect emotionally with the MC as well as I thought I should. Perhaps I’m not the intended audience. That being said, it’s well written, sometimes funny and quite sad. This is a story of a man who has learned to live with a past that confused, scarred and changed him irrevocably.

I can’t speak to the accuracy of the MC’s journey through his ongoing-recovery as I’ve been fortunate enough never to have experienced anything like it. But, I do think that this is the story is well-thought out, gentle and important. It has a strong message.

Warning: detailed description of sexual assault, description of sexual harassment, some homophobic language.

A Starr is Born by Ryan Field: First of all, I should say I’m not part of the target audience for this book as I’m not a gay man. That being said, this book definitely has a more authentic voice to it than a lot of “M/M romance” books that are written from the perspective of a gay male character (and clearly targetted at women). This is an #ownvoice book.

I struggled a bit with a retelling of this particular story because it’s so well=known. It’s difficult to write anything in under 200 pages that is going to have enough character development to carry such a dysfunction relationship and make it believable. I feel like this plot line is one that needs much more room to grow on the pages.

I really liked MC, Morton. I loved his background … he was raised by two drag Queen Dads, and he had a lovely gender-fluid way of dressing. He was full of pride and comfortable within himself which great to see. It was a little difficult to believe that he would fall in love with Harrison as quickly as he did – especially when it was clear from the first moment that Harrison was struggling under the weight of multiple addictions.

I haven’t read any of Field’s other writing so I don’t have a sense of his writing style other than in this book. It’s certainly well-written. It wouldn’t be my choice of subject matter as a “parody” simply because the subject matter is pretty heavy. warning: lots of discussion of substances abuse, some infidelity.

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