Valentine’s Love By Helena Stone Review!

Image result for helena stone valentine's love

 

 

 

Valentine’s Love (2018) by Helena Stone is a beautifully crafted, heartwarming love story.

 

The story follows protagonist Ty O’ Malley who owns a gift shop called Spoilt for Choice and enjoys nothing better than helping his customers find the gifts they need to show their appreciation of those they love. Often these situations are with their significant others and while Ty is helping them, he is putting to one side his own emotional affairs in matters of the heart with the same sex and the pain and hurt he feels about the breakdown of his relationship with a man who he loved who left him three years prior. I couldn’t help thinking of Jane Austen when I was reading parts in this book because like Ty, a lot of her work was about romance and yet she struggled to find it in her own life. But alas, Ty is thankfully not going the same path as dear Jane as hope is on the horizon in the form of a customer who comes into his shop called Ben Cronin. With the help of Ty’s cupid-like assistant, there is now a chance for finding his own love of his life to buy gifts and shower in love and affection. But there is of course a snag like in all good ‘will-they-won’t-they?’ romance as Ben has come into the shop looking for gift ideas for another mystery man who has his heart all aflutter …

 

I think the chemistry between Ty and Ben is very natural and drives the plot forward with ease. You definitely find yourself rooting for them to get together and for Ty to finally move on from his arsehole ex-boyfriend. The emotions and fears that both men feel about making this big leap and adjustment to their lives is written very well especially Ty’s feelings on the issue as he has far more baggage coming into this possible new relationship. He is learning to trust again and finding it difficult to allow his heart to be put in another man’s hands again.

 

I also love in this book how the author fitted in a bit of social commentary and how it is often assumed that someone is romantically linked to someone of the opposite sex and is buying gifts for them. Though there is a bit more to that part of the story which I don’t want to give away, it was a point well made and something which needs to be brought up in fiction, and in general, more.

 

Another thing I loved about this book is that as an Irish person, it felt very authentic of Ireland to me. The characters in this book are like Irish people I meet all the time and that isn’t always the case with the representations of Irish characters in fiction. I mean the amount of times I have lost my shit over representations of Irish people involving leprechauns, a belief in mythical creatures and an all-round naive outlook of the world has been a hell of a lot. So I very much appreciated that the author did not use the stereotypical approach to the story. These characters are strong, everyday Irish people with human emotions and modern outlooks and that is the real Ireland that I live in every day. Also loved that Monkstown was the setting because my late and very much loved father was from Monkstown.

 

Ty and Ben are such a lovely couple to read about and this story is one of those lovely romances that you can sit reading with a cup of coffee and marshmallows and feel all warm and happy inside.

 

A fantastic read. Very beautiful. And a read for all year round, not just for Valentine’s!

 

To purchase Valentine’s Love by Helena Stone go to:

 

And for more about Helena Stone and her work go to:

https://www.amazon.com/Helena-Stone/e/B00U4Z7SF6/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1537493193&sr=1-2

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Loving A Straight Boy By Joseph Lance Tonlet Review!

Image result for loving a straight man by joseph lance tonlet

 

 

Loving A Straight Boy (2018) by Joseph Lance Tonlet is a short story about unrequited love.

 

This is a great book which deals with the subject of unrequited love and the psychological dynamics that are often at play in such situations. The protagonist and the straight man he’s in love with are both very flawed characters in the situation and both their personalities make an incredibly difficult situation even harder for them both. Countless times I have been in the position of the main character feeling love for a person it isn’t going to happen with and I understood the pain, the emptiness and the longing that the author has written very well in the piece. But the way he is handling it is all wrong. His approach is very forceful and he is not accepting that this man has a right to feel how he feels too. But the other man’s approach is just as bad. He loves the power he has over the main character and the way he relishes in the power he has over him is sickening. He is leading him on in short even though he says nothing will happen. His actions are very different from his words with a lad he knows worships the ground he walks on. He may not ever want to be with him but he wants to always have complete control over him.

 

Ultimately it is quite a sad tale filled with needs for love, possession and lack of understanding and communication. This piece is very thought-provoking and is sadly often what does happen when you put your own needs always before the needs of others. Both characters are quite selfish for the vision of their own future that they see. It is a story of a very intense and toxic friendship for both of the characters’ wellbeings and you find yourself wishing they would get away from each other, have some space and maybe the situation would become more healthy. Maybe they could even still be friends but be able to find happiness in their respective love lives and not be so wrapped up in each other. Because they both are for very different reasons.

 

A really great read with great insight into the emotional dynamics of not been able to pull away or to even try to.

 

To get your free copy of Loving A Straight Boy by Joseph Lance Tonlet go to:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/894616

 

And for more about Joseph Lance Tonlet and his work go to:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8344230.Joseph_Lance_Tonlet

Do You Worry What Others Will Say on Your Choice in Writing? Namely, genres? – Guest Post by, Traci Kenworth…

Wise words here! Do check out this wonderful piece by Traci Kenworth:

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Have you as a writer heard grumbles on your material choices? For instance, if you write horror or romance? Perhaps family members or friends point out that they object to your story or the direction you want to take your career. Does it influence you? Has it made you steer clear of writing such stories? Do you keep what you write secret from church members for fear of being shamed for it? For most of my life, I’ve done this at one time or another. When I was young, eighteen, I made the mistake of admitting that I wrote horror to my pastor’s wife. She was horrified and suggested that I cease writing such stories immediately. It took me many years before I admitted the same to family and friends and here and there, I heard murmurs about writing “that stuff.”

The same kind of reactions come from writing romance…

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Watch Me (Extracurricular Activities #1) By Neve Wilder Review!

Watch Me (Extracurricular Activities, #1)

 

 

Watch Me (Extracurricular Activities #1) (2018) is the first in a series by a new writer Neve Wilder.

 

The series follows protagonist Nate Sanders, a college student, who thinks he is straight but his beliefs on his sexuality come into question when he feels strongly attracted to his housemate Eric. While Nate is masturbating, Eric accidentally walks in on him which causes Nate to wonder whether he liked Eric watching him in such a sexual state. After this he sees Eric with a male friend and a female friend and finds himself getting jealous. But Nate has other matters to attend to as well with his pending Calculus exam which is not a subject he is very good at (as it’s in the maths realm I could definitely relate to that!) but all is not lost as Eric is very good at Calculus. So Calculus hero Eric comes to the rescue to help Nate with the study preparation for the exam. But study preparation doesn’t quite stay that way when Eric agrees to help his bi-curious friend to find out if he really is into lads.

 

It is quite a steamy read which I don’t personally mind but if you like a ‘left to the imagination’ kind of story this series might not be to your tastes. It’s a very well-written book that explores sexuality and the search to find out who you are and I think it does so in a very authentic way. As someone who is pansexual I very appreciated that the author explored the area of sexuality from the perspective of the middle of the sexuality spectrum. A lot of characters in fiction tend to be either gay and straight and there is definitely a lack of representation in comparison of other sexualities. So it was nice to see that Eric was bisexual for a change. And while it was never completely made clear in this first outing whether Nate is bisexual, heteroflexible or is straight and simply attracted to Eric there is still a step away from a completely binary way of feeling in terms of his sexuality.

 

As a couple I think Nate and Eric have very good chemistry. Nothing seems forced or contrived. It all feels very natural. Their dialogue with each other flows very easily and there is the perfect mixture of tenderness, compassion and humour in their interactions with each other which helps the reader to want to root for them to get together and really make a go of things. This is quite a short read that you could finish in 1-3 sittings depending on how much time you have to spare for reading but there is so much packed into the book and you really get to know the characters and their personalities. Very rounded characters who really work well together and who drive the plot in a very seamless fashion.

 

A really great read and I look forward to at some stage soon embarking on the next adventure in the Nate & Eric/Naric series.

 

To get your free copy of Watch Me (Extracurricular Activities #1) by Neve Wilder go to (Free until September 30th):

https://www.instafreebie.com/discover/author/26867/neve_wilder

 

And for more about Neve Wilder and her work go to:

https://www.facebook.com/nevewilderwrites/

Short Story: Office Love

Image result for love quotes drawing

 

 

Office Love

 

 

Milk Magazine was my baby.

Which was a good thing because I wasn’t good at much less outside of writing and publishing. I was proud of it. I was also power-crazed about it.

It was the most popular LGBTQ+ magazine in Nottingham. Or in my head it was anyways. From 9am to 5pm, myself and my dedicated team came together Monday to Saturday to come up with a monthly issue detailing the latest LGBTQ+ issues in Nottingham and well, the world. The latest Monday had just got underway and I was wiping sleep from my eyes as I sat at my desk trying to come up with an article about a homophobic Priest’s comments on same-sex marriages. Mike, my fashion editor and best friend bounced into the office (I say office, it’s really like a warehouse where we are all in one room. #Working-class problems). He is as per usual full of energy and I as ever am at a loss as to how he can be like this at this stage in the day.

“Alexander Wang’s menswear is just perfect!”, he exclaims.

“I’m really feeling it.”

“What? The actual fabric? Now that would be big for Milk!”, I laughed.

“Ah haha, most funny Mr. Intellectual! So do you actually know what you’re wearing today?”

“Clothes I hope … probably Adidas or something.”

He rolls his eyes.

“You could put a bit of effort in, you know honey. You ain’t half bad looking, bar the dark circles under the eyes, the terrible sense of fashion and the know-it-all attitude …”

“Jeez, you make me sound like a real catch.”, I smiled.

“But seriously honey, a bit of effort and you would have the men running after you.”

I don’t bother at this stage informing him (Once again!) that I’m pansexual. Because he’s gay he seems to believe everyone else is, like my mother who only says the girls because she’s straight and thinks everyone is straight. Lost? Yeah, so am I.

“What about him for example? Shy new lad in the blue polo neck? He looks like an intellectual sort. He wears polo necks after all.”

I looked over to see Max.

“He’s not a lad. He’s agender.”

“Then why are you saying he Stephen?”, Mike asks, like he’s finally caught me out and that I really secretly thought like him.

“Because he uses he pronouns.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Because I take an interest in the people that work for me.”

“I’m so confused by all this stuff to be honest honey. What’s wrong with good old-fashioned man and woman and gay and straight?”

“Mike, we are an LGBTQ+ magazine, not just a gay, lesbian and trans in a binary sense magazine. Just a gentle reminder mate … but you have one thing right, I do find him hot.”

“But how can you if you’re into guys and you’re claiming he ain’t a guy?”

“I’m pansexual. You know that.”

“Now I’m really confused honey! So what you working on anyways?”

“Father Brennan’s homophobic comments …”

“Oh, that arsehole.”

“I know, tell me about it. I can’t even say he’s homophobic in the article. Can be sued for having an opinion you know and I ain’t got that kind of money. Am reduced to he made homophobic comments.”

Mike rolls his eyes in unison with my own eye-rolling.

 

**********

 

 

It was late in the day on Wednesday. The issue for this month was starting to take shape. I was over with Max who was currently interning on the magazine and therefore was left with the stories no one else was bothered to do.

“What do you have for me Max?”, I ask, staring over his shoulder as he typed.

“Two male dogs got married. They had a ceremony and all …”

“The features will get more interesting as you go along.”, I assured him.

“Oh no, I don’t mind. I like dogs. They looked adorable in their tuxes. They actually had Best Men and all because the two of them live in the same houses as many other dogs.”

His enthusiasm reminds me of my own when I started the magazine just over eight years ago. With the workload, I’ve lost that a bit. But I miss it sometimes.

The second current intern comes in. Her name’s Tanya and I gave her a shot at the magazine because her girlfriend’s mother is a friend of my Mum’s. But she’s been doing a great job all the same.

“I think the magazine’s name is quite cool. Speaks a lot to Queer history.”, she says, swigging at her coffee.

“I’m glad you noticed that …”, I began.

“Yeah, to name the mag after a Rupaul queen was a genius idea.”

Well as often happens in Drag Race, the face crack of the century, that’s what I almost have.

“I’m glad you think so.”, I reply, not having the heart to tell her that the magazine was actually named in tribute to Harvey Milk.

I spot Max hold in a giggle out of the corner of my eye. As she goes over to check in with social media for the magazine at a computer, I grin to Max.

“You didn’t have the heart to tell her either?”

“It gave me a good laugh when she first told me I must admit.”, he smiled.

 

 

**********

 

 

By Friday afternoon, I am going over the recipes by our food editors and married couple Tina and Jenna who are doing a piece on exciting dishes with pancakes. Jenna, office mother one, changes the topic.

“You like Max, don’t you?”

For many months since my latest break-up, she has been encouraging me to put myself out there in the dating world again.

“And he likes you too.”, Tina, office mother two, adds.

Tina doesn’t quite push the whole ‘get back in the game’ line that Jenna does but she seems quite excited about me getting back in the game with Max nonetheless. Her comment makes my heart race a few beats faster.

“He said that?”

“Well not in so many words … but like it’s obvious! Haven’t you seen the way he looks at you?”

“Ah no, I think he looks at me like he does at everyone else …”

“Oh no baby, no.”, Jenna said.

“His eyes look at you like they want you.”

“How exactly?”

“Oh you know dreamlike. Long gazes.”

I wasn’t completely sold on the whole long gazes thing but before work ended, I though sure what the heck? I mean what was the worse that could happen, eh? Apart from awkward long days at work …

So I went over to him as he was clearing away his stuff into his rainbow bag.

“Say, um, you doing anything, well tonight?”

He looks up at me.

“Why? Is there something that needs finishing?”

“Um no … I was just wondering, well if you’d be free to go for maybe, a drink with me?”

There is a flicker of something in his eye. What it is, I’m not sure. Joy? Confusion? Horror?

“Like as in a date?”

“I guess so.”

“Well I’m free and I guess I’d be down for that.”

 

 

**********

 

 

“I didn’t ever think you’d ask me out.”, Max said as we sat by the window of a quiet bar.

“Why? Because I’m your boss?”

“Well there is that but like, I always thought you were gay.”

“Mike?”, I laughed.

“Well yeah …”

“Mike thinks I’m gay. Though I have told him many times I’m pan.”

“I’m glad you’re not … gay, I mean … not that there’s anything wrong with being gay …”

“I know what you mean. What’s your sexuality if you don’t mind me asking …”

“Of course not, we are on a date after all.”, he smiles.

“I don’t really have one. I mean I suppose I say pan if anyone really pushes me to say something because if you go by the idea that sexuality is an actual thing I suppose I would be but I don’t really think sexuality, gender, race, nationality or anything like that is real. But when you get into that with people they start guilt tripping you with ‘you are trying to take away my labels from me’ bullshit so I try to stay out of that lately. You can say I’m pan if it makes things easier …”

“I think it’s better to just say you’re you if that’s what you prefer.”

He seems to melt a bit before taking my hand in his and changing the subject.

“Do you know there used to be a theatre near here? It was burned down by some yobs coming on a few years back now …”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers: Double Delusions

 

 

 

Double Delusions

 

Arriving at the restaurant Susie looked at the umbrellas. She climbed up on the fencing and tried to figure out the code. The code which would save her life. She sat for hours in thought until she heard the familiar voice of her wife Emily.

“Come down darling. It’ll be ok.”

She’s with them. They have got to her too.

“Don’t come any closer.”

Emily held back tears. It had been like this for as long as she knew Susie. But she still hoped against hope that she could help Susie in the way everyone else failed to do before.

 

My book Black Coat based on a previous Friday Fictioneers prompt is available at:

 

For Friday Fictioneers Writing Prompt. Check out the website at:

https://rochellewisoff.com/

Strictly Kosher Review!

 

Image result for strictly kosher jack aizenberg

Jack Aizenberg In Strictly Kosher

 

Strictly Kosher (2011) is a wonderfully intriguing documentary about Jewish religion and culture directed by Chris Malone.

 

Set in Manchester the documentary follows three Jewish people and presents their varying different feelings about their religion and the effect it has on their lives. We meet Joel Lever who is flamboyant and full of energy and fun. He owns a boutique where many women come for outfits for weddings and a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah. We also meet Bernette Clarke who makes gorgeous traditional Kosher meals for her family and she also has a love of wigs which I can completely relate to girl!

 

But my heart was stolen by Jack Aizenberg who spoke about living through the Holocaust and at one point showed a Nazi flag and spoke about the fear Jewish people felt in the time of Hitler when they would see that flag. He seems such a beautifully kind-hearted man and very compassionate. There was a warmth that came through from him which I really liked. A gentleman.

 

I love how this documentary gave Jewish life, religion and culture a representation that people who are Jewish unfortunately don’t always get on TV. Many myths were thankfully debunked and the documentary had a perfect mix of light-heartedness and truth about the prejudice Jewish people have faced and still face.

 

There is a few things which were a bit dodgy like genital mutilation, the whole only marrying someone of the same faith and the separation of males and females at wedding receptions and no space set up at all for non-binary people who presumably would have to dance one side or the other but I know there is many Jewish people who don’t believe in any of these things either. Aside from those three eye-raising issues, the Jewish religion is a really beautiful religion with wonderful family values and a very peaceful openness and kindness which was really gorgeous to see come alive in this documentary.

 

A must-watch.

 

To watch Strictly Kosher go to: