Amazing Author book reviews: Lou Harper

Before I start, I have to declare that I beta-read all of these stories so I’m hardly the most objective reviewer. However, I’d never have offered to beta for Lou in the first place if I hadn’t loved her writing. She has a lightness of touch and playful way with language that I love. You won’t find anything saccharine here, but neither will you find bucketloads of angst.

Last Stop

When love drifts into his life, danger isn’t far behind.

Sam Mayne’s life is as dull as the dishwater in his small-town Montana diner, and that’s just how he wants it. Quiet, uneventful, safe from his shadowy past. The breezy young drifter who answers his help-wanted ad makes him uneasy in ways he dare not examine too closely. Except he can’t help but be pulled in by Jay Colby’s spunky attitude, endless stories, and undeniable sex appeal.

Fresh off yet another romantic disaster, Jay doesn’t understand his attraction to the taciturn line cook, but there’s no fighting the chemistry that lands them in bed together. Where Sam’s subtly dominant streak takes command, and Jay delights in discovering the pleasures of his submissive side.

Safe in the assumption their relationship is temporary, neither lover holds back when the heat is on. Until Sam’s deadly past catches up with them with a vengeance, forcing him to drop the life he’s built, pick up his lover, and run. As danger cuts closer to the bone, Sam and Jay are forced to face the truth. About themselves, about the depth of their love—and the newly forged bonds that are about to be tested to the limit.

Product Warnings:

Contains enough sparks to ignite a sexual fire, ably fanned by the judicious use of some interesting props, as well as some butt-warming spanking. Sizzzzle.

Review:

Last Stop is a thrilling road trip complete with mobsters and a smattering of kink, albeit at the lighter end of the spectrum. The story begins with a sense of false calm as young Jay drifts into Sam’s life and bed, but it’s overshadowed by the threatening prologue and the snippets of conversation between mobsters that begin each chapter. When the action does finally kick off it’s explosive and a real pageturner.

I’m a huge fan of cute and slutty twink characters, and Jay fits the bill perfectly. He’s slept his way around a succession of sugar daddies and Sam enjoys hearing his tales of his sexual exploits. However, in the taciturn Sam Jay has finally found his match. You won’t find any soppy emoting in this story, but I loved watching the love grow between the two men, expressing itself in a thousand tiny, blokish ways. This might not be your typical m/m romance, but I think that’s a strength rather than a shortcoming in this case.

PSST! – want to win a copy of Last Stop? Then head on over to Joyfully Jay and leave a comment on the post to be in with a chance!

Academic Pursuits

Jamie Brennan is putting “cad” back into academia!

The son of a well-to-do family and blessed with both dark good looks and buckets of confidence, Jamie lives for the chase. He has a well-deserved reputation around college as a seducer of straight frat boys. No man is off-limits to Jamie—he’s happy to help fellow gay students out of the closet, too. He even has lustful designs on his oblivious English professor, so it’s no surprise that his amorous pursuits often land him in sticky situations.

There’s just one flaw in Jamie’s perfect world—Roger Hunt. The hunky grad student, who dresses more like a lumberjack than the talented artist he is, gives Jamie hostile looks every time their paths cross. Jamie tries to ignore Roger, but they can’t seem to stop running into each other, and Jamie’s beginning to wonder if it’s more than chance that continues to steer them down the same halls…

Review:

This is another story from Lou featuring an adorably and unabashedly slutty character. Jamie makes no apologies for his hobby seducing straight boys, and throughout the story has numerous sexual partners. However, he treats them all well, even gently helping the lovable Butch to understand that he isn’t actually gay, he simply enjoys being pegged.

The one man Jamie can’t seem to charm, however, is the dashingly handsome yet unfuriatingly superior Roger Hunt. The dynamic between them reads like an updated Pride and Prejudice, with Hunt as Darcy. Those reading purely for the romance aspect will probably be disappointed that the two men don’t get more page time together, but if you approach it as a fun and comic erotic tale leading to a romantic happy ending you can’t go far wrong.

Hanging Loose

When you fall in love, it can’t all just be hanging loose…

After graduating from art school Nate left the Midwest for sunny Southern California, not quite sure what he hoped to find. It was almost certainly not falling in love with another man. His whole world and assumptions about himself begin to slowly turn upside down on one hot summer day. Seeking respite from the heat and his loneliness at Venice Beach he has a chance encounter with a handsome blond surfer.

Jez is friendly, easygoing, and just a little bit mysterious. Openly gay, Jez offers cutie Nate a place to stay, and the two men become fast friends. Nate makes new friends, adjusts to his new life, but his unbidden attraction to Jez keeps growing. In their moments of closeness Nate realizes that he wants Jez more than just a friend, but it might be too late. To make Jez his, Nate has to face not only his own fears and insecurities, but his mysterious mate has secrets of his own.

Review:

Hanging Loose is an original and beautifully written novella with a great cast of characters, narrated by Nate, a young man with a off-beat way of looking at the world. Even reading through the story for the umpteenth time, I was still charmed by his way with words, especially when drunk (Nate that is, not me!). Indeed, it is when under the influence that Nate begins to acknowledge his true feelings for Jez, so these scenes are of vital importance. It might sound like a classic gay for you story, but although it should please readers who enjoy that trope, Nate is most definitely bisexual – he’s just been in denial. Watching him slowly come to realise this is both touching and entertaining, and I loved his tendency to compare Jez to foodstuffs, even before admitting to himself he was attracted to his roommate.

One thing that really impressed me on rereading is how we get a very clear visual on Nate, despite his modest assumption that he is plain and uninteresting. Lou has a great handle on descriptive detail, giving enough to make the setting and characters come alive without it ever getting too much. Indeed, there’s a perfect balance of description and dialogue, with some steamy sex scenes thrown in for good measure, so it should please even the most fussy m/m readers!

The setting of LA is used to great effect, from the bizarre Venice Beach packed with street performers, via the glamour of movie industry parties on Mulholland Drive, to the hippy house in the hills where Jez’s old family friends live. The city feels like a character all of its own, a melting pot of cultures where the influence of Hollywood can be felt throughout. Nate and Jez are both fans of classic Hollywood movies, and their friend, the aging Arthur, was involved in the industry himself. Nate has many happy conversations with him, enjoying his tales of a bygone age (complete with plenty of scandalous tales of his encounters with famous actors – the “dirty old coot”!)

The secondary characters are all well crafted, and while I especially loved Arthur, the spiky Ginny and smooth actor Mark were two other favourites. The Arthur subplot gives the otherwise fairly angst-free story great depth, and I was moved to tears when reading it’s resolution. The themes of taking care of the sick and elderly, and of being trapped by others’ expectations as Jez is, ensure that this otherwise light-hearted story will stick around in your memory long after finishing reading. It’s hard to explain this aspect without giving major spoilers, but Jez’s reason for seeming to just drift through life is unexpected and a moral dilemma I’ve never encountered in an m/m romance before.

In short, highly recommended to anyone who enjoys characterful narrators, a good dose of quirky humour, and a truly original plot. A perfect summer read, in which you can almost taste the sunshine!

And if you want to a free taster of Lou’s writing, Tomfoolery is a delightful short you can download for absolutely nothing!

Goodreads +++ Smashwords +++ All Romance Ebooks +++ Amazon +++ Amazon UK

 

Academic Pursuits by Lou Harper – the interview

Today I’m interviewing Lou Harper on the release of her novella, Academic Pursuits. In case you’re thinking “I recognize that cover” from Tailor Made – all the Amber Allure Hot College Daze stories have the same cover. Inside the books, however, other than the college campus setting and the promise of manloving, anything could happen!

Here’s the blurb from Academic Pursuits:

Jamie Brennan is putting “cad” back into academia!

The son of a well-to-do family and blessed with both dark good looks and buckets of confidence, Jamie lives for the chase. He has a well-deserved reputation around college as a seducer of straight frat boys. No man is off-limits to Jamie—he’s happy to help fellow gay students out of the closet, too. He even has lustful designs on his oblivious English professor, so it’s no surprise that his amorous pursuits often land him in sticky situations.

There’s just one flaw in Jamie’s perfect world—Roger Hunt. The hunky grad student, who dresses more like a lumberjack than the talented artist he is, gives Jamie hostile looks every time their paths cross. Jamie tries to ignore Roger, but they can’t seem to stop running into each other, and Jamie’s beginning to wonder if it’s more than chance that continues to steer them down the same halls…

Buy it now from Amber Allure – only $3.25 on release week!

Hi Lou – thanks for stopping by today.

I’m happy to be here, Jo.

You’ve told me before that your muse was kicked into gear by the word “taboo” in the submissions call. Did you end up breaking the taboos you intended to?

Yes and no. What the publisher had in mind were things like student-professor relationships. Instead, I ended up messing with genre conventions. I see Academic Pursuits as the bastard child of James Lear and Jane Austen.

Academic Pursuits is, to my mind, straddling the divide between gay erotica and m/m romance. What do you hope readers accustomed to more traditional m/m romance will take away from reading it?

Honestly, it was not a conscious decision on my part to go this route, but once the inspiration struck, the story practically wrote itself. I hope the readers will enjoy the ride. Jamie is a bit of a cad, but he has a good heart—he just needs to meet his match.

Jamie thinks of himself as doing a public service by seducing straight boys. Do you agree that this is an effective method of combating homophobia? Or is he putting himself at risk of getting his head kicked in?

Hm, Jamie’s experienced for his years, but not quite as worldly as he thinks. The seducing straight boys part is a don’t-try-this-at-home thing. Remember, this is fiction.

Jamie’s cousin Josephine (who prefers to be called Jo) is a weirdo art student who seems to own the same boots I used to wear when I was a weirdo art student. What’s going on there, then?!

Hehe. Sidekicks help the story progress, give the protagonist a chance to shine. Just ask Sherlock Holmes. M/M doesn’t have a lot of interesting, colorful female characters, so it was fun and challenging to write one. I stole your name because Josephine is so feminine and Jo is such a tomboy—the duality of the name sums up her well. Jo is a blend of real and fictional characters; it was serendipitous she resembled your younger self. When you mentioned the boots I had to steal them. So yeah, there’s a bit of you in her.

You’ve told me before that you were inspired by the plot of Jane Austen’s Emma, although I’m more inclined to see Roger as a Darcy-esque figure. What do you think Austen would have made of m/m romance if she were alive today?

I’m glad you say that, because I see Roger that way too. Jamie has the tendency to meddle in other people’s romantic lives, like Emma does.

It’s hard to hypothesize what Jane would say, but it’s not impossible for me to imagine her writing m/m. Perhaps she would take gay romance mainstream. I suspect there wouldn’t be as much explicit sex, but plenty of social commentary.

And finally, were there any of your own college experiences that wormed their way into the story?

Yes, many little details, from course names to habits of students came from my own experiences. One of the starving art students descending on the free food at the show opening could’ve been me. The campus itself is a fictionalized version of my own old school.

Thanks for stopping by, Lou, and good luck with sales. I hope you find many new readers! :D

Excerpt (NSFW):

…It’s hard to talk with your mouth full of cock. And anyway, I was fairly certain Butch Hollins’s question regarding the origin of my skills of sucking said cock was a rhetorical one. So I ignored it and kept up the suction. I didn’t want him to come too soon, so I teased him a little. I pulled off and let my tongue play with his cockhead, dance around the rim, lick the shiny mushroom head. Up to that point, Hollins had kept his hands by his sides, but just then he placed one on the top of my head and applied a modest but determined pressure. I smiled to myself: my tasty frat boy had just stepped over an invisible line. To reward him, I ducked down on his shaft and worked it with my throat. He was a chubby six inches—big enough, and I was no size queen.

When his cockhead hit the back of my throat, Hollins sucked in air like he’d been holding his breath for the last few minutes. I assumed the dull thunk I heard was the sound of his head hitting the bathroom door. It was out of sync with the rhythmic thumping from the music of the party downstairs.

While I worked Hollins’s cock with my mouth, I used one hand to massage his balls and perineum, but didn’t venture farther. I didn’t want to spook him. You had to be careful with straight boys. I kept my other hand on my own shaft, stroking it at a steady rhythm. When I felt his balls tighten and draw up, I took him down as deep as I could and hummed around his cock. His hips bucked and his warm cum gushed down my throat. Those guttural grunts and groans he made pushed me that much closer to my own release.

Hollins lifted his hand off my head, but otherwise didn’t move away while I brought myself to finish. It didn’t take long. My spunk splattered on the tiled floor, with a few stray drops landing on the cuffs of Hollins’s jeans.

“Boarding school,” I said, standing and zipping up my jeans.

“Huh?” Hollins’s eyes were still glazed over.

“That’s where I learned to suck cock,” I elaborated.

Hollins said nothing. Clearly, he wasn’t the chatty-after-sex kinda guy. That was fine with me. I made a half-hearted attempt to clean up the mess I’d made. I dabbed at it with a wad of toilet paper, then I gave up. I was sure the floor had seen worse and probably would see more of it before the night was over. We were in a frat house, it was Saturday night and the party downstairs was just warming up.

I checked myself out in the mirror: there was a drop of spunk at the corner of my swollen mouth. I stuck my tongue out and licked it off. Tussled dark hair: check. Blue eyes above flushed cheeks: check. I looked my debauched best. It was time for me to take my leave before things got awkward.

“It’s been nice blowing you, Hollins. See you around, ’kay?” I said with my friendly, it’s-no-big-deal smile I kept for these occasions.

I gave him one last look from the door: He was a blond, corn-fed boy from the heartland. His normally uncomplicated face wore a slightly baffled expression. I gave him one last flash of my smile and left…

Lou’s blog: http://louharper.blogspot.com/
Lou’s website: http://louharper.com/