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M/M Romance Reviews by Maybedog

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Honesty and Artifice
S.H. Allan
S.H. Allan
G.S. Wiley, Rowan McAllister, Dawn Douglas, Stephen Osborne, Anna Martin, Elizabella Gold, K. Lynn, Eva Clancy, Rhidian Brenig Jones, Anna Butler, Caitlin Ricci, S.H. Allan, Rob Rosen, River Clair, Nico Jaye, A.C. Valentine
Home Work (Life Lessons, #3) - Kaje Harper I hate this cover. The young guy fits my impression of Tony perfectly. The other guy? Ewwww. Mac is supposed to be gorgeous, too!

But that's okay, because this book is wonderful, the best in the series so far. It's sweet and beautiful and sad and heartbreaking and emotional. I took copious notes while reading and almost all were exceedingly positive. I cried several times, real tears, and I'm not usually a crier when reading. The love between Tony and Mac is beautiful and real. Things aren't perfect but they're just things that need to be worked on. They love each other with every fiber of their beings.

The love in the entire family is incredible, too. I really like how this particular family is depicted even though I usually hate kids in stories. But these kids are believable and not perfect. They react like real kids. They actually have somewhat realistic reactions to the traumas they've been through. Some of the psych stuff is good, too, like when a psychiatrist says that ngihtmares can actually be a good sign that the child is actually processing the trauma.

These men as parents have realistic reactions to the kids behaviors, too. They lose their cool or ignore something they maybe shouldn't (they let their kids each sugar cereal for breakfast before school!), but they're wonderful parents. It's so nice to have it spelled out that your family does not have to be blood:

"Neither child was his own flesh and blood, and yet they were inescapably his. His with all the bone-shaking love and fear and pride and frustration that entailed."

As my kids have all been foster children, it's really nice to hear.

There were a few places I cried, but the main three were:

Happy: (medium spoiler from halfway through)The wedding was incredible and beautiful. Harper described it so well that I felt that I was present enough to cry. I felt their love and it made me all googly inside. It was a beautiful service. At the end, the group claps and I cried. If I ever get married, I may try to hire Harper to write my service. They incorporated the kids perfectly, too.

Sad: (low-medium spoiler from 2/3rds through)When Mac is in the hospital and Tony isn’t sure how bad off he is, he sees his mom and she hugs him and he loses it. There’s something about seeing your mom (for most people) that allows you to let go. After the last big Seattle earthquake in 2001, school kids were fine until their parents showed up when they then started crying. It wasn’t drama—it was feeling safe enough to allow themselves to feel and express their fear. I felt for tony and I teared up, too.

Sad: (medium spoiler from 2/3rds through related to above)Mac's injury and his struggles were just heart-wrenching. I got tears in my eyes several times. Both of them handled it so well, though, and I appreciated that their love was so strong that they didn't get all angsty about it. Mac worried a little for a moment and that was it. There was no question of whether it would hurt their relationship. All that mattered was that Mac was alive. They could handle anything else.

The mystery was really good and definitely could stand alone. Usually I'm waiting for the mystery to take a break so I can see more of the romance, but here I got wrapped up in it and didn't even notice how long it had been since something romantic happened. The detectives are good and the procedural stuff believable. For example, it didn't take hours or even days to get DNA results back. It took awhile. The detectives had to have forensics computer techs do something special to open files on a drive without changing the dates. That would be a huge issue and one I would have no idea how to work around. I also liked that Tony was kept out of police business even when he was in the room.

There's still fall out from Mac coming out but it's becoming easier. However, he still refers to the awkwardness with his partner who is on board in theory but still shrinks from touch and doesn't always know what to say.

Some other great things:

"...damned if [Tony] was going to let his kid think men couldn't do women's work. Or vice versa."

I like the vice versa part in particular as it shows an egalitarianism missing in a lot of M/M fiction. This book isn't like that. There are lots of strong, interesting, intelligent women, both good and bad.

A powerful Dom turns out to be around 5 feet tall and thin. That is awesome.

The book addressed something that this genre almost never does: acknowledging that with anal sex, generally some prior cleaning is done. In one scene, the couple is heading down the hall about to have sex:

“Detour, babe,” Tony said at the bathroom . “Prep time.”

Mac waits, listening to water running. This was such a great bit of realism I’d round up my rating just for that if it needed rounding up (which it doesn’t).

The sex was flaming hot. In fact, at one point the narrative from Tony’s POV refers to the sex as flaming hot. It totally was. I needed a fan.

My complaints were relatively minor: the boy was referred to as burning through quarters at Chuck E. Cheese. They don't use quarters there, just tokens. A couple's alibi was that they were too obese to have chased down a guy and whacked him over the head. A cleaning woman (who was awesome) was, of course, Hispanic. A law student describes herself as ugly and fat even though she's only 20 pounds overweight. The good thing, though, is that the scene was talking about how the the perception of her as not skinny and hot affected her chances to get ahead in law school and her internship. Mac and Bree kept saying that Tony deserved something good for their wedding. Well so did Mac! Most of the men are homophobic but they’re mostly police officers, too, so I can understand that I guess.

Warning: there's sort of a cliffhanger at the end in that not everything gets resolved in this book, including a pretty big thing. But the book kind of ends at a natural stopping place, like how life generally has something always going and unknown but sometimes you just have to take a step back and breathe.

I could have said all this in just two words, if I were capable of being laconic:

“Virtually perfect.”

This goes on my favorites shelf.