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M/M Romance Reviews by Maybedog

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Blood in the Sand by Robin Saxon and Alex Kidwell

Blood in the Sand  - Robin Saxon, Alex Kidwell

This is a hard book to review because there were a lot of things that bothered me about it and yet I loved it. As a result, I'm going to make this review more of a list of things because it's hard to keep it all coherent in my mind.

What I loved:

The action and suspense. The danger and excitement and intrigue. The mortal peril.

The characters and characterization. Every person was unique and I could picture what individual was speaking even without dialog tags or any other direction. Each had his own voice. (Yes, there weren't any important female characters but when one showed up, it wasn't in a sexist way.)

Jed in particular is different from other alpha males. I loved that he's touchy feely and all gooey lovey dovey with Redford and about Redford and then macho "I don't care about anything" with everyone else. The part that's different is that he doesn't hide his intense feelings for Redford and will be all mushy with others around including strangers. He'll sit in Redford's lap and bottoms even more than tops.

He's also an asshole. Sometimes this is really funny but I couldn't help but noticed that sometimes it wasn't so much funny as just mean. The scene where he calls home to talk to his cat was one of these where parts were hilarious and parts had me cringing and wanting to slap him. So I guess this is one of those both love it and hate it pieces.

But his relationship with Redford is beautiful and just got me right here (hand on my chest). I love Redford's innocence and it take's Jed's breath away. I love that they want to touch each other all the time (and that it bugs the hell out of Victor and David). I wish I got a little more from Redford's perspective, but I got enough to know that the intense love is mutual. And it's really wonderful that they both want to defend each other, that although Redford sounds like he's subservient to Jed's alpha maleness, he's not at all. Redford often defers to Jed because he's so ignorant of so much and hasn't been exposed to enough to have an opinion. But when it's something he does know about, they both realize that they're equals (except that Jed's main goal is to protect Redford and is so terrified that something might happen that he isn't always as open and honest as he should be at times).

The relationship, though, is a beautiful juxtaposition with Victor and David's. As the story progresses, we see more and more the differences and what makes a relationship stronger and what hurts it. This comes from both sides, but the things Jed and Redford learn are so different from what Victor and David need to learn. I'm not saying anything here that isn't in the blurb. As J & R just get stronger and stronger together, V & D (oh, that's an unfortunate combo...) start falling apart faster and faster. I think the whole thing is really well done with it's subtlety in that the comparisons are inferred rather than blatant and in your face.

Although I had already figured out from the last book why David was doesn't smell like a human, I didn't understand what was up with Victor outside of his relationship with David. I really liked where that went and where what we found out might be handled in the next book. (How's that for vague?)

The plot was good, too. I wasn't convinced at any point that anyone was right about what was happening. My take on the mystery changed every chapter or so. While there wasn't any new ground broken here, it was still entertaining and the twists usually took me by surprise. There were some parts where clues were left for the reader to figure out stuff at the same time as the MCs, but not completely spoon fed, either.

One of my favorite parts, though was the humor. There were some very funny moments. This one is Jed being absolutely serious: <blockquote>...[He] picked up a souvenir he thought Redford might like to start a collection with. Nothing said <i>class</i> like a shot glass with the pyramids on it. Memorable <i>and</i> practical!</blockquote>and one more (I hope your humor is like mine and that you're not rolling your eyes saying, "That is so not funny, maybedog.") <blockquote>"Learn to see everything," Jed said, almost under his breath. "Don't lose the sight of the forest for the trees." First advice he'd been given, on his first sniper run. Well, after <i>don't jam that gun up your ass and spin, Walker, we need a hit.</i> That was less advice, though and more of a general rule of thumb.</blockquote> and at one point when Redford is upset with Jed for doing something macho and stupid, and Jed is trying to defend himself, David says: <blockquote>As fun as this is going to be to watch," he said with a low smirk, "I've had quite enough bonding togetherness time. Besides, watching someone dig their own grave is just boring after the first six feet."</blockquote> (Although, what the hell is a "low smirk"?)

In this book more than most others, I really got what a horror it is to be a vampire. So many have a protagonist saying they don't want it for their loved ones but it doesn't make any sense because they are almost invincible, can survive on animal blood just fine, and live forever. The only drawback is not being able to go out in the sun and even that is sometimes changed. Here, though, the life is terrifying to think of and dark and dank. I would never want to be a vampire in this world, even if I were faced with immediate death.

(major spoiler related to plot)

When some of the kidnapped victims were rescued and delivered to the hospital, the next day there was nothing about the kidnappings on the news. (They were looking for news about something else about the kidnappings.) This was an enormous news issue that had dominated the headlines for weeks and yet when victims are found there's no mention of it.

(show spoiler)

What I didn't love:
The pacing was inconsistent. Some sections were just too long, especially with description. Some things felt unnecessary. (I don't know what was up with the prologue--it didn't fit with the story at all.) I felt that there were too many times we saw David's interactions with that which made him crazy.

A psychologist holds a pen and notepad when he's talking to a client. At least when they start to get something important he puts it aside. But seriously, it's distancing so no decent mental health professional would use one. They'd tape if necessary.

I hate Jed's nicknames for Redford, particularly "Fido." It sounds like an insult.

Jed's flirtations. There's no doubt he's head over heels in love with Redford from page one, so this crap pissed me off. True, (medium spoiler)

Redford eventually calls him on it and Jed's surprised that it even bothers Redford since in his mind it's absurd that he could want anyone else. But I was disappointed in his sort of apology in that he didn't say he would be able to stop.

(show spoiler)

I think Jed has a drinking problem and it's not addressed. I hope it will be in the next book.

Jed and Red (sounds like the start of a redneck joke) hold hands and more in public. They're in Egypt where homosexuals are routinely arrested and beaten and tortured. Thinking that you're immune to that because you're strong or because you're not Egyptian is just insanity, especially when you're trying to not attract attention to yourself.

At a restaurant where the menu is in Arabic and therefore for locals, they poor a glass of water out of a jug. Only someone who is not used to traveling to developing nations would write this. It is almost never safe to drink water in any country that is not your own except ones that have exceptional filtration systems. It's not just that it might not be clean, it's also that the microbes in it may mess you up even if they're fine for locals. Even fruit picked from a tree can be harmful. It works the other way around, too. An Egyptian coming to the US can also get terrible diarrhea and stomach aches. On top of that, Egypt is not one of the countries with said exceptional filtration systems. People who live there can get sick, too. All in all, BAD idea. Take it from someone who knows first hand, microbial infections are something you never want to get (and I had been very careful!)

There were lots of continuity errors like twice the characters sat in a booth and then Jed put his arm over the back of Redford's chair. Another time someone was sitting in an armchair and is punched in the face which knocks him backward and then has to pick himself of the ground and brushes off the front of his pants. Then someone went to bed fully clothed and a few sentences later woke up in just his boxers.

There's lots of visual confusion, too. I just don't know how the living area of the hotel suite was configured. There were two couches, at least two armchairs, a table that more than one person could sit at, a large TV, a large window with a view across from the entryway, and a door on each of the other walls plus a kitchen that can be scene from the living room with some kind of bar/counter separating it from the living room. This has to be the biggest hotel room in the history of hotel rooms. This is just one issue, though. There were many times that it didn't make any sense how someone could be in one place and then in another place. There was a time when two people stood toe to toe arguing about something on the table between them. Huh?

I also have an issue that isn't just related to this book but to many vampire stories. If vamps have to eat regularly (especially a body every day or two as here) and there are dozens in a city, how would people not notice? Even if only the people who wouldn't be missed are taken, very soon there wouldn't be a homelessness issue because they'd all have disappeared.

At one point the werewolf went back to a scene and said that he couldn't smell anyone other than the victims that had been there. He couldn't smell investigators or rescue workers?

Many times is TSTL. People try to give him tips in working with the supernatural, a whole new world for him, and he just cuts them off or ignores them. He can't be very good at his job if he doesn't get all the info he can before he goes into a situation. Even if he's amazing, there are always surprises and knowledge is key, sometimes the difference between success and death.

The beginning was all about Redford and his (low medium spoiler)

random spurts of insane wolfiness and yet that's not really dealt with. It's mentioned at the very end as something they need to figure out, but even when Jed is threatened, nothing happens. Redford should have wolfed out at that point in fitting with his triggers before.

(show spoiler)

At the end, (huge major big ass don't read if you want to read the book and want to be at all surprised spoiler)

David and Victor split, which in light of everything had to happen. I expected it since they didn't set it up that the two were in love, but it still made me a little sad. But just because David fucked up and was fucked up, didn't mean that he couldn't leave Egypt and start again somewhere. It was very clear that Egypt is what messed him up and he needed to get away again. I felt like he just gave up his humanity at the end, but as a conscious decision, despite that he still had feelings for Victor. I hated that.

(show spoiler)

So see my dilemma? I have so many problems with it that it sounds like this would only be a 3 or 3.5 star read, but it was still so fabulous, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Hopefully this review will help you see if you would agree with me or if these less appealing things would drive you crazy.

I loved it so I'm only docking half a star for these issues.