Review – Tournament of Losers by Megan Derr

Tournament of Losers coverTitle: Tournament of Losers
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher: Less Than Three Press
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: November 2015
Genre: M/M romance/Fantasy
Length: 312 pages
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Review Summary: A male/male fairy tale in the ‘prince and the pauper’ tradition, where our poverty-stricken hero gets to compete for marriage with a nobleman. Cute and fun.

Plot Summary/Description

Rath has three days to pay his father’s huge debt to the crime lord of the Low City, or he’ll be floating down the river without a boat. With no money, he goes back to whoring, hoping a down payment might keep the heavies off his back. But the madam of the brothel points out a way he can make the full amount – just survive to the second round of the Tournament of Losers, where commoners compete for marriage into the nobility.

Tress is a member of the nobility who’s taken a fancy to Rath. But what are the chances of Rath winning the right to be his husband, when Rath seems to be doing too well, and qualifying for the highest hand in the land?

Tournament of Losers Review

No prizes for guessing the ending, it’s totally predictable from the book description, but this is a fairy tale so fair enough. We know the bad guys won’t win and the good guys will end up together. If you like the idea of a male/male fairy tale, this is highly recommended. It’s a lot of fun to read.

Rath is gorgeous – engaging, generous, and highly talented in bed judging by the high prices people are prepared to pay for his occasional services. We don’t get to see any of this because it’s a sweet one with no sex, as usual from the pen of Megan Derr.

I’d rather have no sex than too much in a book but in this case, I think the relationship could have been strengthened in the beginning with a little more physicality, even if it was lingering longer on feelings during the kisses. Everything is from Rath’s point of view, and his attention in the first part of the book is (naturally) on the pressing issue of the debt he has to pay. Tress has to make all of the running.

The contest has a few surprises, at least for Rath, who doesn’t catch on fast to the fact that he’s being judged on other qualities than first past the finish line. Don’t judge by the cover – it’s not set in ancient Rome, and the combat is not gladiatorial (except briefly in the early stages).

I loved the second half. I found the first half a little slow, hence 4 stars rather than 5. It’s still enjoyable, and I loved the detail of life in the city and the society with its complete gender equality and ethnic equality. There’s no discussion of ‘gay’ or other questions of orientation, and I had the impression that most people were bisexual. (For example the contestants to marry a noble man are both men and women).

Both the contest and the relationship get way more interesting after the half way point, and from there I couldn’t put it down. Even if the ending is obvious, the fun of reading is in the journey, not the arrival, right? or why wouldn’t we all skip straight to the last chapter, every time?

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Review – Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford

Fish and Ghosts coverTitle: Fish and Ghosts
Series: Hellsinger #1
Author: Rhys Ford
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Our rating: 4 stars

Publication date: December 30, 2013
Genre: M/M paranormal romance
Length: Novel
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Review Summary: A must for anyone who likes their M/M romance served up in a haunted house.

Plot Summary/Blurb

Tristan Pryce’s uncle died and left him the huge and beautiful Hoxne Grange because he was the only one of the family who could see the ghosts that used it as a stopover on their way to the next world. His other aunts and uncles, not surprisingly, want to have Tristan certified as crazy to get their own hands on the house, so they call in Wolf Kincaid, the CEO of the paranormal research team Hellsinger Investigations, to prove there are no ghosts at the Grange.

Wolf’s looking forward to showing Tristan up as a fake, but things don’t turn out that way. He’s not as crazy and a lot more attractive than Wolf’s expecting. Then Wolf’s team’s activities unleash the ghost of a serial killer in the grounds, and not just their hearts but the Grange and even their lives are in danger.

Fish and Ghosts Review

So right off, I loved the premise here. Haunted house, reclusive hero, friendly ghosts. Other things I loved included Tristan, who is troubled enough to be interesting without being angst-ridden. Wolf is a good partner for him, if a little less developed. Rhys Ford is an excellent writer and I like her style.

Tristan and Wolf are two appealing characters and there is a good tension and fun dialog between them. Some of the ghosts are lovely – Jack the dog and Heather the cook are too sweet for words (although a little research might have prompted the author to give her a different name – Google’s telling me ‘Heather’ didn’t become popular until the late 19th century, and cooks were always called by their last names in England anyway).

On the subject of names, at first I thought the name Wolf was too cheesy to be bearable, but I forgave the author when it turned out to be short for Wolfgang – almost. Because then you’re left with the question of whether it sounds like ‘volf’ or ‘woolf’. I’m sure there’s a rule in all those ‘how to be a writer’ books about not giving your characters hard-to-pronounce names…

The main characters do have a bad case of insta-love. Initial hostility set up by the situation dissolves almost on sight. Wolf forgets about his client’s interests and takes Tristan’s side. Tristan, who has preserved his virginity until now (why?) suddenly decides this is The One.

The sex scenes are long, maybe too long for some readers. However, they’re not just acrobatics, they do develop the characters and the relationship, so even readers who usually skip these scenes might appreciate them. If you like M/M sex scenes you’ll love them.

In summary, Fish and Ghosts by Rhys Ford is a must for anyone who likes their M/M romance served up in a haunted house. Since it’s the first in a series, I’m hoping the relationship between the two MCs will develop at a deeper level in the next book. I’d like to see more of Tristan and the ghosts, and less of Wolf’s staff and family. But I’ll certainly be looking out for more from the Hellsinger ghost hunting team.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the fish in the title, it’s a play on the old saying, ‘fish and guests stink after three days’. Because that’s how long the ghosts stay at Hoxne Grange…

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