Friday, December 21, 2018

Blog Tour: Slow Thaw by J. Scott Coatsworth (Review, Excerpt + Giveaway)

Slow Thaw

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new MM trans/cisgender holiday romance book out: Slow Thaw.

Javier Fernandez is a climate scientist living in a research station near the South Pole. Since his husband was killed in a car crash, he’s preferred to be alone, and is less than thrilled to have a junior scientist thrust upon him by his rich patron.

Col Steele is a trans man fleeing a bad break-up, ready for the next step in his career, who is ready to spend Christmas anywhere but at home. When a crack in the ice separates the two men from safety, they are forced to come to terms with their own losses and each other.

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Scott is giving away a $20 Amazon gift card with this tour. Enter via Rafflecopter:

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4 Stars 

Came really, really close to being a 5-Star read for me, but for the author keeping it sort of real, which is not at all a complaint, but an explanation of my rating.

This is my first book by this author, but it won't be my last. I suppose that as Xmas popped its head up for a nanosecond in the tale, it classes as an Xmas tale, but refreshingly, it was anything but. Yay, and double yay!

What right now, minutes after finishing it, has stayed with me is that it is an intelligent tale, one that has more than a few unfortunate truths in it. One that I hope will make people think about the subject matter, if not the leads - who were strangely unremarkable, which I'll touch on in a moment.

Climate change can't be ignored. Jane Average like me, knows this and is feeling this in 2018; right now, it's meant to be winter in London, UK, but I've not even got the heating on, as it's simply not cold enough. This book highlights what we're doing to our planet, and seemingly doing at an accelerated rate, with some governments of the world, especially the current one in the good old WH of the USA, not doing enough to combat it. This isn't just me talking; I got the impression that the author has strong personal views about his country in 2018 and what that means for the world. And I am sure that many Average Janes and Joes feel the same, but that's another story entirely.

It's a tale that I'm glad I read as it's made me focus again on 'green' stuff that is in the back, not the forefront, of my mind, and yes it needs to be in the latter. No, I'm not about to become an activist, lol! but I will try more to do my bit for the planet. Anyway, I digress.

The tale wasn't all doom and gloom despite the harsh realities (and yes, I had to google the Ross Ice Shelf), though both leads had suffered losses. In Bettencourt, I visualised a certain South African-born, US citizen, whose initials are EM, and who owns a green electric car company, who has interests in many, many industries and in things that in theory will do good and bring about change; there didn't seem to be much veiling as to who the character was based on. There were a few low-key LOLs, even when the guy turned out not to be as philanthropic as made out. Good old rants and Twitter got a mention, too, LOL!

Now, the leads: I kind of think the author missed a huge opportunity to bring trans characters more into MM, and no, I am not talking about the sex or body parts/lack of. He told us from the start - and I hadn't even remembered this from the blurb - that Con was FtM trans, and that it was evident that he'd had top surgery; each to their own, right? But, was the author going for what he thought might be acceptable/tempered to a reading audience? Maybe, and if so, it's his right, but he could have made Con into a really strong example of a trans man. What I think was missing was Con elaborating a little on his past and his transition. Yes, there was mention of him being dumped, of gay guys hating on trans men, of - I think, but am not sure - *not* passing at one point, and later of passing. I would have loved to read a little more of his journey, of what made him the 40yo man that he was, of what he'd overcome and had had to do along the way. It just felt as if this character could have been made so much more of, although that Con didn't come across as a stereotype, was refreshing. I don't want to go into too much about stereotypes, but he didn't seem as if he needed to prove anything to anyone, which isn't what I've personally come across before in trans people and novels with trans characters. And, there not even being a kissing scene, let alone a sex scene, was a bit too much not-going-there - it made me wonder why, especially with the leads facing a desperate need to keep warm in a dangerous situation, so...

As for Javier? Yes, I got that he was 50yo and a bit curmudgeonly and that he had had a loss he still hadn't recovered from, but tbh, he was quite an ar$ehole at the start and it was only when the guys were in danger that I began to see him in a new light. He wasn't the hero type, he wasn't a nice guy, but he was an admirable one, and a realist, I suppose. A dedicated scientist, yes, but not much more - I'd have liked to see more of him, know more about him, because 50 years is a lot of living.

I think the tale was too short to do it, the author and the leads, justice, and yet it was a really good tale. I would have loved to see this more fleshed out, to learn more about the leads, what had drawn them into being climate scientists, about the obstacles they faced, personal and professional. I would have LOVED to know more about Con, who was born Connie, and how he'd come to his realisation. I would have liked to see more backbone in him, because I don't for a moment think that you can be a trans person, of either gender, and not have a huge amount of backbone. I think I just wanted more, because it was a good book - full stop.

ARC courtesy of Bayou Book Junkie, for my reading pleasure.

Meme - Slow Thaw


It was the start of the end of the world, but Col Steele didn’t know it yet.

The rhythmic whomp whomp whomp of the helicopter’s rotary blades matched the beating of his heart.

I’m here. I’m really here.

He pressed his face to the glass, eagerly taking in the landscape below, capturing the view in his phone. There was no cellular network here, of course, and he had his Sony A73 packed away for the real work, but his phone was good enough to record his own personal memories.

The sparkling blue and white of the Ross Ice Shelf spread out before him, almost indescribable in its frozen beauty. The ice seemed to stretch on forever here in the South, as they called it. On the ice.

The copter had left the Southern Explorer a few minutes earlier, taking off from the grey deck and passing over a span of cold ocean water where a waddle of penguins played in the Ross Sea.

The cliffs of The Ice were white enough—and tall enough—to put the cliffs of Dover to shame with their splendor.

Col checked the temperature gauge on the console. It was a relatively balmy Antarctic day, with the temperature hovering just below zero Fahrenheit.

"First time?" His pilot, Joseph, steered the copter over the ice field with practiced ease.

"Yes. Not yours, I assume?"

"Nope, I’ve done the run to Amundsen–Scott more than a dozen times, people and cargo. Been out to Bettancourt three times now."

Col nodded. Paul Bettancourt was his benefactor—a billionaire who was keenly interested in the science and effects of global climate change.

He picked me.Out of more than two hundred research scientists, the man had chosen Col to be the next fellowship scientist to join Javier Fernandez at Bettancourt Station for a six-month internship.

It was still sinking in.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Col had no desire to be home for the holidays this year. After a bad breakup with David, he was nursing a broken heart, and was in no mood for Christmas trees and candy canes. Far better the frozen tundra of Antarctica, to match his frozen heart.

The Ross Shelf was much more varied a landscape than he’d expected. The smooth white ice near the shore gave way to a variety of landforms, the result of the ice being pushed and pulled around by gravity and shaped by wind and snow and rain for millennia.

There were mountains and valleys, the peaks white and the shadows a beautiful blue.

In other places, the wind-blown snow created long scallop shapes along the ice.

In at least one spot, a wide, shallow pool of melted water almost glowed turquoise in the sunlight. Not a good sign.

"You see a lot of melting out here?"

Joseph nodded. "More every year. It's been a slow thaw, but every summer season it goes a bit faster. Lots more icebergs too. Seeing one of those calve off the main shelf is something else. Crack! Thunder!And a great splash of water as it hits the ocean."

Col grinned. "I’ve seen it in the Arctic. I spent a year based out of Whitehorse, studying the ice sheets up north."

"Never been. Though I hear the girls in the Yukon are wild."

Col snorted. "I wouldn’t know." What he didn’t say was that he’d been one of them, once. On the outside, at least.

That was a lifetime ago.

Now this new life was laid out before him, and he just wanted to move forward.

He captured as much of the landscape as he could manage with his phone, awed that he was finally here. Then he tucked it away to just take in the experience.

"Might wanna get your phone ready," Joseph said at last. "We’re almost there." The pilot pointed off to starboard, and a small speck appeared in the distance, alongside a long line in the ice.

"It’s bigger than I imagined."

Joseph’s eyebrow went up. "Bettancourt?"

"No. The Giant Crack."

Joseph laughed. "You scientists suffer from a sever lack of imagination."

Col grinned. "It’s true." He stared at the Crack. It stretched from one edge of the horizon to the other, a sign of things to come. He’d seen many pictures of it, of course, but seeing it in person. It was awe inspiring, and a little frightening. It had happened two years before, but since then, the shelf seemed to have stabilized again.

It was the reason he was here, as much as his break-up with David.

He snapped a few pics, then looked down at Bettancourt Station.

It was a modest place, maybe the size of a couple RV’s hooked together. It basically was—two modules built by Northrup-Grumann to Bettancourt’s specs, brought in by military copter and hooked together. One served as the laboratory, and the other as living quarters for the scientific team.

Fernandez was there now. His last lab partner, Astrid Danvers, had departed a few days earlier. It had all been in the briefing email.

Col whistled. It was going to be a tight space for his six-month rotation down there.

Still, it would be worth it. Careers were made by postings like this, and he’d have a chance to put his education and experience to work at something that might actually help the planet.

Fuck you, David.

He took a couple more shots, and then settled in for the landing.

Author Bio

Scott lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were.

He decided that if there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality.

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