books

Slade James

Books: Romance | LGBT

Bear Camp: “The Uncut Wood” (2020), Grumpy Bear (2021), "The Day Pass" (2021), "The Cubby Hole" (2022), Muscle Cub (2023)

Bear Camp

“The Uncut Wood: A Bear Camp Short” (2020)

uncut woodI find the title of this story silly. I mean, it’s a story about lumberjacks at a gay camp. The story, however, isn’t silly, and is in fact quite sweet.

Hank has had a crush on his cabinmate, Gunnar, since they first met. But two-and-a-half years later, he is finally going to act on his crush. He is going to ask Gunnar out—as a bet.

I admit I was unsure what a gay lumberjack story would be. But as I read that one of the guys wore a kilt and eyeliner, I felt a little better—even though that did feel a little bit Monty Python.

For two guys who had a bedpost notching contest, their interactions were really sweet, especially as they discussed their pasts, the present, and what they might want for the future.

I would definitely read another story or book by this author.

Sexual content. (47 pages) 

Rating: 8/10

Grumpy Bear (2021)

Grumpy BearColeman Sawyer runs a gay clothing optional camp.

Luke Cody is headed back to the south after yet another bad relationship, and another failure to launch his career as a singer-songwriter. When he’s told there’s temporary work at Bear Mountain Lodge that might help him land on his feet, he takes it, but feels out of place surrounded by burly, musclebound, mostly-naked men.

This is really an adorable story, and I quite enjoyed it–even as the characters were absolutely surrounded by casual sex.

So what did I love?

First, Luke is clearly (although not named as such) a demi-sexual.

I didn’t really do hookups. I required an emotional connection.

Second, Luke is adorable.

A lot of times, it was like I stood behind myself, observing and listening, cringing at my inability to tone down the perkiness. To not be so aggressively friendly.

Third, there were fantastic secondary characters.

It never failed to unnerve me that my general manager was a ten-year-old girl trapped in the body of a two-hundred-and-sixty-five-pound, forty-something lumberjack.

And the setting was gorgeous as well, which I loved.

Whitewater tumbled down shelves of ink-black rock, falling twenty feet into a small pool as deep and wide as the manmade one down the holler. Trace copper deposits turned the water an insane blue-green. Nobody could build a pool that looked like this.

Oh, did you catch that?

I was forever cursing Wayne for putting the pool at the bottom of the holler, right in the bend of the creek, and expecting the water to go around it.

Multiple correct uses of the word holler!

I will, however admit, that the cover bothers me, because musclebound men are definitely not my thing.

This story was a lot of fun, and extremely well-done AND there was no Stupid Big Misunderstanding!

Rating: 8/10

"The Day Pass" (2021)

The Day PassAlthough he has to work that night, Kevin is going to enjoy himself and spend the day at Bear Camp. He doesn’t expect anything except a day in he sun and maybe a quick hookup, but his new-to-him truck came with a dragonfly sticker, and maybe that’s a sign.

He might have been my age, early fifties, maybe a few years older, and he was huge. He had to be over six foot five with shoulders as wide as a refrigerator. He was handsome with short dark-blond hair and a well-groomed golden beard.

He reminded me of a superhero on the down low, trying to be incognito and failing at it.

I really love that both characters are middle age and working men.

I was a little on the short side at five eight, but I’d done hard work all my life, and I was in decent shape, especially for my age. Nobody would’ve guessed it from looking at me, but I’d also taken up yoga several years ago to help with back pain and stress. There weren’t any classes in my neck of the woods, but I’d taught myself by watching YouTube videos.

He’s just an average guy, and it’s something you rarely come across in romances.

Plus, since it’s a short story, there’s no boinking, so the whole story was discovery and talking, and rather sweet.

Rating: 7.5/10

"The Cubby Hole" (2022)

I’ve enjoyed the other stories I’ve read by Slade James–I picked the first novella up free, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. (It’s set in a gay nudist camp, so there was a whole lot of potential to be absolutely something not for me.

But while the stories do have boinking, they have a lot of other bits as well. In this case it’s two best friends, who dated in college, getting ready to celebrate their 39th birthdays.

Maybe this time, they’re both in a place to make things work.

Rating: 7/10

Muscle Cub (2023)

Muscle CubDespite living nearby, Paul has never gone to Bear Camp. But he’s been single for awhile now, and isn’t getting any younger, so his friends convince him to take a weekend to help them celebrate their birthdays.

What Paul doesn’t expect is Austin: young, handsome, and did he mention young?

I’d opted for a T-shirt, trail-running sneakers, and a pair of cargo shorts, which were an eternally useful and functional item of clothing that transcended all trends in perpetuity. Like many men of my generation, I was prepared to die on a hill of cargo shorts.

I’d put off reading this because I don’t much care for age gap romance. But I knew I’d enjoyed his other books, so decided to start it.

I still do find age gaps uncomfortable. And casual sex is never going to an element I like, but once we moved past the first weekend, the story was much more than that.

Paul is wrapped up in his own problems–many of which came from his ex, and so for the longest time doesn’t see what Austin–who he sees as full of youth and beauty and potential–would see in him.

Stripping to the waist didn’t seem like that big a deal—the most justifiable of options really, given the environment and circumstances—as long as I ignored the fact that nothing accentuated a gut quite like the straps of a heavy backpack.

But eventually Paul comes to see that Austin is also vulnerable and has his own issues to work out. That was the part of the story I especially liked, watching the two of them learn about each other, and watching Paul start to see his own value.

For all the Austin is into fitness and being in shape, he is more than charm and looks.

“You have stories about your things. It’s like your life is an ongoing treasure hunt, and your house is your own personal museum.”

There were elements that didn’t work for me–but those were a me thing not the fault of the book, and overall I quite enjoyed watching the two learn about each other and fall in love.

Rating: 7/10