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on 18 March 2017
Just good raunchy gay entertainment
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on 7 September 2013
Rupert Smith, writing as James Lear, has always been a genius of the ultra-sexy gay adventure, usually with tongue firmly in cheek (literally as well as metaphorically). In his new book, there is plenty of suspense and adventure and lots of great gay sex. It is a jock-strap-ripping page-turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It lacks, though, quite the spark of originality of his earlier books and I missed the humour. Dan Stagg is a hard (permanently) hero with a warm heart but he's hardly a fun guy. Let's hope he lightens up a bit in the sequels which I hope will follow and that some of that quirky humour returns.
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on 24 July 2013
James Lear is an excellent storyteller whose heroes are always flawed. I would have liked the story to have been a little more fleshed out and I admit to missing the usual plethora of sexual encounters that are normally enjoyed by a Lear hero, but I enjoyed the story nonetheless and assume there will be another Dan Stagg novel in due course.
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VINE VOICEon 5 January 2015
Ever since the seminal (pun intended) Richard Amory novel "The Song of the Loon" arguably the greatest homoerotic novel of the 20th century there have been many memorable attempts to usurp his title of King of Gay Fiction though none have even come close to writing in the genre satisfactorily. That is until James Lear, author of many historically based novels with an added erotic flavour for the delectation of his many fans.

"The Hardest thing" is gay noir ~ a genre that needs supplementing but only with good stuff ~ there is enough material to go round and I would certainly welcome a Lear set in the 1940s.

The great thing about this novel and all his others is that they are excellently written, They not only engage the reader through the explicit nature of some of the noteworthy passages, but have a narrative drive that is both moving and educational; the two best ingredients for any page-turner.

The story follows the grooves of the Jack Reader/Bourne novels in their fast action sequences and it also has the leisure to take time out in the idylls of the woodside, motels and restrooms for some eye watering sex scenes (thank you ,James)

The one thing I discovered in this novel was the obvious passion Lear feels for his characters. Dan is an ageing ex-marine who has once tasted Love and is in a mid-life denial of ever finding it again. (No spoiler here though it so refreshing to have a positive outcome without suicide, blackmail, guilt or terminal illness)

The story has a complex plot of twists and turns, of betrayal and loyalty with a conclusion that depends on the reader's own experiences, I dare say. We all have fantasies of one kind or another and yet it does take an excellence in writing to turn these into something both palatable and entertaining. Pure porn palls so very quickly

Highly recommended as a good read whatever your inclination
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Dan Stagg is a morose, friendless tough guy working club doors in New York for a few bucks. He used to be a Marine but had to leave when the fact that he was gay emerged. After losing his job an Italian man offers him a good fee for minding a wealthy man's secretary; while he's dubious about the legality of the matter he needs the money. A Glock is supplied and instructions to take the individual out of town. Stagg isn't nearly suspicious enough.

Stagg manages to get Stirling McMahon out of NY without any worse than a bruised arm. He's a pampered, sulking brat without respect for his close protection worker. But in rural White Mountains inns, the young man soon reveals himself as gay, so cue a lot of activity. Stirling was paid to pretend to be secretary to a real-estate developer and accompany him to weekend conferences. Someone with an unspecified grudge threatened the man's family and Stirling too. Or did they really? Stagg is already suspicious, and when a man tries to shoot them in their motel room it's clear that Stirling's boss now wants rid of the young man and has set Stagg up to take the blame.

I was surprised both that every man in the state appears to be gay, if closeted, and that fugitives would take so much time to indulge. There are many completely gratuitous scenes. As in many gay-themed novels we meet no credible women or, indeed, women. There is plenty of action and second-guessing to keep serious readers interested but Stagg isn't very intelligent, depending on his training and nothing else, so strong language and violence are foremost.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 September 2013
The Hardest Thing (Dan Stagg Mystery) James Lear

ARC provided by publishers.

I've never read any of James books before so wasn't sure of what style of writing he'd have. I found this book was romance - which I love - crossed with thriller - which I'm not so keen on. Still, the thriller element was taut, and wasn't full of over used descriptions of guns, action and personnel which so often puts me off. James manages to convey action without having to go on and on about it - a few closely written pages and I was in the scene. I liked Dan right from the start, slightly morose and introspective but when we learned about his background, rose to ranks of Major and then kicked out for his sexuality it's not surprising he was bitter about events. He'd lost his lover too, to a sniper and yet because of Service policies wasn't allowed to grieve openly or be involved in the funeral. I find that sort of discrimination extraordinary, and even though policies have been changed I'm sure the same situations are still around :(
Anyway - Dan short on cash, and accepts a job that sounds straightforward, taking a person under threat to somewhere else. He's sharp, he knows there's more going on that he's told but thinks he can stay ahead and earn some much needed cash. Then he meets his charge Stirling, who's young and very Hot! Dan and he get off to a shaky start, with Stirling being an out and out brat. Closeted together though while on their journey Dan soon learns Stirling is gay, and they become much more close....they have various mishaps, and meet an extraordinary range of characters, many of who very conveniently are gay, and incredibly throughout the book I don't think we ever get to meet a woman!
There's deceptions, double dealing and danger, towards the end both Stirling and Dan are captured, and risk losing their lives. Dan finds out things about Stirling that go far further than the doubts he had about him, and make him wonder if he is the right person for the picket fence and dogs scenario that he desperately wants. Someone close, to love and hold, someone of his own to spend a future with. He thought maybe Stirling was that person and then....well, its a sad part - and I like those, so long as they end well :)
I enjoyed much of the book, the way that Dan and Stirling grew together, I felt for Dan but TBH Stirling was always a selfish brat to me - still if he keeps Dan happy...I followed the action fine, as I said sometimes thrillers get so bogged down in detail that I just mentally switch off, but this kept me just in the right side. I did have a problem with the fact that so many of the people they met were conveniently gay- I'm sure that is stretching credibility too far, and also the way they were so ready to drop everything - literally :) - and have sex any time, any place, anywhere. I guess to me romance equates to one person relationships and sex...and found it difficult to accept they would happily have sex with others together and separately. Then when Dan was searching for Sterling, the love of his life...he was happy top have sex with someone else many times. That part really spoiled the romance for me, took out the deep emotions I thought would have stopped that happening. At least there were condoms used every time! I read a book recently were the men were partner swapping, not knowing some of them and not using protection, I think in this day that's just a wrong message so I was glad at least it was promoted here.
It's priced at £8.23 for 288 pages/405kb so quite expensive even given that gay fiction seems to command a higher price than other genres. If you're a gay fiction devotee you may think it worth while if this is the sort of novel to appeal and to rer read. Its not one for my keeper files though.
Stars: three and a half. Parts I enjoyed, parts I didn't :(
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on 18 December 2014
To ex-marine Dan Stagg killing is easy, but love is The Hardest Thing. Down on his luck, Dan accepts a simple protection job for big money. His job is to get ‘secretary’ Stirling McHahon out of New York City and then to await further instructions. No questions asked.
Stirling McHahon is young, blonde and is more of a hustler than secretary to Marshall, a powerful and crooked Property Developer.

The beginning of the book sets up the mystery with Dan and Stirling setting off on their out-of-town road trip. They start having rampant sex like rabbits, with everything described in a great amount of detail.

In the middle of the book there’s a number of sexual fantasy scenes involving the two main characters as well as various others. The expected masculine characters took the dominant role in the sex and I would have preferred more sexual versatility for all of the characters involved. The sex is the action and it has some completely unbelievable, yet enjoyable to read sex scenes.

Dan starts to fall in love with Stirling but knows that he can’t really trust him. Especially when he learns that Stirling McHahon is really an alias; he says that his real name is Jody Miller. Then Stirling/Jody/whatever-his-name-is gets snatched into a car.

Events build to a climax (no pun intended) at the end of the book, as the mystery is unravelled. Dan Stagg becomes the expected hero calling on his military training and physical strength to become like an action man. The ending is somewhat satisfying.

The large print formatting makes it easy to read and it is brilliantly written from Dan Stagg’s perspective. The simple storyline without the sex could have been told in about 50 pages, yet it is well paced. The Hardest Thing is surprisingly a page-turner and is one of the best gay erotic fiction story’s I’ve read in a long time.

The Hardest Thing is ‘A Dan Stagg Mystery’ indicating that it’s part of a series. If so, I can’t wait to read the next novel in the series.

Think of a gritty, gay, Fifty Shades of Grey – mostly minus the handcuffs and you’ve got The Hardest Thing.
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on 30 October 2014
Sadly this book seems to serve only
to underline the authors inability to achieve the standards of his early works.
It is no more than a hotch potch of of soft porn scenarios loosely held together by a nonesense of a story line - and story is rather an overstatement.
In short, a writer in search of a book - and failing.
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on 29 June 2016
A brilliant and sinister thriller featuring James Lear's new hero, Dan Stagg, who is a gay version of Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Unlike Reacher Dan is gay and a former US Marine, rather than straight and a former Army military policemen. They tend to have rather similar, extremely dangerous, adventures. The chances are that, if you like the Jack Reacher novels - and I do - you will enjoy this one, too. You do not have to be gay to enjoy the fast-paced and surprising plot. There is plenty of mayhem and also plenty of sex. As usual, James Lear handles the sex scenes adroitly, managing to make them erotic but never onscene.
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on 2 May 2015
Holiday reading ..on the sunbed , by the pool at the El Cid in Sitges , .. or on the beach at Balmains , great easy sexy reading , have to be careful which way I am lying sometime , lol love his books just an easy effortless read ...with added man fun
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