Barry Brennessel — Mystery, Romance, Suspense & Humo(u)r

Novels

Titles

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Gold Medal, 2012 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards

Finalist, 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

Finalist, 2013 Rainbow Awards

Finalist, Regional Fiction Category, 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Finalist, 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest

Now available!

AmazonAmazon KindleBarnes & Noble
Powell’s Books,  and MLR Press

Hardened beyond his nineteen years, Todd Webster Morgan is determined to find gold high in the Sierra Nevadas. But his dream is violently upended. Complicating matters even more, he meets a young Chinese immigrant named Lâo Jian, whose own dreams of finding gold have been quashed by violence.

But life back in Sacramento isn’t any easier. Todd’s mother struggles to make ends meet. His invalid uncle becomes increasingly angry. Todd seeks employment with little success. Meanwhile his friendship with Lâo Jian turns to love. But their relationship is strained as anti-Chinese sentiment grows.

Todd vows not to lose Lâo Jian. The couple must risk everything to make a life for themselves. A life that requires facing fear and prejudice head on. 

 

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Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards

Finalist, 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Contest (“Ezra”)

2013 Book of the Year, On Top Down Under Book Reviews

Now available!

AmazonBarnes & Noble

Adrian Stockwell and Ezra Cherevin both battle the fallout from their broken families. Yet each one’s strategy is as different as each one’s past. Adrian’s childhood was left void by apathy; Ezra’s upended by violence. The written word soon becomes their therapy, their escape. This shared passion for literature is the vehicle that brings them together.

But their journey is filled with personal and familial potholes.

Can these two young men carve out a life together by learning to navigate a sea of challenges? And can the people in their lives do the same?


Final SDTS Cover

Finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction in the 27th annual Triangle Awards

2015 Co-Book of the Year, On Top Down Under Book Reviews

Finalist and Runner-Up, 2015 Rainbow Awards

Finalist for the 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Awards at Foreword Reviews

Now Available!

MLR Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  and Powell’s Books

In the land of snow monsters and steam baths, complex characters as diverse as the Japanese terrain experience lust, loss, and love.

 A young boy performs a daring rescue. A woman loses her old life to face an uncertain new one. A teenager suffers through a cataclysmic event. Unusual bonds form at the Tokyo Olympics. A rent boy’s hardened heart melts when he meets a sexy, buoyant stranger.

Much like the Japanese islands themselves, there is commonality to be found among myriad differences. The poet, the musician, the artist, the tortured mother, the bankrupt father, the protective brother—they all know that there’s a new day awaiting them after the moon slips sideways down the sky.


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Finalist for the 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Awards at Foreword Reviews

Now available at MLR Press, Amazon, Amazon Kindle

Aiden Royce’s journey to an isolated New England hillside raises specters from his past. But a chance encounter alters the course of his future. A future he never dreamt possible.

In the span between the Great War and the Great Depression, Aiden Royce loses both family and fortune. He has nothing left but memories and regrets until a series of letters arrive; ramblings written by a familiar hand that nevertheless offer Aiden some important clues. Months later he’s roaming the grounds of the crumbling Cebren Spa, a once posh destination, but now an empty shell of mystery and menace.

One saving grace in this perplexity is the handsome Sebastian Desmond, a descendant of the spa’s founders. He rescues Aiden from a storm, but in doing so opens up a different sort of tempest when secrets unravel and both men’s lives are torn asunder.

Can decades-old questions be answered, onerous mysteries solved, and a burgeoning and venturesome romance prosper in the shadows of a once restorative wellspring?


950x1500ReunionFinalist, 2013 USA Book News Book of the Year Awards

Finalist, 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards

Finalist, 2012 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards

Now available!

AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-a-MillionPowell’s Books MLR Press

 

A small French city. A park near Tokyo. The Czech countryside. London at night. Lost loves and found loves. Fear and courage. Reflections. Rejections. Reconciliations. Romance.

These interconnected stories follow the adventures of Brian, Ondrej, Yuji, Jason, and others as they navigate the tumultuous path of life and love.

Featuring:

Shin-Kiba Park (Pushcart Prize nominee; from Gival Press’s ArLiJo)

Nagasaki (Dana Award finalist; from Polari Journal)

Unfinished (from SNReview)

Ficelle (from SNReview)


Brennessel_Tinseltown

Finalist, 24th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

Finalist,  2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards

Honorable Mention, 2011 Rainbow Awards 

3rd Place, 2010 PNWA Literary Contest

Best Surprise of 2013, Boys in Our Books

 

Micah Malone is just an average college student with an ordinary life and big dreams. And an intense passion for film and TV.  And a Greek Chorus in his head.

His friends create more drama than a soap opera.  His love life needs a laughtrack.

Can Micah ultimately find the direction he needs?

Let the cameras roll. Micah’s quirky story has begun filming.

Now available from:

MLR PressAmazonAmazon Kindle,
Barnes and Noble,  and Powell’s Books

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A_Special_Kind_of_Folk_Type_PRELIMbb

Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards

Now available!

MLR PressAmazonBarnes & Noble

Revenge is a dish best served with a little bit of spice,
three dashes of magic, and a whole lot of flair.

Your eyes are squeezed tight. Your hand is over your racing heart. Your mouth is agape. And your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek. After you’ve read these six mystical, magical tales of torment and revenge, you’ll be looking over your shoulder, pausing at corners, and keeping that porch light burning bright all through the night. Oh, and you might chuckle once or twice, too. After all, what’s fright without a little delight? Hexes, curses, old family recipes, old family secrets, stolen cars and stolen lives. It’s all just another day in the lives (and deaths) of a special kind of folk.

Featuring:

Food & Spirits
Visions
Kill Them With Kindness
A Special Kind of Folk
All the Souls on Earth
Commedia dell’Arte

 


Bressennel_Final_Front_Cover_5_12_2013

For Jeremy Saura, a song by Kate Bush holds all the answers. Pushes him onward. Sends him running up that road. Up that hill. Up that building.

Jeremy gets chills as he listens to the lyrics. The song, a beautiful powerhouse of determination over despair, only gains in impact as he replays it. Seven times. “I adore you Kate Bush,” he whispers to her photograph. For Jeremy, “Running Up That Hill” gives him the momentum he needs to navigate the trials and tribulations of a new job, a complex friendship, and a budding workplace romance.

Available from Amazon and MLR Press.

This story is also available in Mixed Tape Series Volume #4 


The Celestial

 

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Gold Medal, 2012 Foreword Book of the Year Awards

Finalist, 25th Annual Lambda Literary Awards

Finalist, 2013 Rainbow Awards

Finalist, Regional Fiction Category, 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Finalist, 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest

Now available!

AmazonAmazon KindleBarnes & NoblePowell’s Books,  MLR Press

Hardened beyond his nineteen years, Todd Webster Morgan is determined to find gold high in the Sierra Nevadas. But his dream is violently upended. Complicating matters even more, he meets a young Chinese immigrant named Lâo Jian, whose own dreams of finding gold have been quashed by violence.

But life back in Sacramento isn’t any easier. Todd’s mother struggles to make ends meet. His invalid uncle becomes increasingly angry. Todd seeks employment with little success. Meanwhile his friendship with Lâo Jian turns to love. But their relationship is strained as anti-Chinese sentiment grows.

Todd vows not to lose Lâo Jian. The couple must risk everything to make a life for themselves. A life that requires facing fear and prejudice head on. 

*****************************

“Brennessel not only gives us a love story but also a look at this country during a trying period and the emergence of California. We also get a look at racism in the way the Chinese in this country are regarded. 

Brennessel has done his homework and research well. Without giving away any of the details of the plot, the ending of the story left me wiped out. The writer is not only a wonderful story teller but he has also provided us with two wonderfully drawn characters thus giving us a read that will not be soon forgotten.”

 –Reviews by Amos Lassen

“’The Celestial’” is a rather sweet story, with a very emphatically happily-ever-after ending. I’m giving it four stars.”

–Review by Michael Joseph for Speak Its Name

I loved reading this novel. It has a compelling story, believable characters, and artful writing. Todd, the narrator, says this about a young man he meets in the mountains (before he runs into Lao Jian): “It was like staring into a meadow in springtime, and your eyes just don’t want to work themselves free of the colors when the wildflowers dance in the breeze.”

Regarding both Chinese and Irish immigrants, Todd says, “The law sure took umbrage when the criminal was a foreigner, but looked the other way when the foreigner was a victim.”

The short last chapter is one of the finest epilogues I’ve read. The first line alone, a date, found me wiping my eyes so that I could read on.

— Review by Ron Fritsch for Rainbow Book Reviews

The Celestial is an impressive and remarkable story of a young man finding his way during life in California in the 1870s. Barry Brennessel skillfully brings to life an explosive period of time in American history through the characters of Todd Webster Morgan, his family, and his lover, Lao Jian. 

 Barry Brennessel packs a lot of life as well as history into this superlative story. Do not pass this book by. If you are not a fan of historical writing, this might make you one. If you are one already, this book will climb to the top of the pile. This book was a Finalist, 2012 Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Contest. It deserves that recognition and so much more.”

–Melanie for Joyfully Jay Reviews

“This book is a serious, thought provoking historical romance which showcases the diversity of this author’s talents.

If you like historicals, especially those in an unusual setting such as this one, then I highly recommend The Celestial to you as a wonderful read. Grade: Excellent.”

–Jenre, Well Read Reviews

“A heart-warming story about love conquering prejudice, supported by a truly Dickensian cast.

The Celestial is a wonderful, heart-warming book told with considerable flair. There’s just enough historical detail to ground the reader in a time and place, and those details are woven through the story in a sparse yet evocative way, bringing the places to life yet never overshadowing the characters and the story.

…a very fine story with a lot of colour and interest, a strong and likeable voice and a host of memorable characters. Warmly recommended.

–Reviews by Jessewave

“Beautifully written with characters that live and breathe off of the written page, The Celestial is an epic adventure filled with romance, heartbreak, joy and of course hope. I loved every minute of this book and it’s earned a top spot on my keeper shelf where I know I’ll re-read it many times in the future. Highly Recommended!”

Top 2 Bottom Reviews

“It’s unanimous: Barry Brennessel’s novel The Celestial is a great story! Todd and Lâo Jian persevere primarily because of the strength and love they derive from one another, and this is the inspirational theme that underlies the whole story. Highly recommended.”

Gerry Burnie, Gerry B.’s Book Reviews

“Barry Brennessel’s The Celestial isn’t just a good read, it’s a wonderful experience. I felt as though I had traveled in time to the period of the gold rush and the westward movement across the North American continent.

This book is gently told and made me feel good just from reading it. This was my first book by Barry Brennessel but he immediately became a must read for me.”

Mrs. Condit & Friends Read Books

“The rich historical detail of early California life and the tender love story of our two gay pioneers in The Celestial make it an easy choice as a Lambda finalist for Gay Romance.”

Book Lovers, Lambda Literary Review

“Beautifully named, The Celestial is a wonderful read from start to finish. Todd Webster Morgan’s voice makes for an authentic, earthy, and realistic narrative throughout. I loved how interested he was in other cultures at a time when foreigners were more than frowned upon. Lao Jian is never short-changed by not having a POV. He is lovely, has such humour, dignity, and I thought he was written with much respect. Overall, the writing is empathetic, with an elegant ease, and economical use of words, yet so layered and full of meaning. The epilogue is something special. It is also an historical story that captures the essence of 1870′s California without a heavy hand. There’s a message about the harsh realities of the world, prejudices, and ignorance. But mostly, there are messages about acceptance, tolerance and seeing people for who they are; people – no matter where they come from, the colour of their skin, or who they love. Ever-timely messages. Highly recommended reading for anyone aged  fourteen to…one hundred and fourteen!”

Kazza K. for On Top Down Under Book Reviews

Hooray for Todd Webster Morgan and all his stubborn, adorable, loving ways! We see how he follows his heart in all he does.  We see the sweet interest between two young men gently sway to fondness, then attraction and then love.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Celestial and will happily read more of Brennessel’s work.

Xing, for Boys in Our Books

A Best of 2012 Pick in the Historical Category at Joyfully Jay

A Best of Month Pick at Joyfully Jay (October 2012)

A Top Pick for 2012, Guest Reviewers’ List at Jessewave

Favorite M/M Historical of 2012 at Well Read


Wellspring

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Finalist for the 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Awards at Foreword Reviews

Now available at MLR Press, Amazon, Amazon Kindle

Aiden Royce’s journey to an isolated New England hillside raises specters from his past.
But a chance encounter alters the course of his future. A future he never dreamt possible.

In the span between the Great War and the Great Depression, Aiden Royce loses both family and fortune. He has nothing left but memories and regrets until a series of letters arrive; ramblings written by a familiar hand that nevertheless offer Aiden some important clues. Months later he’s roaming the grounds of the crumbling Cebren Spa, a once posh destination, but now an empty shell of mystery and menace.

One saving grace in this perplexity is the handsome Sebastian Desmond, a descendant of the spa’s founders. He rescues Aiden from a storm, but in doing so opens up a different sort of tempest when secrets unravel and both men’s lives are torn asunder.

Can decades-old questions be answered, onerous mysteries solved, and a burgeoning and venturesome romance prosper in the shadows of a once restorative wellspring?

************************

The writing of Wellspring is beautiful and atmospheric – the snow, the storms, sounds. The mood of America in regards to WWI, the sentiment was used well – it suited certain families and the plot perfectly.

The writing is intelligent, elegant, poignant and empathetic. [The author] writes characters who are everyday people dealing with unforeseen events and circumstances. They have an adventure one way or another, but they are not alpha heroes or larger than life, they’re often quite gentle, introverted or conflict aversive. However, they always seem to experience something personal and profound.

Highly recommended for people who are looking for LGBT fiction with beautiful, layered writing, and something historical with a mystery.

Kazza K. for On Top Down Under Book Reviews

The construction of the plot shows the wonderful thought and writing skills of Bressennel, the author. He keeps us turning pages and putting on our detective hats as we try to figure out what is happening and why. His ability to move between past and present is wonderful and the way he ties them together will have you read with mouth agape. I found it easy to understand why Thad wrote in such detail because the author does as well; the descriptions are vivid and we actually see what is written. He also has drawn characters that seem vague thus heightening the mystery.

While basically set during the Depression, the story also spans WWI, WWII and the Korean War. The literary characters are important but the main character is the spa since everything revolves around it.

–Reviews by Amos Lassen

The setting of the decaying mysterious Cebren Spa was perfect! From the danger of its structural problems, to its history and purpose, and of course Sebastian’s fear of it, I just knew it was always going to be critical to the story, a central character if you will.

Wellspring is an engrossing, twisting, surprising mystery that will leave you guessing until the end.

–Gigi for MM Good Book Reviews

If you don’t read this book you will miss out on one helluva great read with puzzles galore and a sweet slow romance in a picturesque New England setting.  If I did stars, this book would get 6 out of 5.

Christopher Moss, That’s All I Read


A Special Kind of Folk

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Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards

Now available!

MLR PressAmazonBarnes & Noble

Revenge is a dish best served with a little bit of spice,
three dashes of magic, and a whole lot of flair.

Your eyes are squeezed tight. Your hand is over your racing heart. Your mouth is agape. And your tongue is planted firmly in your cheek. After you’ve read these six mystical, magical tales of torment and revenge, you’ll be looking over your shoulder, pausing at corners, and keeping that porch light burning bright all through the night. Oh, and you might chuckle once or twice, too. After all, what’s fright without a little delight? Hexes, curses, old family recipes, old family secrets, stolen cars and stolen lives. It’s all just another day in the lives (and deaths) of a special kind of folk.

Featuring:

Food & Spirits

Visions

Kill Them With Kindness

A Special Kind of Folk

All the Souls on Earth

Commedia dell’Arte

“This is definitely for those who are open to LGBT writing but are not looking for what is these days termed MM or romance. It is sharp, it is offbeat and out there, and it makes the reader think…I most definitely recommend A Special Kind of Folk.”

Kazza K. for On Top Down Under Book Reviews


Paradise at Main and Elm

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Finalist, 2013 Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award

Finalist, 2013 Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association Literary Contest (“Ezra”)

2013 Book of the Year, On Top Down Under Book Reviews

Now available!

Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Adrian Stockwell and Ezra Cherevin both battle the fallout from their broken families. Yet each one’s strategy is as different as each one’s past. Adrian’s childhood was left void by apathy; Ezra’s upended by violence. The written word soon becomes their therapy, their escape. This shared passion for literature is the vehicle that brings them together.

But their journey is filled with personal and familial potholes.

Can these two young men carve out a life together by learning to navigate a sea of challenges? And can the people in their lives do the same?

************************

If you don’t read any other part of this book, and I’m not sure why you would not read it, you have to read the stories a younger Adrian wrote at Pembrooke School for Boys. The kerfuffle it caused – Barry Brennessel has short stories within the story to convey Adrian’s feelings, the way he vented – and the wonderful epistolary back and forth section of Chapter 8 ‘Then sudden waxed wroth…’ is clever, biting and telling all at once.

Paradise at Main & Elm is a literary piece of writing, but it is easy to read and not the least bit pretentious or pompous. It is LGBTQ, but at its heart is life, family and all its myriad difficulties. And that sometimes some people have a hard time. But it can work out pretty okay in a realistic fashion. Fractured souls can find one another in amongst the fracas of life and gain great comfort, solace and love. 

Kazza K. for On Top Down Under Book Reviews

I found this book quite intriguing. It’s a snapshot that illustrates who the characters are, backed up with flashbacks that show what went into making them who they are. 

I really liked both Ezra and Adrian. They are two young men, both struggling with issues that have formed them. You can’t help but think that maybe that’ll be easier for them to do together, by the support and understanding they each give to the other. While their interactions together weren’t many, they were very sweet and I really loved them. 

Booksmitten for Live Your Life, Buy the Book

[Paradise at Main and Elm] is a look at two men who try to find their place in this world while dealing with their pasts. We meet a large cast of characters and we see how they came to be who they are. 

Brennessel is quite a good writer. This is not the first book of his that I have read and he is the kind of writer that deals with characters beautifully—so much so that I feel like I have made friends with many of them.

Reviews by Amos Lassen

The comfort these young men are able to provide for each other and the safety they find together just made me smile. The way Mr. Brennessel wrote them, it was apparent that they were made for each other. Whether he wrote them that way or muse made him do it, it was a beautiful pairing. It was worth the extra time to read and figure out the italics, because they gave vast insight into Ezra and Adrian and why they are who they are. It will take patience, but I highly recommend this book.

–Tina for The Novel Approach

So perfectly written, this novel was downright beautiful. I found myself starting it and never wanting it to end. I wanted nothing more than for Adrian and Ezra to be together. And when they did get together, I leapt with joy.

Eric for MM Good Book Reviews

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Sideways Down the Sky

Final SDTS Cover

Finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction in the 27th annual Triangle Awards

Finalist for the 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Awards at Foreword Reviews

Now Available!

MLR Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  and Powell’s Books

In the land of snow monsters and steam baths, complex characters as diverse as the Japanese terrain
experience lust, loss, and love.

 A young boy performs a daring rescue. A woman loses her old life to face an uncertain new one. A teenager suffers through a cataclysmic event. Unusual bonds form at the Tokyo Olympics. A rent boy’s hardened heart melts when he meets a sexy, buoyant stranger.

Much like the Japanese islands themselves, there is commonality to be found among myriad differences. The poet, the musician, the artist, the tortured mother, the bankrupt father, the protective brother—they all know that there’s a new day awaiting them after the moon slips
sideways down the sky.

************************

This is another wonderful book by Barry Brennessel; Paradise at Main & Elm was my Book of the Year in 2013. Sideways Down the Sky now joins it on my list of all-time favourites, and while Adrian and Ezra hold a special place in my heart, so do several of the characters in this book. I loved Akio and his enduring love for Genkei. I thought it was fitting he ran into Kazuki, their understanding of pain and the special relationship that was forged from that. Then there are Yuji and Toru, two rent boys who Aiko sees so much hope for, a project that gave him so much – an ‘ending and a beginning’. Sideways Down the Sky is well named and evocative; it resonated with me, and if you like Barry Brennessel or the sound of the book, I cannot recommend it highly enough. 5 Stars!

Kazza for On Top Down Under Book Reviews


Reunion

Finalist, 2013 USA Book News Book of the Year Awards

Finalist, 2013 National Indie Excellence Book Awards

Finalist, 2012 Foreword Book of the Year Awards

Now available!

AmazonBarnes and NobleBooks-a-MillionPowell’s Books, and MLR Press


A small French city. A park near Tokyo. The Czech countryside. London at night. Lost loves and found loves. Fear and courage. Reflections. Rejections. Reconciliations. Romance.

These interconnected stories follow the adventures of Brian, Ondrej, Yuji, Jason, and others as they navigate the tumultuous path of life and love.

Featuring:

Shin-Kiba Park (Pushcart Prize nominee; from Gival Press’s ArLiJo)

Nagasaki (Dana Award finalist; from Polari Journal)

Unfinished (from SNReview)

Ficelle (from SNReview)

Reunion is set in Tokyo and this is important in that we do not get many gay stories set in Asia and with Asian characters. But even more than that, the novel changes locales and we go to France, to London and to the Czech Republic and we get a series of interconnected stories that all follow the themes of life and love. Something else that is special here is that no one or two stories stand out. Each and every story is a wonderful read and not just the plots make them so good but the gorgeous prose and the way the writer uses emotions to draw us in.”

–Reviews by Amos Lassen

“Brennessel shows his mastery in crafting a surface story that is delightful on its own, yet also resonates with each of the other stories in the collection.

Each story is so intricately entwined with the others that it is difficult to point to any one as being a favorite, although the third story, ‘Nagasaki,’ came closest to earning that superlative[…]

This complex story within a story within a story is a beautiful experiment that succeeds on every level.  ‘Shin-Kiba Park’ in this collection was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize in 2008, and this completed collection deserves many more critical accolades.”

Lambda Literary, Book Lovers

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