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Ever since I read my first shifter book, I've been hooked. For some reason, Off The Beaten Path escaped my notice at first, but when it kept popping up in friend reviews on Goodreads, I requested a review copy from the publisher.
I was not disappointed.
This is not some fluffy wolf shifter meets human and they live happily ever after shifter book. No, as the title indicates, this shifter universe is off the beaten path, set in an alternate reality where shifters exists, after a government experiment gone terribly wrong, but are controlled by the human government, living in remote areas away from human cities, within confined compounds, with the pack Alphas required to serve as ultimate soldiers whenever the military requires them to utilize their extra strength and abilities to carry out the military's dirty work.
Additionally, some children are born as shifters to human parents, and when their true nature is revealed, they are removed from their human parents, severing the relationship, and relocated to a shifter compound, where they either can shift back to human or, if they can't, are destroyed.
Thus, we meet Ward Johannsen whose young daughter Ava shifted into a wolf during a stressful situation and was immediately taken by the feds to the nearest shifter camp. Unwilling to give up his daughter, Ward does everything he can to obtain her location, which just happens to be in the Colorado mountains. And it's winter.
Ward is rescued, nearly frozen to death, at the perimeter of the pack compound. Once inside, he's faced with the pack's Alpah, Henry Dormer, who only recently returned from his last mission and hopes to have a bit of time to recuperate before he's sent out again.
Both men are really strong-willed and not inclined to give up. Ward is unwilling to let go of Ava, even if the law says he has to, and he does everything in his power to get back to her, even if that means willingly walking into a werewolf compound and standing his ground. Henry too fights every day to ensure the security and well-being of his pack, even if that means that he himself suffers abuse and faces possible death.
See, the government doesn't really care about the werewolves it created, considering them dangerous and thus in need of being kept separated and hidden, but is perfectly willing to use the wolves' Alphas for its Black Ops missions. Henry's CO especially is a sack of shit, vengeful and vile, but Henry knows he has to follow the rules so his pack can get what it needs to survive.
Relationships between wolves and humans are strongly discouraged, though not forbidden.
Obviously, Ward's presence in the camp, and his having found the compound, breaks all kinds of security rules, and Henry has to take the blame. Still, Henry realizes that Ward's presence will likely help Ava shift back to human, so he is willing to give it a try.
The attraction they both feel to each other is neither expected nor necessarily wanted, but Ward's persistence and courage seems to calm Henry in the face of the multiple pressures he's facing not only from his CO but also his pack.
This isn't some fluffy shifter tale. It's gritty, it's dark, and there are oh so many obstacles Henry and Ward face before they can find even a modicum of happiness. Though, I think the point here is that the happiness you have to fight for so hard is worth more in the end - simply because you have to fight for it.
At the end of this book, there's hope. Not only for Ward and Henry to have a happy ending, but for the shifters in the compound, and all shifters under the thumb of the feds. In fact, there are forces at work to better the lives of the werewolves and give them a chance to actually live.
I do hope that the author has more books planned, and that this will turn into a full-blown series. Because Tennyson and David surely need their own book.
This book is full of tension, passion, and courage in the face of nearly insurmountable odds. A true "edge-of-your-seat" read, this comes highly recommended.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **
This book is pure fluff. Which, let's be honest, fits perfectly within the Dreamspun Desires titles. And the cheeky title - hahahaha!
Here we have Dale, a firefighter who recently moved into the little village of Calminster, still smarting from a bad break-up with his closeted, cheating ex, hoping to lick his wounds and put his hopes and dreams for that relationship behind him. Unwilling to be in the closet himself, he's open about his sexuality, but has no aspirations to find himself another boyfriend.
Called out for a fire on his first shift, he manages to rescue the homeowner, a sweet elderly woman, and draw the ire of his Lordship at the same time. Shortly thereafter, he backs the big fire engine into the maypole, which was originally erected by his Lordship's great-great-grandfather. So, having blown his opportunity for making a good first impression, Dale offers to fix the pole in hopes to calm down Ben, Lord Calminster, who is behaving like an ass both during the fire and after Dale's unfortunate mishap with the big fire truck and the maypole.
Don't expect any kind of realistic or believable relationship development - there's none.
Ben, the lord of the manor, has kept his own sexuality hidden to the point where he's got a girlfriend/beard. Of course, he takes one look at our hunky firefighter, feels the stirring in his loins and finds the backbone to break things off with the woman he's been dating.
Dale was a nice guy, and I liked him. Ben, once he removed the stick from his ass, was a nice guy too. I liked him fine as well.
It's just that nothing here between Ben and Dale felt anything close to realistic. Dale states that he's still hurting from the break-up and doesn't want to fall in bed with yet another closeted man, but then shortly thereafter dismisses that notion and jumps right in with Ben.
Ben apparently, after meeting and tongue-lashing Dale twice, is willing to risk a whole lot for the possibility of being with Dale. Perhaps exchanging angry words with the firefighter turns him on.
There's a bit of mystery here with someone unknown setting fires all over the village, a subplot that culminates in an edge of your seat sequence of events that not only casts Dale as a hero again but also firmly pulls Ben right out of that closet for good.
Since I usually suspend disbelief whenever I read one of the Dreamspun Desires titles and don't expect anything realistic, I didn't mind the rapid development of the romantic relationship. What I did mind however is that we're merely told these two men have the hots for each other - we're not actually shown that they do - so this book ended up in three star territory. Sure, there are sexy times within, but I didn't really feel their passion - I was only told about it.
Still an enjoyable read that fits perfectly within this harlequin-esque series.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **
This was my first foray into this author's writing, but hopefully not my last.
I found this to be an excellent use of the "marriage of convenience" trope, showcasing a romance between a still-grieving widowed football player and a somewhat effeminate Russian ballet dancer seeking and being denied asylum in the US, who get married avoid deportation and potential death in the homophobic climate of Mother Russia.
I adored Viktor, the ballet dancer and activist, who's not afraid to use his fame position to shine a light on homophobia and the persecution of LGBTQ people everywhere. He was loud in his advocacy, but also thoughtful and kind and generous and loving. And very insightful, too.
Isaiah on the other hand is much more reserved and chooses to live his life much more quietly, afraid to rock the boat, even though everyone knows he's gay, considering he was married to a man before his husband's untimely death. He's unwilling to confront homophobia in others, and prefers to focus on his football career and on raising the teenage son he and his late husband adopted. He's also still grieving and unwilling to open his heart to a second chance at love, thinking that it would diminish what he had before.
Viktor and Isaiah meet, spend a hot night together, but decide to part as friends. When Viktor's asylum request is denied and he's faced with having to return to Russia, Isaiah steps in and offers marriage and the subsequent Green Card, but takes sex completely off the table.
Isaiah is an interesting character. I was wondering many times whether his reluctance to live his life "out loud" was because of his career choice and the still rampant homophobia among NFL players/teams/coaches/owners, or because of his skin color, or because of his need to keep his son Evan safe and protected, or just because that's who he is - quiet, introverted, and perhaps just a little spineless.
Obviously, Isaiah's desire to keep a lid on Viktor's activism backfires spectacularly. But that's not the only thing that backfires - his plan to keep his hands off Viktor and not fall for the man crumbles just the same. For a lot of the book, there's a ton of tension in the relationship, and more often than not, I was angry with Isaiah for making Viktor feel like he had to walk on eggshells. There's clearly a power imbalance at play as well, what with Viktor dependent on keeping the marriage "alive" for as long as he has to until he's no longer in danger of losing his immigration status.
The two men have zero issues getting along in the bedroom, and there were plenty of steamy scenes inside. And still, Isaiah is reluctant to examine what he's feeling for Viktor, and ends up pushing the other man to his breaking point.
Of course, this being a romance, a HEA is expected and was delivered, in a grand romantic fashion when Isaiah pulls his head out of his ass, listens to his son, and runs after Viktor to grovel. While I loved the romantic conclusion, I was a little irked for two reasons. One, Isaiah's change of heart came way too quick for my taste, and two, he didn't have to grovel nearly long enough before Viktor took him back. Yes, yes, I know - the grand romantic gesture - but that didn't excuse the hurt Isaiah inflicted on Viktor before that.
Still, all's well that ends well, right?
I'm definitely interested in reading the next book in this series. The story flowed well, there were no massive time jumps or lulls in the plot, and the writing was not overly purple. The characters' actions and reactions were, for the most part, reasonable and realistic, and the dialogue felt organic as well.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. **
Join us again today as we continue our celebrations for this fabulous author.
Oh dear, I'm afraid this book didn't work for me at all. First of all, it was over before I knew it. Secondly, there was no real romance. Thirdly, the characters were flat, and in some cases, completely one-dimensional.
Mason is 21, but still lives with his mother and her boyfriend in his mother's house. He volunteers at an equine rescue, though only part time, and works part time as well, hoping to save up enough money to get his own apartment to get away from mom's boyfriend who is creepy and possibly a sexual predator.
Mason sounded like someone much younger and did not come across as someone who's 21. His mother didn't believe him when he told her of the sexual abuse perpetrated by his uncle when Mason was little, so he doesn't see any point in telling her about the unwanted advances her boyfriend has been making. Which - what?
When he sees an ad for modeling, Mason thinks this might be an opportunity for him to earn the money he still needs, so he calls the number and agrees to go to someone's house. By bus, because he doesn't have a car either. Again - what?
Oliver is a photographer and described as in his 30s and having an open relationship with his boyfriend/friend Chester, meaning they do stuff together and have sex with each other. Like a friends with benefits arrangement, though Chester also hangs with others and has sex with them too. Clearly, they're not a love match, and aren't looking for exclusivity. Fine with me - if it works for you.
There was no relationship development; no steam except a few kisses which is fine; I'm not hung up on on-page sex, but there has to be some kind of connection between the MCs for me to believe the romance. And this just wasn't believable.
I didn't connect with Mason, I didn't connect with Oliver, and I didn't connect with any of the supporting characters either. The big scene toward the end, where mom's boyfriend is being set up to reveal himself as the creep he is, ending with Mason coming clean to his mom, Mom meeting Oliver and Mason moving in with Oliver - again, WHAT????
And then it was over. I wouldn't even call this a HFN. I wouldn't call this a romance. I was confused for a moment, questioning whether this was a prequel to another book, but apparently that's not the case. As a standalone, this just didn't cut it for me.
The writing isn't great either - it felt clinical and almost robotic to me. This was my 2nd book by this author, and the other one I read didn't work for me either, so I think this author just isn't for me. YMMV.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A review was not promised in return. **
This is a cute sequel to All The Way To Shore . We met Anthony Vallen in the first book, as Jonathan's quirky, sassy cousin, who didn't do romance or relationships.
He still doesn't in this book either, for reasons that are explained within. See, many years ago, when Anthony was a wee teenager, he met a boy, a super smart boy, whom he loved, but the boy left him abruptly after a near-drowning for which the boy blamed himself. Ever since then Anthony has given up on love - it's for others, not for him.
Even if he might be occasionally a bit jealous of what Jonathan found with Marco, but those moments don't last long, because there are just so many other men to have fun with. Who needs love, amirite?
And now Anthony is headed to Key West for a fun vacation with Jonathan and Marco, who've gotten married since the last book, and he's looking forward to sun and fun and possibly some scuba diving. Or maybe not, since putting his head under water is still something Anthony doesn't do all that willingly.
But who should be the owner of the bar and the scuba diving place but his old boyfriend, Walter Elkins. The boy who broke his heart is now all grown up, but no longer a scientist for reasons.
Getting a first row view of Anthony's deeper side was fascinating. His sassiness and easy flirting routine is a front, something he hides behind. If you don't open your heart to anyone, you can't get hurt, right? But behind that facade is a person who yearns for someone to call his own, for someone who understands him and takes him as he is, for someone who loves him.
While Anthony can be a little OTT some of the time (or most of the time, at least outwardly), he's actually a really nice and thoughtful person with a huge heart, even if most people don't get close enough to realize it. The things he did for his cousin Jonathan in the first book, standing by him, helping him, supporting him - all that is part of what really makes up Anthony Vallen. Sure, he's flamboyant and in your face, and he talks and talks and talks, but I liked him quite a bit.
Walter, on the other hand, pissed me off for most of the book. He suffers from severe Edward Cullen syndrome, and his reason for bailing not only on Anthony but also a lucrative career as a brilliant scientist was ridiculous and felt contrived. I mean, the guy needed some serious therapy. Seriously.
I'm all for "Opposites attract", and I usually love second-chance-at-love books, but I didn't love this one, primarily because of Walter. Yes, sure, Anthony is a super crazy queen, though that's his persona, his protection, and he never tried to crap all over Walter's hesitations, but Walter's constant waffling and one step forward, two steps back, hurting Anthony in the progress, just made me angry.
If I had been in Anthony's shoes, I would have made Walter grovel a LOT more than he did. Yes, Walter did eventually find the courage to work through his issues, but that was long after he'd broken Anthony's heart again. Though, and this must be said, I did love that Anthony had backbone and said, Look, I'm worth more than what you're begrudgingly giving me, so adios, I'm done trying.
I did believe that the two men loved each other, the first time, and the second time too. I think it is that love that carried them both to their happy ending, even if getting there was fraught with pain and hurt. Walter's brilliant mind is more of a hindrance than an advantage to their road to forever, but he eventually puts his smarts to the right use. In the end, they realize that they have to compromise, and the book ends in a really good spot for them both.
On the supporting cast, we have Jonathan and Marco, blissfully happy, and Miles, who works for Walter, who flirts with Anthony and who, it turns out, provides them with a catalyst to start getting their act together.
There are sexy times within, and it's clear that Walter and Tony have no issues whatsoever inside the bedroom at all - it's outside of it where they struggle.
I don't know if this concludes this series, though I'd like to see Miles find the person for him as well. Perhaps that's still to come.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
"Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practise To Deceive..."
Lamont Price, Andrew's older half-brother, is an author of M/F romances under a female pseudonym, attending his first romance book conference and about to come clean to his readers. He's nervous, understandably, not only because he's deceived his fans into thinking he's a woman named Ginger Peach, but also because he doesn't like the spotlight. As soon as he can, he runs from his fans to a bar outside of the conference hotel.
Lamont is an interesting character. In his mid-forties, he is plagued primarily by what he considers his failures (no boyfriend, no long-term relationship prospect, no books in his own name, no sex for years), and largely avoids getting together with his family, because they keep trying to set him up with someone he could add to the family. Lamont hasn't had sex in years because he doesn't do hook-ups and prefers to have sex within a relationship only. Not a bad attitude, of course, but obviously, that can lead to loneliness. And he is lonely. He sees all the happy couples in Lavender Shores and feels left out, like he's on the outside looking in.
While he's at the bar, hiding from his fans, he meets Tate Dallas, who's the prolific cover model for another romance author and whose real name is Tyler Dixon.
Tyler/Tate is what may be considered a rentboy. He's not only a cover model, but can also be hired as an escort, including providing bedroom attention, and some other jobs within that industry. He does all his to fund his photography and showing his work in galleries, while waiting for his "big break". He makes no secret of having a lot of sex, but he omits telling Lamont outright that he gets paid for doing so. He also omits another major thing, one that... nah, you read this for yourself.
So Lamont, having the baby shower for Andrew and Joel's soon-to-be-born baby coming up, asks Tyler if he would consider posing as his boyfriend for a long weekend in Lavender Shores, no strings attached, and no hanky-panky included. Of course, Lamont thinking that Tyler is the most beautiful man he's ever seen definitely helps in overcoming a smidgen of his shyness to even propose this arrangement. But surely, someone as gorgeous as Tyler has no interest in someone as boring as Lamont.
Except Tyler is struck pretty much just the same, but doesn't feel that he has anything to offer the older and more successful man. And thus expects nothing except the part he's agreed to play. It's a one-time thing, and then they'll go their separate ways.
But the best-laid plans and all that...
I quite liked the two main characters here, and the author did a darn good job exploring them in depth. It was clear that the Tate Dallas persona was a front, and that there is a real person hiding behind that pseudonym, a person who gets scared of what might be and a person who doesn't believe in love everlasting. Tyler is not ashamed of what he does to support himself, but he also keeps Tyler and Tate very separate. As Tyler, the fact that he's pretty straight-forward in what he says and does helped to draw Lamont out of his shell too.
It was also clear that Lamont, while shy and introverted, faltered more often than not under the pressure his parents put on him, whether it was intentional or not. Many people in town looked at him as if he was this fragile person and failed to realize that Lamont is in fact quite strong. His strength is in his convictions and his unwillingness to settle for anything but the real thing.
The two men have a strong connection from the start, and once Tyler gets to Lavender Shores for the baby shower weekend, they both struggle to stick with the original plan. I really liked that this was a slow burn romance for a good chunk of it, and that they had a chance to get to know each other a little bit before jumping into the sheets.
I really liked the imagery of the Shipwreck that the author used here, and the many parallels that could be drawn from it. It was also quite lovely how the author used the actual shipwreck as a background for Lamont and Tyler to get closer and soon allows them to realize that neither of them is ready to say good-bye quite yet.
Obviously, the omissions I mentioned at the beginning of my review play a huge role in the progression of their relationship and end up to be a chasm Lamont and Tyler cannot bridge once the truth comes out.
Or can they?
This is a romance, after all, so you know that a HEA is guaranteed, and the author doesn't let the reader down. Still, both men need to first find themselves, find who they really are, and figure out that what they had, what they built, no matter how short their time together, may be worth fighting for.
How they find their way back to each other - well, you read this yourself. There's some angst, some self-discovery, and there's a fabulous epilogue that you don't want to miss.
And plenty of holy hot boysecks, Batman, to boot!!
** I received a free advance copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
Join us as we kick off our month-long celebrations for the ever so awesome Dan Skinner, with excerpts from his books, his favorite things, and a giveaway too!
This is the final book in the Mary's Boys series, and it rounded out the series quite nicely.
Steven Conley, in his 40s, is the owner of the Hamburger Mary's restaurant where three couples so far have found love, but he's been mostly in the background, having created a safe place for lost souls and built a strong chosen family for his employees and friends. Before purchasing the Mary's franchise, Steven had a successful corporate career, but left it, much to his father's dismay. When we first meet Steven in this book, he's in the hospital at his father's deathbed, with his sister Pat. Cruel words from his father send Steven reeling and questioning the choices he's made.
Ryan Fuller is 27 and also made choices, leaving behind success as a painter to own a small party planning business, while working part-time at a funeral home to make a bit of extra income. His relationship with his family is strained as his parents don't understand why he would choose to leave wealth and success behind.
The two meet at the funeral home after Steven's father dies. Yeah, I know that sounds weird and sort of eww, but hear me out - first you have to understand the headspace Steven is in at the time. For which you need to read this book, obviously. Secondly, you need to know that Ryan knows Steven even before they meet at the mortuary.
Grief makes one do seemingly strange things. So does desire.
For most of the book, Steven grapples with the choices he's made. He's adrift and doesn't know which way to move forward. He also thinks that Ryan, being so much younger, doesn't really see the real him, but some ideal he's built up in his mind, and thus Ryan's feelings cannot be trusted.
This is a heavy story, and not one you can read quickly. There's a ton of emotional upheaval inside, and it would behoove the reader to proceed carefully through each chapter so as not to miss the poignant writing within.
I'm partly sad that this is the last book, and partly happy with how the author has chosen to end this series. It's not that everything is wrapped up in neat little bows, and the way to Steven and Ryan's HEA is tumultuous and winded, but it ends on a really positive note, with all our previous couples still going strong, and Steven and Ryan embarking on their forever journey.
It's a really good book. And while it could theoretically be read as a standalone, you don't want to miss the books that came before it. Read the whole series - it's worth your time.
** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
I flew through this book. Didn't even take the time to post a single status update, because I was riveted to the pages and could. Not. Stop. Reading. until I had finished the whole thing.
Nico is a tattoo artist with his own shop in California, having run away from his family in small town Texas when he was only 15, for reasons that are elaborated upon in this book. He had zero plans to ever return, but then he gets a call from an attorney that his sister has passed away and declared him her baby's guardian. So Nico goes back to Hobie, TX, to take care of things, find a suitable couple to adopt his little niece, and hightail it back to Cali.
West(on) is the town's doctor, and Nico's late sister was his best friend, and there's no way in hell that West will allow Nico to take custody of the baby. He's initially a judgmental jerk who never even thinks to ask why someone so young (15, for the love of Christ) would run away. Never mind the purple hair and multiple tattoos, clearly Nico can't be trusted anyway.
I'm not going to elaborate on the plot in this review, because I think you should read this book and find out for yourself how and why West changes his initial mindset, and how Nico isn't the bad guy for abandoning his mom and sister, and how two rather adorable old fogies (Doc and Grandpa) in love might help them along to their HEA.
There's a good amount of steam inside, and it's some holy hot boysecks, Batman, because both West and Nico get along fabulously in the bedroom. Outside of it, well, that's another matter entirely, as neither trusts the other completely for quite some time.
The running theme in the book is one of family - the one you're born into and the one you make for yourself, and the author does a fabulous job exploring that theme in a variety of ways, including the sacrifices a young boy might make to give his family what he thinks they need, and how family isn't necessarily determined by blood alone, but also but what you'll do for the ones you love.
The other theme is that not all is what it seems, and that's a lesson West in particular has to learn. He does, fortunately, but it's a hard-won lesson, and one in humility to boot.
As I said, I flew through this book. The characterizations were spot-on, and having a dual POV gives the reader a lot of insight into what makes each man tick. Nico especially is distrustful of other people, based on his experiences, and comes across as skittish. He wants to run when things get tough, but also wants to stay with West. He falls in love with his niece at first sight, but also doesn't believe that he has anything good to offer her. West is happy living in the small town, but also realizes that homophobia is a thing, even if his own family is cool with it and wants to see him settle down. He's mostly calm and clear-headed in his actions and reactions, where Nico tends to shoot from the hip and react more impulsively.
This was a great start to a new series, and I'm definitely interested in reading the next book as well. The author's writing style worked well for me, and the story flowed easily, without any massive time jump or long drags. Well done!
** I received a free copy of this book from the author. A positive review was not promised in return. **
This is such a Harlequin-esque book. I mean, seriously, this one lays it on super thick, and as such fits the Dreamspun Desires series to a T.
Here we have Ben Adams, a nurse from Australia, who recently inherited a large sum of money (and when I say large, I mean LARGE) from the old lady whom he looked after for some time, and whom he still misses. Never having known wealth, Ben decides on a tour of Europe but still counting his pennies and saving money where possible.
While in Monaco, he meets Leo Artois, the billionaire from the book's title, who's never known a day without wealth, seeing how his mother is a princess and his father is not only fabulously wealthy but also almost French royalty or something of the sort.
Why Leo insists on calling Ben Bunny all the time escaped me. Leo, as well as his circle of friends, come across as the sort of people who never had to work a day in their lives and who think nothing of spending money whenever they please.
Ben only planned to stay in Monaco for a few days before heading to Italy, but after meeting Leo, and the instant attraction he feels for the man, he decides to stay a while longer.
What I liked about this book is that Ben isn't shy about pointing out to Leo how wasteful spending isn't impressive to him, and that Leo make concessions for Ben's point of view on money issues, but also teaches him that some things are worth the money they cost and introduces him to some of the finer things in life that most mortals will never be able to afford.
Ben, despite his substantial inheritance, is still a normal guy and tries to impress that normalcy on Leo.
I believed their holiday fling. Their attraction burned brightly from the start, and I bought that Leo was fascinated with Ben, and vice versa, but their HEA romance - nah. Didn't believe it. They had so little in common, and despite Ben's new wealth, their social circles and life experiences didn't really mesh for me at all. Ben was too normal whereas Leo was way more sophisticated and often came across as someone whose illusions of entitlement were showing. Ben came across as uncomfortable with the OTT displays of wealth Leo and his circle found normal, and that doesn't make for a life-long romance. I mean, obviously with this series, disbelief must be suspended most of the time anyway, but the romance should still be something that resonates. And here, it sadly didn't, for me. YMMV.
The writing was pretty good; the dialogue was believable (with some snark, yay) for how the two men were characterized, and I'm interested in reading more by this author.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
Join us one more time as we celebrate this fantastic author, with more from Russel Middlebrook, our author interview, and another chance to win!
This is only my 2nd book by this author. The title is apt - I was on pins and needles for most of the time while reading this excellent story of suspense, intrigue, and romance among the ruins.
Okay, so that latter part is a bit hyperbole - there are no actual ruins, per se. What is in ruins however is a promising career, a father/son relationship, and an invention that could revolutionize a part of the oil industry.
But I'm getting ahead of myself...
This is a complex story, and it would behoove the reader to read slowly and carefully, much in line with the slow progression of the story. As it is so often the case, all is not what it seems, and it takes some time to untangle the many threads that make up this particular plot.
The book begins by introducing us to Nate Delany, a young lawyer working for his father's well-known company, who is basically the do-boy for another lawyer, and whose briefs, as eloquent and well-researched as they are, are not getting credited to him, but the "supervising" attorney. Nate is frustrated, especially as his father doesn't seem to realize that the brilliant briefs "written by" the supervising attorney are actually his son's work and believes that Nate is just a slacker, unable to run the company himself. At the end of his rope, Nate quits.
On his way out, his assistant gives him the name and number of a man who had an appointment with the supervising attorney, but who was apparently deemed too rough, with too many tattoos, to warrant the jerk's time.
Nate makes a call. Nate makes a visit to the hospital where he meets Sean Wilkinson, whose former foster father Hawk was the man rejected by Nate's father's lawyer. As Nate hears what happened to Sean, he can't help but be intrigued by the young man who after a terrible accident lost not only his leg, but also his livelihood and his career as a petroleum engineer.
Hounded by his employer's lawyers to agree to a ridiculous settlement after the accident, Sean needs someone in his corner to help him navigate these new rough waters. And Nate is just the guy to do that.
Both MCs have their own personal struggles and rather different personality-wise.
Sean, with his difficult early life and rough upbringing, isn't quick to trust anyone and plays his cards rather close to his chest. He's not only a brilliant engineer, but also a fantastic tattoo artist, who learned the craft in his foster father's shop. Hawk is perhaps the closest thing to a real father Sean has, and their relationship is very close and supportive. He doesn't have any close friends; in fact even the people with whom he spent months at sea don't really know him at all, including his boss, with whom Sean has had an affair since he interned with the company at 19.
Nate, on the other hand, had a rather normal, if affluent, childhood and appears to most people as someone who had everything handed to him - with his last name being so well-known and the assumptions which come with that. His personal struggles aren't as obvious, but they're just as real. Nate has to prove himself repeatedly at his father's company, more so really than any other newly minted attorney would have to, because he's his father's son. In addition, his parents have more or less forsaken him because their older son is a bigot and doesn't want his children or his wife anywhere near Nate. Since, you know, homosexuality clearly rubs off and we must think of the children. For years, Nate hasn't been able to spend holidayrs or any quality time with his family; it's as if he's been erased. No photographs of Nate are displayed at their house - it's as if he doesn't even exist. His name isn't ever mentioned around the older son, and his brother's kids have zero relationship with him.
Taking on Sean as his first client after quitting his father's firm seems like a great idea at the time, even if it's just fighting for Sean to get the biggest possible settlement for the accident that cost him one of his legs, but there's a lot more to their case than just that. See, Sean invented something that's been used on the ship, and the case now also involves intellectual property rights.
And someone may be out to kill Sean to silence him.
The romance that develops between Nate and Sean is by design a super slow burn. Not only is Sean seriously injured and still recovering from the accident, but he's also Nate's client, and there are a bunch of ethical issues to consider before the two of them can be together. As an added detriment, when Nate tries to find another law firm to represent Sean and remove the ethics issue, he finds that many firms will not even consider taking him on, because of who Nate's father is. No matter how brightly the attraction burns between them, Nate must first and foremost consider that any romantic relationship they might have could adversely impact Sean's day in court.
Underneath all the suspense and intrigue, the point this book drives home time and again is that of family. Not necessarily the one you're born into, but the one you choose, the one you make for yourself. And for that, Sean had a great example in Hawk, his mother's ex-boyfriend, who took him in, no questions asked, when Sean was kicked out at home for being gay. A man who never asked for anything but was there time and again when Sean needed him. A man who not only gave him a home but also a way of paying the bills, when he taught him the fine art of tattooing. Nate has an example too, really - that of how NOT to treat your family. While I believe his parents loved him, they never even considered how hurtful their behavior was when they excluded Nate to appease their older son's homophobia and bigotry.
My only niggle came toward the end of the book, during the big reveal as to who was behind all the bad things that happened. It felt a little over the top, and the villain really came out of left field, to be honest. Sure, the explanation made sense, but the way it all went down was a little... too much, I guess.
Still, this was definitely an enjoyable read, with a satisfying HFN, and I would recommend you give this book a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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I've never read an A/B/O book such as this one. My only exposure to Alpha/Beta/Omega is in shifter books, but this isn't a shifter book.
In this A/B/O universe, there are no shifters. There are no females. There are Alphas who are in charge, Betas who are barren but are allowed to hold jobs and adopt children (usually Beta and Omega children), and Omegas who are the lowest of the low and whose sole purpose, it seems, is to be mated to Alphas and be good little breeders.
Hmmm... that sounds familiar.
In this dystopian future of the United States, the Federal Government is no more, constitutional rights are a thing of the past, and the country is broken up into small provinces which all have their own rules and laws.
We first meet Braun, an Omega, 20 and close to his first heat, upon his father's death. Now a ward of the state, since omegas are third-class citizens at best, unable to inherit, unable to make any personal choices, Braun is sent to a group home for orphaned omegas. Beaten regularly by his father, abused not just physically but mentally as well, told all his life that his sole purpose is to become some alpha-hole's breeding bitch, Braun is certain that alphas cannot be trusted and that happiness is not something he can expect at all. His own brother Kell is mated to a horrible Alpha, and Braun knows that Kell's lot in life is his future as well.
This was a difficult book to read, and it's just as difficult to write a coherent review without spoilers. I would advise any potential reader to heed the warnings in the blurb. Be prepared to RAGE at the injustices within. There were numerous times when I sat in my chair, my Nook gripped in my hands, and my eyes blinded with tears caused by helpless rage.
Consent isn't required between an Alpha and his Omega. Domestic discipline is within the law. Omegas have no rights to speak of, and little protection from abuse.
Yeah, I raged. A lot.
The themes in this book are rather comparable to our current political climate, and there are many parallels that can be drawn between what happens in the book and what's happening in this world today.
I liked that Braun, despite his circumstances, still had fight left in him. I liked that Tarek (the Alpha who helps Braun) was considerate and kind and patient. He took the time to win Braun's trust, something Braun didn't give easily, and he helped Braun as much as he could. He wasn't perfect, far from it, but he tried and tried to do the right thing by the young man in his care, no matter how hard Braun fought believing that an Alpha could be kind.
I also quite liked the two Betas who take Braun in and conceal him, and who help him through his first heat. It wasn't easy reading to watch Braun go through that.
None of this book was easy reading, though there is reason for hope that things may start to change to make the lives of omegas a little easier.
Kell's book is next. That will likely be even more difficult to get through.
Despite the dark themes inside, I would recommend this series.
** I received a free copy of this book from Indigo Marketing & Design. A positive review was not promised in return. **
What do you get when you mix the enemies-to-lovers trope with a pinch of doing-the-bossman and an almost FUBAR wedding plan?
Finding Mr. Wright, is what.
Mason is a wedding planner in Colorado. His most recent contract calls for a 200-person wedding and reception at the Leaning N Ranch where Ford and Stoney (from the first book) have been busy creating a fabulous destination for weddings and other such things, all LGBTQ friendly. Yurts included. I had to google what a yurt is, but now I know.
Anyway, a few days before the wedding, Noah Wright, whose office has so far communicated with Mason by phone/email about this huge wedding, comes up to the Leaning N from Dallas, where he's got a gazillionaire oil business, to make sure everything is as planned but finds out that someone somewhere FUBAR'd - Sam isn't one of two grooms, as Mason assumed, but the bride, and as her brother, paying for the shindig, he ain't none too pleased. Matter of fact, Noah acts much like an entitled jerk at first, but the author did a fine job making him a lot more likable as the book progressed.
But Mason is of course a professional, no matter how much he wants to climb Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome at first sight even if he's a bit snotty and snarky, and quickly rearranges things to be fit for a princess.
Noah is impressed. Intrigued. And definitely in lust.
I quite liked this. This author has an uncanny knack for writing fun characters, and I enjoyed my time reading this book. Of course it's super tropey - this is a Dreamspun Desires title after all - but when you take away all the OTT and super rich stuff, you're still left with two men who fall hard and fast (with sexy times too), and decide that nothing shall stand in their way to their HEA. Well, Mason might not be so convinced at first, but Noah is - and what Noah wants, Noah gets. They figure it out, y'all, as they should.
It was lovely to revisit with Ford, Stoney, and all the folks on Leaning N - they played a big part in Mason pulling off the wedding after the big oops, and I hope we'll get to see more of them in a future book. Sam, the bride, and her groom were a fun couple too, even if Sam came across as a wee bit on the spoiled side, used to getting her way. Seriously, a climbing wall?
There were a few moments toward the end where Mason has some doubts, understandably so, based on what he's being told. I mean, I knew that they would get their HEA, but for a short while there, I was a little worried that things might not work out as planned. Mason actually shows some backbone throughout, and refuses to let Noah walk all over him. Good for him, that.
It's a feel-good read, which is what I expect from one of these titles. This was an excellent addition to this series, and while it can be read as a standalone, why would you want to? Read 'em both, I say. They're worth it.
** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **