MyFictionNook

Sandra @ My Fiction Nook

I like romance and boys loving boys in my books. 

You can also find me on my main blog

 

 




1416 Devotees
116 Devoted To
3408 BOOKS


Currently reading

Secrets and Charms
Lou Harper
Progress: 100%
The Luckiest (Lucky Moon Book 2)
M.J. O'Shea, M.J. O'Shea
Progress: 100%
My Favorite Uncle
Marshall Thornton
Progress: 100%
The River Leith
Leta Blake
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Favorite quotes


ARC Review: Bad Attitude by K.A. Mitchell

Bad Attitude - K.A. Mitchell

Well, then. This was at times a frustrating read, because both Gavin and Jamie had some issues. I mean, issues. Like, ISSUES. 

This book gave me whiplash from the constant hot and cold and yes and no, much like that Katy Perry song. 

Gavin is rebelling to some extent against the expectations of his wealthy family. He's supposed to show up at events, look good in a tux, and behave. Which has stunted his emotional growth by a large degree. He's starved for affection but too chicken shit to admit that to anyone including himself, so he postures and prances and performs because who the fuck needs feelings. 

Jamie has a massive chip on his shoulder, because all his friends are paired up, and that's just fucking fabulous, because Jamie wants nothing to do with a ball and chain on his ankles, no, sirree. He's just fine with the wham, bam, thank you, Sam, and he sure as hell doesn't need a boyfriend. Or love. Also, he's a redhead, so that's another strike, amirite? No, no, Jamie is a man's man and feelings are for pussies. 

So, both of these men have a really bad attitude towards love and making themselves vulnerable. They fuck, they fight, they dance around each other, neither capable of asking for what they really want but are too afraid to face, and so we are treated to a weird sex party, and accidental dives off a bridge, and feeling uncomfortable at a social event, and generally being too damn emotionally stunted to get a clue. 

Eli and Quinn from book 2, as supporting characters, really steal the show, especially Eli. I've adored this character ever since I first read Bad Boyfriend, and I enjoyed seeing him in this book. 

It took me some time to warm up to Gavin and Jamie, but I was on board about halfway through the book. Jamie comes around a little faster than Gavin, but both of them hide their true needs behind macho alpha male behavior, using sex to avoid intimacy, and displaying bitterness about their lot in life to mask their loneliness and vulnerability. 

Gavin's friend Beach - yeah, I found zero redeeming qualities in him in this book, and knowing that book 5 is about him... well. While part of me is looking forward to seeing what the author does with this character, another, albeit smaller, part wants to simply forget he exists. The only good thing I can say about Beach at this point is that he serves as a catalyst for Gavin to get his shit together and finally tell Jamie the truth. 

So, whiplash. Be prepared for that. Be ready for an at times frustrating read that delivers flawed characters who still have a lot to learn, despite thinking they know it all, and a romance that almost crashes and burns before it even begins. 

But it is a romance, so there is a happy ending. In case you were wondering. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

ARC Review: Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson

Fourteen Summers - Quinn Anderson

The book opens with a wedding ceremony. Yes, you read that right.

Okay, so, fine, it's a pretend wedding ceremony, and the boys are but 10 years old or so, but it establishes from the start what dynamics may be at play.

Max and Aiden are identical twins, with Max being the older brother by a few minutes, which has shaped their relationship for a long time. Max was always the more outgoing, and Aiden, much more introverted, was happy to stand in his brother's shadow while they were younger. Now, with both of them at college, Aiden wants to be more than just Max's brother.

Oliver was their childhood friend until divorce meant leaving with his mother, and his father moving away as well. But now his father has moved back to their old town, and Oliver has come home for the summer. The family dynamics, with loud, overbearing uncles and with parents that still can't seem to stand being in the same room together, has Oliver not wanting to spend much time at his father's house, so he's real happy to run into Max and Aiden again. Introverted like Aiden, Oliver is perfectly content to let Max plan their get-togethers, especially since that allows him to moon over Aiden, his childhood crush.

For the most part, this read like a YA/NA novel, with lots of mooning and crushing and blushing, and not a whole lot of on page action, and characters who on occasion sounded younger than their purported years, but maturity is a sliding scale so I was mostly fine with their portrayals.

What I really liked is that the author primarily explored the dynamics at play between two twin brothers who have been joined at the hip most of their lives, and a boy coming between them when Aiden and Oliver get romantically involved. I loved how Max's jealousy was explored, how it realistically became a roadblock, and how it forced honesty and open conversation between Aiden and Max and allowed them to experience real growth in their relationship. In fact, the book, told from the POVs of all three of the young man, really focuses more so on the relationship struggles between the twins than the developing romance between Oliver and Aiden. While the crush/romance serves as a catalyst to the struggles Max and Aiden go through, it's not the the only focus of this book.

The characters, their portrayals, felt realistic to me for the most part, other than their maturity levels, and that's probably more so on me than the author - I guess I expected a bit more from 20 year olds even if they're twins. Out of the three of them, I would say that Oliver is probably the most mature, which is potentially due to him being a child of divorce, which tends to make you grow up a little faster, and also because he's an only child.

There are some interesting supporting characters as well. The twins' parents welcome Oliver back with open arms, and make him feel like he's part of the family again. They were perhaps slightly too perfect, but meh, I didn't care. I liked them. Oliver's parents are supportive of him, but also don't necessarily create an environment for him in which he feels free, on either side. His uncles and extended family on his father's side are a loud bunch, which introverted Oliver doesn't like so much, and his mother, while supportive, seemed to struggle somewhat with wanting her child have a relationship with his father, and also not realizing that the divorce affected Oliver much more than she thought.

The book ends with a super sweet epilogue, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Quinn Anderson has proven once again that she can write fully fleshed out characters, with realistic, convincing characterizations, and a believable plot and timeline.

Highly recommended.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

ARC Review: Hawk In The Rowan by Sam Burns

Hawk In The Rowan - Sam Burns

Oh, this was so, so good, y'all. This is the 2nd book in the arc for Devon Murphy, head of the town council, and Wade Hunter, deputy sheriff and his mate. While this might be readable as a standalone, I don't recommend you do. You'd miss out on their beginning, and you'd miss out on this quirky, wonderful, amazing town full of supernatural beings who all support each other and try to protect each other from harm of outsiders who would use and abuse them, simply for what they are.

In the very first book of this trilogy of trilogies, we got to meet Devon and Wade for the first time and watched them enter a romantic relationship, amid fighting a threat to the town and Devon coming into his own as he learns about his abilities, being Fae. That book left them with a strong HFN, but I knew that Devon struggled a bit - not only with his newfound abilities and responsibilities, but also with his inner voice that tells that he doesn't want to be tied down, and that he's not what they all see in him.

Now that the danger from the first three books has apparently passed, Devon wonders if he'll stay. Whether he should stay. Whether he should make a big commitment to Wade. Whether that is too much, too fast. Whether he's really supposed to stay, he, the wanderer.

We see him interact with Salli (a siren), Wade's brother Jesse, who's Devon's best friend, Fletcher and his mate, Jesse's mate Sean, Helena McKenzie who still treats Devon like he's dirt beneath her feet, for reasons we find out inside the pages, the vampire Cassidy, and the wise Oak - all the characters from the first trilogy make an appearance again and further the plot in their own way.

And then danger visits Rowan Harbor again.

I continue to be amazed by this author's prowess. For most of this book, I was at the edge of my seat, breathless and clutching my Nook white-knuckled. The tension builds slowly, like the blizzard coming, and when the weather unleashes its might, so does the danger, and Devon is right in the middle.

The symbolism is evident - as Devon fights the beast in the woods, he's also fighting the beast within him, the one that doubts, that fears, that wonders. And as he is victorious over the beast without, he also slays the one within. As he saves the towns folk (not on his own, of course), so he saves not only his own heart but Wade's too. And as the beast falls, so does Devon's doubt that he truly is exactly where he's meant to be.

And finally, Devon sees, really sees, what's been in front of him all along. Amazing what happens when you conquer your fears and speak your truth.

Obviously, this isn't the end, and I expect book 5 to pick up where we left off with Jesse Hunter and Sean Anderson as well as a new danger to the town, where all of our new friends have to come together to save the day.

This is such a fantastic series, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Run, don't walk, to get yourself a copy of these books. They are well worth your time.



** I received a free copy of this book from the tour organizer in exchange for an honest review. **

ARC Review: Forgiveness by Grace R. Duncan

Forgiveness - Grace R. Duncan

I flew through this, from opening the file this morning until finishing it tonight, with grumbled interruptions for such pesky things as lunch and dinner and errands needing to be run.

The romance was slow burn, frustrating at times, and sweet at other times. The mythology is still well done, and I enjoyed catching up with the couples from previous books. 

Nine years ago, Eric's chosen mate broke their bond, and he's been in wolf form ever since, roaming the woods, thinking he can never go home again. An unexpected encounter leads him home, returning him to his human form, having to learn to be human all over again. Opposing thumbs are a tricky thing if you've been on paws for a long time. 

Soon after coming home, Eric runs into Ben, a newcomer to their pack, and finds his destined mate, the person their goddess has chosen just for him, a mate that trumps a chosen one. 

And Eric freaks out. 

Because he's a dumbass. Because he's been hurt and he doesn't trust that this one won't also leave him. 

Like I said, this was a frustrating read at times - I wanted to slap him in multiple times as Eric keeps asking for time and patience, and Ben was a fucking SAINT and kept giving Eric time and space and whatever he needed, because that's what destined mates do.

Ben has some struggles of his own - for all his life, his mother told him that the wolf within is a demon to be kept inside. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why Ben's father would choose his wife (a destined mate also, but one who never took the bite to become wolf) over his son, when he could see how much his wife's ranting about the demon-wolf hurt his kid. He never really stepped in to stop her from inflicting this emotional abuse on his son. I was ENRAGED! And then she... well, no, I won't give that away.

But Eric and Ben have friends now, and they have support, and they learn, they grow, and they accept what Diana has given them. 

I would say that this book was probably my least favorite of this series. For one, I found Eric disappearing for nine years a bit long, considering that Kim wasn't his destined mate. Secondly, I strongly disliked that both important females in this book were portrayed as uber-bitchy and had few, if any, redeeming qualities. I really don't like that in a book. 

The author has a writing style that works well for this type of book, and there weren't any lulls in the plot or any kind of big time jumps. I appreciated seeing couples from the previous books all step up to help Eric and Ben where they can - the sense of family, of belonging, is strong with this series. 

While this could be read as a stand-alone, I would recommend you read this series in order for full impact. 



** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

Author Of The Month - Quinn Anderson - Week Two

Join us again as we continue to celebrate this fabulous author! 

Author Of The Month - Quinn Anderson - Week One

Join us today as we kick off our month-long celebrations for this fabulous author! Take a look at the Murmur Inc series, read some excerpts, and find out Quinn's favorite things. Plus, there's a giveaway!!

ARC Review: Hard Line by Sidney Bell

Hard Line - Sidney Bell

Tobias is a consummate good boy. The perfect people pleaser. After announcing at a young age that he would become a doctor like his Papa, he's now stuck in premed classes he hates, but can't tell anyone. Struggling with abandonment issues all his life, after being found in a dumpster as a baby and having been adopted by a Haitian couple who provide a loving but strict home, he has tried and tried and tried to be the perfect son, the perfect friend - because if only he's perfect, people won't leave him. He remembers what happened the last time he tried to break free of his parents' expectations. It earned him a trip to the Woodbury Center, where he met Ghost and Church (whom we met in the first book). Yes, Tobias is a good boy. 

Until he isn't. 

When Ghost goes missing and Tobias realizes that he may be in trouble, he will do whatever it takes to find his friend. Including blackmailing a PI to help him.

Sullivan is that PI. He's working an old case that his boss took over from the previous owner of the firm, and he is pursuing a new trail that puts him in Tobias' path. Blackmailed into helping the younger man find his friend, he reluctantly begins to spend time with Tobias while gathering clues.

It becomes clear quickly that Sullivan possesses a quality Tobias craves. He craves it without knowing what to call it. Soon, they spend their days searching for clues and their nights exploring their mutual kink. 

This book is really a character study wrapped in a mystery/suspense plot. The author cleverly weaves Tobias' growth as a person, as an individual, as someone who figures out his own needs and wants compared to what he's been told to need and want, into the plot and provides Sullivan as the key to give Tobias wings to fly. 

Of course, standing up for yourself isn't an easy thing to do when you've been indoctrinated all your life to do for others, to sacrifice your own wants and needs, to stay the course laid out for you by someone else, while grappling with crushing guilt and fears of abandonment. All too often, we attempt to change ourselves, only to be told by those we love to change back. To revert to who and what we were, because change is hard. It's difficult, not only for the person changing, but also for the people in your lives who may not understand your need to become someone different. Some people will withhold their affection because you've decided to become a truer version of yourself, and if you fear losing them, if you don't meet their expectations - well.... That takes a lot of strength to overcome.

Tobias learns that people don't always leave because he's not perfect. Tobias learns to trust himself. Tobias learns to trust Sullivan. 

And Sullivan learns to trust Tobias. It takes him a bit longer to see the younger man clearly, but eventually, he does. 

The mystery/suspense - yeah, not going to give anything away here. I will say though that it had some twists and turns I didn't expect, and it kept me glued to the pages until the very end. 

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it even more so than the first one. While it could be read as a standalone, I think it would make more sense to someone who's read the first one - there is some background info that should be present for this book to have the full impact. 

And, honestly, why wouldn't you read both? Sidney Bell has written a fabulous follow-up to the first book, and they are both well worth your time!


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **

ARC Review: Diego's Secret by Bryan T. Clark

Diego's Secret - Bryan T. Clark

25 year old Diego Castillo came to the US at the age of 17 after illegally crossing the border from Mexico with his two older brothers via a coyote - a person paid to smuggle people into the US. This cost their father lots of money, but they hoped for a better future than what they would have had in Mexico. When staying with an uncle didn't work out, Diego and his brother rented a tiny 2 bedroom apartment where they still live, plus the oldest brother's girlfriend. Unable to obtain legal status, Diego runs a landscaping business and tries to fly under the radar as much as possible, including keeping his sexuality a secret from his brothers. Being a Mariposa is obviously a no-no. 

Winston Makena, 32, is widowed and grieving. Having lost his husband suddenly, he's barely going through the motions. He lives comfortably in a mansion, where Diego is his gardener, but has basically distanced himself from his company and only leaves the house if he absolutely has to. He notices the gardener, who mows his yard every week, who plants the beautiful flowers his late husband loved, and who keeps the garden looking gorgeous. He notices. And finally steps outside to talk to the guy. 

And thus the two finally meet. Diego is of course aware of the older man, but keeps his distance, until Winston makes the first move.

This book is by design a slow-burn romance. Winston is struck by the younger man, but also unsure of whether he should pursue him, and Diego feels completely out of his element. There's a bit of a language barrier, but also, much bigger, a social barrier to overcome. They are two very different people, and for a long time Diego is hesitant and afraid to let Winston in, not only due to their different social standing, but also out of fear what his brothers will say.

While the two men spend a lot of time together on page, the author also took the time to expand on their daily lives, which made the book drag a bit on occasion. Still, there weren't many superfluous scenes, and the story unfolded mostly organically. 

In fact, I liked that the two men didn't immediately jump into bed, and that their romance didn't immediately solve all their problems. It felt realistic to me, though I still have questions about the solution to Diego's immigration status - simply marrying an illegal doesn't automatically grant them a Green Card, and there are additional steps they'll have to take. 

Overall, I believed the relationship, and I appreciated that it unfolded slowly - it made it more believable.

This was my first book by this author. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **
 

Author Of The Month - J. Scott Coatsworth - Grand Finale

Join us once more as we celebrate this fabulous author!

 

 

ARC Review: Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy

Somewhere Over Lorain Road - Bud Gundy
Please don't let the cover confuse you into thinking this is purely an M/M romance. It's not. While there is a love story inside, this book is at its core a mystery with gay characters. It's a book about secrets, and unsolved murders, and old wounds, and family pain. It's about coming home to help your aging mother take care of your father in his last days, it's about giving an old man his dying wish. It's about terrible, horrible secrets kept for 40 years, and confronting the ghosts of your past.

Don Esker has come home to North Homestead, Ohio, where his father lies dying, and his mother and older brothers need help with the palliative care. Don has done well for himself in San Francisco, working in marketing, and is in a position where he can work from anywhere. Coming home isn't easy, as the family name is still talked about in hushed voices in connection to an unsolved crime that happened 40 years ago in 1975, when a little boy, the neighbor's and Sheriff's son, mysteriously disappeared, and two other little boys were found brutally murdered. Don's father was a suspect in the disappearance of the first boy, if only for one evening, and while he was never charged with anything, his good name has never been fully cleared. The suspicion alone shattered Don's family, and when he came out as gay, staying in town became impossible for him. Small towns and small-minded people will not forgive and not forget, and the townsfolk certainly wouldn't accept a gay man. 

In a lucid moment, Don's father asks for just one thing before he dies - to have his name cleared once and for all. Don, obliging son, begins a journey that not only brings him to Bruce, the love interest, but also face to face with his childhood friend, the brother of the missing boy, who still lives with his father, the ex-Sheriff across the street from the Esker home. It forces him to confront things of his past. Thick as thieves when they were young, Don and his friend haven't spoken in many years, longer than Don has been gone from North Homestead. There is history there. And hurt, anger, and hate. 

As the story unfolds, we are given pieces of the past, set in the 70s and 80s. There's an incident with an old fridge. There's the moment in which Mr. Esker is hauled from his home to answer questions about the disappearance of the neighbor's son. There's the moment in which Don's brother... no, I won't spoil this for you. Just do yourself a favor and read this book.

There is a moment when I knew, just KNEW, who the culprit was, thought I knew who had committed these crimes. 

And there is a moment when the truth comes out, and I was proven wrong. Except, not entirely. 

The romance between Don and Bruce doesn't really begin until the 2nd half of this book, and it's never in the forefront of the tale. There are no explicit scenes, and there didn't need to be any. It unfolds quietly, organically, and peacefully, just as it should have. These are grown, mature men, and there are no games to be played. No contrived misunderstandings. A love story. Simple. Quiet. 

Obviously, Don is not a skilled investigator, and it's often just sheer luck that he is able to find a piece he needs to solve the decades-old crime. He fumbles more often than not, which is to be expected, but he does persevere. 

The mystery is eventually solved. The truth comes out, as it always will, no matter how much time passes. I wasn't prepared for this truth. I wasn't expecting this truth. Though, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go that route, and I must applaud the author for taking this road. It humanized the perpetrator, and though it doesn't offer forgiveness, it offers a believable motive. It does also shine a bright light on deep dysfunction within a family, on emotional and psychological and physical abuse. Facades crumble under such light. Cracks appear. Truth will out.

This book, with its tight narration and unexpected turn of events, kept me glued to its pages until the very last one. It's riveting - a page turner, and masterfully written. 

Give this a try, I beg you. This isn't a romance. It's a mystery with a gay MC. It's a story about family. But it is also a love story. Absolutely worth your time.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **
 
 

 

Author Of The Month - J. Scott Coatsworth - Week Three

Join us as we continue our celebrations for this fantastic author! 

Book Review: No More Hiding by Renee Stevens

No More Hiding - Renee  Stevens

If my husband came out to me and told me he was gay, the one thing I would NEVER do is deprive him of our kids. Parents - don't do that shit. Kids are not bargaining tools. If your relationship with your spouse ends, they don't stop being a parent. Don't kidnap your kids. Don't withhold your kids from your ex-spouse. If you're like Phillip's ex-wife from this here book - FUCK YOU!

Now that we have that out of the way - this was only my 2nd book by this author, and I enjoyed reading it, when I wasn't ranting at Phil's ex-wife, that horrible woman. 

Phillip (and by extension, his twin brother) has been desperately looking for his two kids ever since his ex-wife didn't turn up for visitation and ran away with them. It's been six long years, and Phillip is barely living. His despair and heartache, his fears and guilt just poured off the pages as soon as we met him. When his brother Robert tells him to join the new gym, Phillip meets Vance. 

Vance is immediately enamored with Phillip, and their relationship takes off relatively fast, considering that we don't really see a whole lot of their interactions other than at the gym and a weekend they spend together. Phillip seems a bit more reticent at first, plagued by guilt over having feelings for Vance when he should be looking for his children. Then Vance and Phillip are in a serious accident that ends up with Vance breaking his leg and ending up in the hospital, which clarifies Phillip's feelings for Vance, even more so when he takes Vance home to look after him.

And then Phillip gets a long-awaited phone call.

I had some doubts about Samantha and Jacob adjusting so quickly to living with their father and Vance, and re-forging the relationships. I would have liked to find out a bit more about what happened to them in the past six years, and also about the man who helped their mother kidnap them and hide them from their father. Even with the relative ease with which Sam and Jacob adjust, this is the point of the book where it all becomes a roller coaster ride, and you can only hope you're strapped in tightly. I experienced a myriad of emotions, sitting on the edge of my seat, hoping that all the ups and downs would end up in a happy ever after.

Which, of course, it did.

The author created a well-rounded supporting cast, including Phillip's twin and his wife, who were supportive and helped Sam and Jacob find their stride again. 

This is definitely an emotional read, which is totally my thing, so it really worked for me. Phillip and Vance aren't perfect, but they're perfect for each other, and it was a joy to watch them both grow into their relationship, as well as become a family. 

Well done, Ms. Stevens. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **

Author Of The Month - J. Scott Coatsworth - Week Two

Join us again as we continue our celebrations for this fabulous author!

Author Of The Month - J. Scott Coatsworth

Join us today as we kick off our month-long celebrations for this fantastic author, with a look at The Oberon Cycle series, and Scott's favorite things. There's also a chance to win one of his books! 

Release Day ARC Review: Sweet Nothings by T. Neilson

Sweet Nothings - T. Neilson

At first glance, this seems like a sweet and cute romance, with an MC who's starting over in his smallish home town of Lake Balmoral, and the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks being the love interest. Throw in some freshly baked goods, like tarts and muffins and such, and you might think you'd be able to settle in for a nice, easy ride to happy ever after.

You'd be right. But you'd also be wrong.

Sweet Nothings is a sweet and cute romance, no doubt, but it's also a lot more than that. It's about starting over, about family ties, about older brothers, about finding your own way, about not judging a book by its cover, about forgiveness, about trust, and about love. 

When Tristan flees his current life and his fiance in NYC to return home to Lake Balmoral, we don't know much about his reasons, other than that Christopher, the ex, is controlling and manipulative, and that Tristan felt stifled and smothered and needed to get out of the relationship. He buys the old bakery with his savings and works toward the reopening. 

He meets Jake, a car mechanic, on his first day home while shopping for groceries. It's a real meet-cute, even though Tristan's flirting techniques are rusty and even though he's warned off Jake by the store clerk and everyone else. Tristan doesn't care what others say - there's immediate attraction between him and Jake, and he's all too willing to find out where this might take them.

Meddling family notwithstanding, Tristan works hard to get the bakery business off the ground, taking wholesale orders from his oldest brother Simon and the nice couple who owns the coffee shop next door, while cleaning and sprucing up the place. And getting closer to Jake.

Jake has a history, a bad one, and the reader finds out fairly quickly that Jake's been to prison, but is now released and working for his sister's garage, living in an old travel trailer behind her house, to get back on his feet. The reason for his prison stint isn't immediately clear, but nothing about Jake screams criminal, and his whole persona was one of kindness and consideration, and keeping his nose to the grindstone. He knew, of course, how people looked at him in town, but he wasn't willing to prove their assumptions right - he kept on working and doing the right thing. Good guy, Jake is. 

The further I got into the book, the clearer it became that Tristan was afraid of his ex, and for good reason. When he finally tells the truth about what pushed him to leave NYC, to end the relationship, I might have sniffled a bit, and I might have wanted to reach into the book and wring Christopher's neck. What also upset me was Simon's behavior toward his little brother - Tristan didn't need a father; he needed his brother to be on his side and stand by him. Sure, Simon changed his whole attitude once the truth came out, but his grumpy ass should've known better. 

As you can see in the blurb, the bakery falls victim to a fire. I'm not going to tell you here why there's a fire, or who's responsible for it, because that's pretty clear once you get into the book, but I was struck by how the author chose to use that moment, and how it really made it clear that Tristan believed Jake, and that he stood up for him. I truly loved that scene!

As for Jake, his truth also comes out, and we are told why he went to prison, why he made that choice, and what it has cost him. I might have sniffled a bit once more, but thankfully the author didn't delve too deeply into his experiences in prison. 

So... while this is superficially a sweet and cute romance, it's actually much more. The 3rd person narration, switching between Tristan's and Jake's POV worked well for me, and the writing isn't overly flowery. I enjoyed this quite a lot. 

And I think you should definitely give this book a try. Perhaps you'll love it like I did, and then end up in my position - anxiously awaiting the next installment when grumpy Simon gets hit by the love bug. I can hardly wait!


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

ARC Review: One Under by J.L. Merrow

One Under - J.L. Merrow

This book, while part of the overall Porthkennack series, is basically a continuation of the first one, Wake Up Call, which I also loved. It would probably be best to read that first, because while this one doesn't focus on the characters from the first book, they do make an appearance, and there isn't a whole lot of backstory shared here - it's assumed the reader knows who they are.

This book also had a bit of a darker, more melancholy undertone than the first one, and for good reason. 

Mal Thomas has come to Porthkennack to heal from a traumatic experience at work, that isn't fully explained early on. Believe me, though, it's horrid. While I don't have personal experience with this sort of thing, a long-time friend of mine does. He is still, after many years since that incident, struggling with the emotional and psychological aftermath. So once I found out what had happened to Mal, I fully understood where he was coming from.

Jory Roscarrock (yes, the much younger brother of Devan's mother) hasn't had an easy life so far. While he has a doctorate in English Lit from a prestigious university, he also has been living under a dark cloud for some time, partly because of his older siblings, and partly because of a youthful indiscretion that derailed much of his plans. 

Mal and Jory meet. There's attraction, when Mal, after getting a bit of bad news from home while at the town's museum, is in need of comforting and Jory, the museum curator, offers, with much social awkwardness, a cup of tea. Then Mal finds out who Jory is, and the romance nearly dies before it has a chance to blossom. 

As with all of this author's books, I definitely appreciate the very British writing style, the very British choice of words, and the very British setting. JL Merrow just manages to transport me to whatever place they write about, and I could easily visualize the stark cliffs, the dark tunnels, the grey skies, the imposing house Jory calls home, the pub, the town - everything is described in vivid details, and the reader is transported into this fictional place on the rugged coastal setting. 

Both Mal and Jory spend time worrying about the secrets they keep/kept from the other, and both wonder if a relationship between them is even worth pursuing, considering Mal lives in London and Jory cannot leave Porthkennack, for reasons. There is a lot of angst inside, and this isn't a romance that comes easily for either of them. In addition to their personal issues, there's also the issue of Mal being best friends with the aforementioned Devan - who is Jory's nephew, and who's been treated badly by Jory's siblings - which puts additional strain on the budding romance, obviously, as Mal is torn between the attraction to Jory and his loyalty to Dev. 

The plot progresses slowly, and it had to, in my opinion, because the roadblocks in their way are, while not insurmountable, definitely considerable, and this book wouldn't have worked as well for me if the author had rushed through their individual insecurities and issues they had to overcome. 

I think the lesson here is that if you want something badly enough, you have to find the will to fight for it. You have to forge the path that works for you, because ultimately the only person responsible for your own happiness is you. And if you want it, pursue it. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **