MyFictionNook

Sandra @ My Fiction Nook

I like romance and boys loving boys in my books. 

You can also find me on my main blog

 

 




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Secrets and Charms
Lou Harper
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The Luckiest (Lucky Moon Book 2)
M.J. O'Shea, M.J. O'Shea
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My Favorite Uncle
Marshall Thornton
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The River Leith
Leta Blake
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Author Of The Month - Ari McKay - Grand Finale

Join us again today for our Grand Finale Celebrations for these fantabulous authors!!

Book Review: Lace by K.C. Wells

Lace - K.C. Wells, Meredith Russell

I'm of two minds about this book.

On one hand, this was perfect, kinky erotica, and I love how much emotion this author always puts into the sexy times. Also, manties. Yum!!

On the other hand, Dave is a jerk for outing Shawn's personal kink to someone else, and both of them suffer from "can't-talk-about-shit-itis". So frustrating.

Why four stars, then, you ask? Because it's K.C. Wells and I just adore her particular brand of magic. There's definitely a connection between the two men - best mates for ages - that turns to more when one of them finds out the other is not so straight after all, and the other finds some lacy knickers in a dresser drawer that prompts a WTF and a BJ.

Except, they just. Can't. Seem. To. TALK to each other. One makes a bloody stupid assumption, and the other makes a bloody stupid assumption, and they get all tangled into knots about each other and what the other might be feeling.

Jeez, guys, communicate, eh? It's not that difficult, right? OMG, they frustrated me to no end. I'm sure the author intended that, so - success!!

I liked both of them, except for that shit Dave pulls when he tells another guy about Shawn's proclivity for silky/lacy drawers, which is so uncool. Super uncool. I'm shocked that Shawn didn't seem to care all that much about Dave outing his little secret, especially considering that Shawn goes to the same gym, and seriously? *snarls*

But, my God, when they burn up the sheets, and then when they finally get it together? Yeah - that's where this book shines, and I was feeling all happy and gooey inside after the ending.

So, I'm of two minds, but the enjoyment side won out. It's a quick read, though I wouldn't recommend reading it during lunch time unless you work from home, and in that case, what are you waiting for? Read it!!



** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions. A positive review was not promised in return. **

ARC Review: Michael, Reinvented by Diana Copland

Michael, Reinvented (Delta Restorations Book 2) - Diana Copland

4.5 stars for this 2nd installment in the Delta Restorations series!

 

First off, this shouldn't be read as a standalone. That's not to say that you couldn't - you just shouldn't. I think that to understand the progression of Michael and Gil's relationship, you should have read "David, Renewed", because the underlying UST between the two men develops in book 1, and is carried to its explosive conclusion in this book.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Michael is still David's assistant, and since David is still happily in love with Jackson (now living in the same house), and since Jackson and his band of merry men have formed a renovation company, with David slated as the interior designer, Michael still sees Gil on a fairly regular basis. Their relationship consists of a lot of teasing (on Gil's side) and a lot of "the lady doth protest too much" on Michael's side.

See, Michael is scared to admit to himself and anyone else that he's attracted to Gil, and that Gil possibly has the power to get past the brick walls Michael has erected around his heart due to past hurt. Therefore, Michael thinks that as long as he keeps Gil at bay and does not allow the man close, he'll be safe. So he snarks a lot. A lot. A whole lot. I giggled quite a bit at Michael's prickly responses to Gil's pursuit, knowing that it was inevitable, and just sat back to enjoy the ride to bliss.

Except the unknown entity from the first book who seems to be hellbent on hurting Michael's friends and business partners is still lurking in the bushes, and there's still the threat of David's abusive ex coming back to wreak more havoc, and when Michael is house-sitting for David and Jackson and finds a vandal outside of the house, his first call is not to the police but Gil.

Wonder why.

There's a lot more to Gil than Michael realized, and slowly but surely, as Michael discovers more about who Gil really is, his opinion of the man is changing, and Michael sees that maybe, just maybe, it's safe to be honest with himself and acknowledge with his head that what his heart has known for a while.

And just when Michael seems ready to take that step, tragedy strikes.

Nothing like a wake-up call to get your act together, is there?

I adored Gil - he was such a good, kind, and super patient guy, someone with a somewhat gruff exterior but a heart of gold. And Michael, prickly, hurt, and scared Michael, just grows on you - I realized in the first book that he must have had some real heartache in his life to become so standoffish and hide himself from what is definitely a good thing.

I can't say enough good things about the writing - super smooth and engaging, without any lulls or abrupt time jumps, with excellent pacing. While the book is told entirely from Michael's POV, and while Michael is a bit of an unreliable narrator, we get plenty of between the lines information about Gil. Michael may not always understand what makes Gil tick, but it's always very clear what Gil's priorities are, and how much he loves Michael, even if Michael refuses to see it.

Obviously, the men from Delta Restorations all make multiple appearances here, so we get to revisit with Vern, an older man with a rough exterior, (pretend-)grouchy most of the time, and Manny, who comes a bit more out of his shell in this book, but who still carries the scars from a previous relationship inside and out. I do hope that Manny's book will be next, because he sure as hell deserves someone who loves him fully and completely. Hopefully, that person will be Vern. I loved the easy banter between the group of men, and it was clear that they all respect each other and have formed a strong, supportive friendship.

This was a wonderful continuation of this series, and I can hardly wait to read the next book. Extra kudos for including the Velveteen Rabbit in this story - brilliant idea and execution, and thanks so much for making me cry.

One niggle - a neurologist isn't the same as a neurosurgeon, and these terms cannot be used interchangeably. I'm not sure if this was a research fail or an editing fail, but hopefully this was fixed in the final version.

Highly recommended that you pick up this book and its predecessor.


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

Author Of The Month - Ari McKay - Week Three

Join us again today as we continue our celebrations for this fabulous author, with a look at Striking Sparks and Breaking Bonds, both with excerpts, plus a giveaway!

Release Day ARC Review: Two For Trust by Elle Brownlee

Two for Trust (Dreamspun Desires Book 34) - Elle Brownlee

Well, that was mostly lovely. No steam but a few hot kisses and a lot of longing, and a super slow burn romance between an American nurse/tourist in England and the well-off owner of a manor. Finch is utterly adorable and exactly what the somewhat stuffy Benedict needed in his life.

Finch Mason, young, single, and a nurse, is on the trip of a lifetime - two weeks in jolly olde England, armed with a National Trust pass, that turns out to be a pass for two for one week, instead of a pass for one for two weeks. No matter, because why not offer the 2nd entry to the old mill he's visiting to the handsome Brit who shows up ever so fortuitously. And then Finch and Benedict meet time and again, and share a week of visiting historical sites in that particular area of Britain.

Over the course of the week, Finch rescues a puppy from a hole in the ground, has tea and crumpets with Benedict, and starts to have feelings for the handsome older man. He's quit his job in the States because they wouldn't grant him the vacation time, and he is not looking forward to returning stateside because of that pesky job search he'll have to undertake.

His funds are limited, but he's optimistic and a bit of a history geek, and admires Benedict and his charms.

I could see how Finch would look to the older Benedict as someone to admire, but I just didn't really buy the developing relationship. More often than not, Benedict comes across as a cold fish - I'm not sure whether that was his personality or if he acted this way because he thought it was expected.

After the first week, Benedict plans to move on to the next hostel, but his plans are dashed when he returns to his room and discovers someone has ransacked it and stolen nearly everything. And Benedict rushes to the rescue.

I had already figured at their first meeting that Benedict wasn't quite who Finch assumed him to be, so the reveal wasn't a big surprise to me. I also at that point became a little bit uncomfortable with the manner in which Benedict takes over control, and starts telling Finch what to do. It could be said that he was doing this only because he too had started to look at the young man with something like desire and longing, and possibly even love, but it wasn't well explained and not really shown.

At about 2/3 in, Benedict asks Finch to take his grandmother across the Channel to visit her sister in The Netherlands, for payment, and Finch agrees to play nursemaid for the trip across and a few days in the Dutch countryside, and then catching a flight to London and get there in time for his return to the US. There's an unexpected kiss at the dock. Except things don't exactly go as planned once they've made it across, and Grandma gets herself into a spot of trouble, and then Finch... well, you read this for yourself.

Finch ends up staying longer than initially planned - not that he has a job to go home to - and then there's a bit of a misunderstanding, and an impetuous Finch runs off, thinking he's unwanted.

As this is a romance, we get a happy ending, of course.

I quite adored Finch. He had a really bad relationship experience prior to getting to England, and I don't think he saw himself as someone who was worthy of Benedict, or anyone else, for that matter. He's unfailingly polite, gracious, and always very grateful to everyone who helps him, but also not a complete doormat. He loves animals, he's kind and optimistic, and he doesn't let life get him down. I do believe he was good for Benedict, and helped to loosen the chap up a bit, and maybe pull the stick out of his arse.

Benedict - well, I guess he grew on me by the end, but I didn't like it when he said things that sounded a bit too much like scolding Finch for my taste, or giving me the impression that he was bothered by the young man's presence in his home. Sure, we're told that he doesn't feel that way at all, but it doesn't really come across that way in his actions. I guess I was missing the chemistry here - there just didn't seem to be much passion at all - and while I don't need steam in my romance books, I found it strange that the two men would share nothing but a few hot kisses before the grandiose ending, not even off-page.

YMMV.


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

ARC Review: Summer Stock by Vanessa North

Summer Stock - Vanessa North

Vanessa North has gone and done it again. With Summer Stock, she's back with a lovely romance between a rumored bad boy Hollywood actor and a North Carolina low country handyman who meet each other during a summer of building stage sets and acting for a local Shakespeare company owned by the former's cousin and the latter's friend.

Ryan Hertzog, Hollywood star, has returned to North Caroline for the summer, told to lay low by his publicist and avoid any further scandals. His rumored relationship with his friend Ali and her boyfriend West has sent him fleeing for the opposite coast to hide from the glare of the Hollywood lights.

Trey Donovan, handyman and owner of a renovation business, has had his own reasons for laying low - an abusive ex has made him distrustful and scared to get into another relationship.

They meet, they get it on, and then Ryan runs into Trey's dog Ferdinand (Ferdy), a 200 lbs mastiff with a heart of gold and an affinity for chewing on underwear, and ends up butt naked outside of Trey's house, with the paparazzi all too ready to take his picture.

Clearly, the relationship isn't off to a good start, even if it's only meant to be a summer fling.

But Ryan and Trey meet time and again and just cannot keep their hands off each other - the flames burn brightly. But it's only for the summer, right?

The book is really all about the relationship between the two men, and how a summer fling develops into more. Of course, it's not smooth sailing, what with Ryan being bisexual and Trey being a bit bi-phobic and suffering from foot-in-mouth disease on occasion, but they talk, apologies are made and accepted, and sheets are burned up. Holy hot boysecks, Batman!

This author continues to impress me with her writing. She's not afraid to defy the tropes, she unflinchingly speaks her mind through her characters, she points out how assumptions tend to be wrong, and she doesn't use stereotypes. Her characters are fully fleshed out, complex and imperfect, which makes them more likable and relatable. Vanessa North makes you question your own prejudice, especially when it comes to expectations of the Hollywood actors in this book.

Trey has some demons to slay, and he still suffers on occasion from a need to sabotage the good things in his life, because he was made to feel worthless by his ex and doesn't believe that he deserves a good thing like Ryan.

Ryan is not perfect either, but he's not a stereotypical Hollywood star. He loves acting, and he is committed to the small theater where he's performing for the summer, happily giving acting advice to his fellow players and wanting to do what's best for his cousin Caro and her friend Mason (the owners). He is sometimes exasperated by Trey's stupid comments about bisexuality, and at times hides his hurt.

There was a moment around 80% or so when I thought this book was taking a direction not to my liking, but of course I should have trusted the author who didn't let me down. In the end, both men grow throughout this book, and they journey they took was, while not smooth, definitely worth taking.

Kudos to this author for writing bisexual characters, stereotype-defying characters, and complex, flawed characters, not only for the main pairing but also for the supporting cast. And extra kudos for Ferdy, the most lovable, slobbering, and loving beast there ever was.

There's a HEA, of course, and a lovely epilogue, and all's well that ends well, as The Bard himself would tell you.

Highly recommended.


** 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 - Ari McKay - Week Two

Join us again today as we continue our celebrations for this fabulous author duo. 

ARC Review: To Touch You (Mates #4) by Cardeno C.

To Touch You: A Vampire Shifter Gay Romance (Mates Collection Book 4) - Cardeno C.

Dear Salvatore Rossi - you're a jerk. A stubborn, selfish, snobbish jerk.

Having said that, you redeemed yourself in the end but only by a hair.

Not much love,

Me

****

This is the fourth, and probably last book, in the Mates series, which I loved. LOVED.

Here we have Yoram Smith, great-nephew of Ethan Abbatt (of Until Forever Comes), who at 7 years old gets a whiff of one Salvatore Rossi, abovementioned jerk, and knows, just knows, he's found his one true mate.

Salvatore, or Sal as Yoram calls him, is a business man, visiting the town near the Miancarem pack to entice Miguel Rodriguez, mate of Ethan, to sell him some land. Miguel has no interest in doing so, and if it weren't for Yoram proclaiming Sal his friend, Miguel might have simply chased him out of town. Except Sal is sick, sicker than he knows, and when his illness becomes terminal, and Yoram finds out, he implores Miguel to save his friend Sal.

So Sal becomes a vampire, and promptly returns to his business, caring not one iota about Yoram.

At 14, Yoram visits Sal in Las Vegas and is told to go home. Go home. By his mate!!

Yeah... I didn't like Sal at all, though I could appreciate that a 30-odd year old man/vampire would be slightly freaked out that a 14 year old boy tells him he's his mate.

So Yoram goes home, suffers alone, but he doesn't give up. He experiences similar symptoms as Ethan had before meeting Miguel, and some pointed questions later, Sal begins to get blood deliveries. Because Yoram is a saint, and just because Sal is a jerkface doesn't mean that Yoram needs to let his mate suffer.

There's some crossover here with book three, In Your Eyes. If you've read that book, you'll remember Korban Keller, who's the Alpha's son, and heir apparent, but whose mate Samuel is the Alpha of the Yafenack pack, and you'll remember what happened there, and what leads to Miancarem needing a new Alpha.

Yoram again steps up to the plate, because he's a fucking saint! He loves his pack, he loves the other wolves, and he wants to do what's best for them. Except that doesn't leave him any time for traveling to Vegas every month to deliver blood.

And then Salvatore Rossi wonders for possibly the first time who might have been bringing him blood, and what might have caused the deliveries to stop, and he travels to Miancarem to investigate. Still super selfish, amirite?

Character flaws of a particular vampire notwithstanding, I loved this book just as much as I loved the other three, though In Your Eyes will likely always be my favorite of the four. A lot of my enjoyment was because of Yoram, who is a FUCKING saint, and also because of Toby, a wolf from Yoram's pack and his brother-in-law, who provides the snark and attitude and humor in this book. He took no crap at all from Sal, he wasn't afraid of the big, bad vampire, and he took zero prisoners when it came to telling Sal what a jerk he'd been all these many years. He had some fantastic zingers, and I giggled a lot when he was on page.

This being a book by Cardeno C., there are also some super hot sexy times (when they then finally happen, OMG), and knotting. Knotting, people, which just gives the sexy times that extra oomph. Mating bites. Bloodsucking while making love. Gah. There is always such emotion within the sexy times, and I think that's one of the author's special gifts.

I was a little bit bothered by the rather abrupt transition from "where's the blood, dammit" to "OMG, I Love You, You're my everything" that Sal goes through, considering that his character was a stupid, selfish, snobbish jerk for most of the book, but I chalked that off to the mating pull doing its thing, and him finally being near Yoram for long enough to actually allow himself to feel it. The jerk.

This is definitely a fitting end to the series, and I loved that the couples from the previous book made an appearance. Well, all but Samuel. It can be read as a standalone, but why would you? Why would you not read all the books in this fantastic series? Exactly.

I will read any shifter book this author writes, ever, and I can hardly wait to get my grabby hands on the next one, even if it'll be a different series. Maybe we'll get another Syphon book next? Sign me right up.

I'm a CC addict, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Just keep feeding my addiction, would ya, CC?


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

ARC Review: Blue by B.G. Thomas

Blue - B.G. Thomas

I first encountered Blue McCoy in book 2 of the Seasons Of Love series by this author, when he was unwittingly and unwillingly involved in a terrible act committed by Howard, who was Wyatt's "husband" at the time.

I've been waiting for some time for Blue to tell me his own story and delighted when it was finally available.

There may be some slight spoilers below...
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Author Of The Month - Ari McKay - Week One

Join us today as we kick off our month-long celebrations for Ari McKay, our May Author of the Month, with a look at the Herc's Mercs series, Ari and McKay's favorite things, plus a chance to win one of the book in the Herc's Mercs series. 

 

See you there!!

ARC Review: Personal Challenges by K.C. Wells

Personal Challenges - Meredith Russell, K.C. Wells

When K.C. Wells offered me this book for review, I asked her if it could be read as a standalone, since I hadn't read the first three books in this series. She said I'd be fine, and after reading this, I completely agree.

I had no problems whatsoever in following along or figuring out who's who. The other three books are now on my TBR, and I'll get to reading them just as soon as I can, because I want to see how these three couples got to where they are in this book.

We have Will and Blake, who welcome little baby Nathan as their second child, what with older sister Sophie, and their lives are blissful and happy, until they find out that little Nathan might have a medical issue.

There's Rick and Angelo, who are planning their wedding, but are thwarted time and again by Angelo's mother's meddling in their wedding plans.

And there's Colin and Ed, who are also blissfully happy, but then Colin gets a call from an ex who has some bad news which brings back a rather painful period of Colin's life before Ed.

For all three couples, there are hurdles to overcome, and we are given a well-rounded vision into life after their initial romance, and how they are making things work. I enjoyed reading about them all, and I especially enjoyed how close-knit they all are with each other, what with Rick and Angelo and Colin and Ed all serving as uncles to Sophie and Nathan, and how they help each other out, in word and deed, whenever needed. This is a group of friends I wouldn't mind having in my own life.

Of course, none of them are perfect, but they are perfect for each other. And they still burn up the sheets much like they likely did in the previous three books.

Overall, I would say that if you've read the first three books, you'll definitely want to read this book too, just so you can see them all happily together still and riding off into the proverbial sunset, and if you haven't read the first three, you'll still enjoy this as much as I did.

By the way, this is a very British book with very British characters and very British words. Which I love because I'm a total Anglophile, and reading Ed's particular accent was a special treat for me.

K.C. Wells has a real knack for writing massive emotions into her books, sprinkled deliberately with holy hot boysecks, Batman. This book is no exception to that rule.

Read it!


** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A positive review was not promised in return. My apologies for the late review.**

Release Day ARC Review: The Perils Of Intimacy by Rick R. Reed

The Perils of Intimacy - Rick R. Reed

"I'm Jimmy, and I'm an addict." 

Two years ago, Jimmy and Mark met for a night of sex. Jimmy was high on crystal meth and hoped to steal whatever he could find in Mark's home to feed his addiction, and Mark was feeding a different addiction, one he doesn't admit to himself until toward the end of this book.

That night changed both of them - it set Jimmy onto his path to beat his relationship with "Tina", and it destroyed Mark's trust in people.

They've both been alone since.

Now two years later, Jimmy works in a small restaurant, and Mark works a job he's good at but doesn't like. Both have a close friend, someone they can go to for advice or just to listen. In Jimmy's case, it's his roommate Kevin. For Mark, it's his co-worker Don.

And Jimmy also has Miriam, his sponsor for N.A. She's but a phone call away, whenever he needs her. There's a point in the book where... actually, no. I'm not going to tell. Read this for yourself.

Seriously, read this book. It's written in the first person present tense, switching between Jimmy's and Mark's POV, over the course of about a week, as the two men meet (again), and embark on a real relationship, with real intimacy. Which requires Jimmy to come clean to Mark about who he is and who he was two years prior. And you hope that he does before Mark figures it out himself. You hope, and you watch, and you sit there, all tense, because you know, you just know, that would be too easy, and OMG, Jimmy, tell him, TELL HIM, and then...

The writing is brilliant, and this may be the best book I've read by this author. It's not meaningless fluff. It's not just a romance - it's so much more. It touches on difficult subjects, and it makes very clear the point that once an addict, always an addict - recovery is an ongoing process, and you're never fully cured. It takes a hard look at the difference between intimacy and sex, and that neither is dependent on the other. Forgiveness is hard - merely saying the words doesn't make it so in your heart, and Mark has to struggle to get to the point where he can look at Jimmy and truly forgive him. And Jimmy has to forgive himself too.

Love will find you when you're ready - but first and foremost, you have to love yourself. And at the beginning of this book, and when they first met, neither Mark nor Jimmy were ready for this truth.

I'd like to quote Miriam here, because she really drives home the point:

 

Love yourself, Jimmy. With all your heart. That’s the only way you’ll ever find real happiness. We all make mistakes. [...] mistakes are the soil we grow from. Every mistake, every bad thing we did shouldn’t be a regret, because everything we do is simply one more step on our journey. Without the mistakes, we’d never grow.


There are quite a few poignant moments in this book (and one that shocked me), and the author takes an unflinching and very realistic look at what addictions will do to good people, and how many of them never get the chance to pull themselves out of the morass. But addictions come in various forms, and Mark has to learn that lesson too.

I LOVED this book. It made me think, it made me feel, and there were quite a few times when my heart was in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. It's a thing of beauty, this book, and I would highly recommend it.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the release tour. A positive review was not promised in return. **

Release Day ARC Review: Stage Two by Ariel Tachna

Stage Two (Dreamspun Desires Book 33) - Ariel Tachna

This is the 3rd book in the Lexington Lovers series, as well as an installment of the Dreamspun Desires titles.

I liked this a lot. A whole lot. It's about family, second chances, learning to trust, and learning how to stand up for what you believe, even if it hurts you. It's about how sometimes teenagers are smarter than you are, and maybe you ought to listen to them.

Blake Barnes is a high school assistant principal and charged with the sophomores. Two of his newest students, two brothers who've recently lost their mother after losing their father when they were much younger, are being harassed by their classmates. When the bullying escalates and the two boys, Kit and Phillip, end up in his office, he comes face to face with Thane Dalton, the boys' guardian/uncle and Blake's teenage crush.

Thane is every bit the badass Blake remembers, but the attraction still burns brightly. Once he unravels his tied tongue after seeing Thane again, Blake goes full assistant principal mode and lays out his plan.

What follows is at once a humorous and poignant romance between two men who are trying to build a relationship against the odds and against many obstacles in their way, the least of which are the two teenage boys Thane has inherited from his late sister.

The book touches on important topics, such as high school bullying, homophobia, bad assumptions, and making rash judgments without having all the information. Yes, Thane - I'm definitely looking at you with that last one. And good for Blake for having a backbone.

As with all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, there's little steam, but there's plenty of UST, and one mustn't forget that it's kind of difficult to get it on when you have two teenagers living in the same house. The romance between the two men was totally believable and relatable. Neither has had any kind of long-term relationship before meeting again (which is something only Blake really remembers since he didn't actually interact with Thane back in his high school days), but they're both all in pretty much right away, especially Thane. Which made it so very painful when he did that stupid thing he did. Sure, I could to some extent understand his rash reaction, but to not even give the guy he professed to want to keep a chance to explain - yeah, you were dumb, Thane. And your boys suffered for it just the same as you did.

Speaking of Kit and Phillip - I really liked those two. They were grieving their mother, of course, but they stuck by each other and were fiercely loyal to their uncle and Mr. B. I loved seeing the relationships between the boys and Mr. B. develop through the course of the book and watch him go from Mr. B. to Uncle Blake. In fact, the boys really rounded out the plot in this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it whenever they were on page.

This was a really sweet read, and it met all my expectations, and surpassed them in some instances. For example, Blake's idea of giving the boys a place on the theater stage crew was brilliant, with sound reasoning, even if Thane doesn't buy it at first. The boys plotting to get Blake and Thane into the same room at the end - hahaha, that was fun, and it worked!

I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too. Recommended.


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

Release Day ARC Review: Nightsong (Notes From Boston #2) by A.M. Leibowitz

Nightsong (Notes from Boston Book 2) - A. M. Leibowitz

If you've read the first book in this series, you'll remember Nate.

I disliked him intensely in the first book after he cowardly outed Trevor out of jealousy and spite, and I wasn't quite sure that the author would find a way to redeem him.

I should've had more faith.

Nate Kingsley is a rather complex character, someone who has patched his wounds with band-aids, and whose self-esteem issues are rooted in past heartbreak. He's lost, so lost, when this book begins, because he misses Trevor's friendship, and he doesn't know how to apologize and how to make up for what he did. His cowardly actions are haunting him, and he's unhappy but doesn't know how to fix what he broke.

Not even his work can pull him out of the doldrums, and in his loneliness, floundering without the friend he hurt so badly, he again makes a huge mistake that costs him dearly later on in the book.

Izzy Kaplan is an EMT whose drag queen alter ego, TaTa Latke, has caught Nate's eye. Unbeknownst to Nate, Izzy harbors a similar crush for him. Izzy has trust issues, much like Nate, and he keeps parts of himself hidden from view. He has reasons, of course, even if those reasons perhaps only make sense to him. He realizes that something is going on with him, but doesn't want to deal with it, and thus makes like an ostrich - head in the sand.

I really loved how this book showcased the variety of the rainbow, and how non-judgmental the author handles all the different flavors of sexuality and gender identity. While the characters may favor one over the other, it's always very clear that this isn't what the author believes to be true. This was similar to the first book, and we get to visit with Trevor, Andre, and Marte again in this book.

What also stands out is that both MCs hide their true selves from their friends, at least for a long while, and that they both learn to be more open by the end. Both are dealing with some devastating health issues, and trusting each other, and their friends, is a hard-won battle.

There's a ton of angst inside, some of it external to the relationship, and some of it self-induced, but none of it ever felt unreasonable. Both Nate and Izzy have their own personal demons to slay, and they both still have some important lessons to learn. The book touches on some really heavy yet important topics and handles them with sensitivity and honesty, without becoming preachy.

The romance is really subdued here and takes quite some time to develop and then come to fruition, but that also made sense within the overall time line. Neither Nate nor Izzy are ready to confront their demons early on, and a more rapid development would likely have sent them to crash and burn. The author includes intimate scenes, but none of them felt superfluous or gratuitous, and all were furthering the plot. While I would classify this as a romance (because there is a happy ending for Nate and Izzy), it's actually a lot more than that. It's a character study of two rather flawed and often frustrating men, who find exactly what they were looking for when they didn't even realize they were looking for it.

This book could be read as a standalone, but probably shouldn't, as it's built on the events of the first book, and a reader is better served knowing the history between Nate and Trevor, which is one of the main catalysts for Nate changing himself in this book.

By the way, I wanted to junk-punch Rocco. Repeatedly. Once you've read this book, you'll know why.

This isn't your typical M/M romance fare, and I was glad for it.

Highly recommended.


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

Author Of The Month - Rhys Ford - Grand Finale

Join us again today as we celebrate this fabulous author, with a look at Hellsinger and Half Moon Bay, the latter with excerpts, plus our Q&A with Rhys. We also have one more chance for you to win one of her books! See you there!!

Release Day ARC Review: Vodka And Handcuffs by Brandon Witt

Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary's Boys Book 2) - Brandon Witt

The title of this book, much like the first one in this series, plays on the occupations of the two MCs - one a bartender, the other a cop.

Vahin, the bartender, is Muslim, and from India, and gay, and out, which has caused him to be shunned by his family. Marlon, the cop, is black, also gay, but deep in the closet. His partner on the beat is basically a Jeff Sessions wannabe - a racist, homophobic, xenophobic asshole first class, who thinks he can do what he wants because his daddy is a Senator. He's also universally hated by all, including the Chief, and only assigned to Marlon because the Chief figured it'd be best to pair the asshole with his best cop.

Marlon meets Vahin at Hamburger Mary's, they have a night of drunken fun, mostly off-page, and then shit hits the fan, what with the racist cop partner trying to frame Vahin and arrest him, and Marlon being involuntarily outed, and ... yeah... none of it is pretty. This is not a fluffy book. The blurb is a bit misleading. Okay, maybe a lot misleading. Don't expect a fluffy, easy read.

The only real fun on page is when ManDonna struts her stuff - I flove her! She takes no shit, and she will hand you your balls, and you'll thank her for it.

I didn't quite believe the romance in the time line used, and while we get a HFN, I wasn't sure that things were going to last - perhaps we'll see how that goes in a future installment for this series. I do want them to last, I do. I just have doubts that their still fresh relationship can survive the roadblocks that will continue to be in their way, despite marriage equality, and despite the tide slowly turning in their favor. I want to believe that Denver is a bit more enlightened when it comes to racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

I think this might have worked a little better for me if the book had been longer and had taken the time to really delve into the issues, and perhaps stretch out the time frame a little bit more. The issues raised here are definitely hot topics, and I was a little disappointed that Marlon's forced coming out, and that loathsome, filthy, evil, little cockroach partner's despicable actions weren't given adequate resolutions. Perhaps that is fitting after all - in today's political climate, what with the current administration in the White House, and the "values" for which they stand, it's certainly possible to look at this and realize that, yeah, there won't be any adequate resolutions to homophobia, xenophobia, and blatant racism, until we've gotten rid of the pestilence in orange that empowered this pond scum to strut around with their ignorant flags and "white power" bullshit.

Kudos to this author for making his main characters non-white. I wish there were more books that did that. There is a message within this book too - as a POC, you have to stand up for yourself every damn day, against hatred, against persecution, against blatant ignorance, and if you're POC and gay, your resilience will be tested time and again in triplicate. I commend the author for touching on these difficult subjects with honesty and sensitivity.

The author also sets up the next book toward the end, which will feature Zachary aka Ariel Merman. I had my heart in my throat while reading that bit, and I need the next book, like, now.

This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and that's primarily due to what it isn't - lighthearted fluff. I want to read books that deal with current affairs, and this one definitely does.


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