MyFictionNook

Sandra @ My Fiction Nook

I like romance and boys loving boys in my books. 

You can also find me on my main blog

 

 




1418 Devotees
121 Devoted To
3382 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
Progress: 100%

Favorite quotes


ARC Review: Fortune's Slings and Cupid's Arrows by Ari McKay

Fortune's Slings and Cupid's Arrows - Ari McKay

This was a sweet little romance, even if slightly unbelievable. 

The premise is that Dane is deep in the closet, so far so actually that he's almost in Narnia. The reason for being in the closet is that his father, a cruel and despicable man, has succeeded in making Dane fight the notion that he's gay by holding Dane's mother over his head as a threat. Dane, being a dutiful son, would do anything to ensure his mother's happiness, even if it means becoming engaged to a woman his father chose for him and marry her to produce an heir to the family fortune. 

Dane's best friend Cal sees the announcement of the engagement in the society pages and knows he must step in to prevent Dane from making a horrible mistake, even if that means seducing Dane to show him that he's not straight.

Does Daddy Dearest get his way, or will Cal find a way to save Dane? Will Dane find his spine and stand up to Daddy Dearest?

There's obviously a lot of angst and drama in this shortish book, and we don't get a lot of character development. It's a quick and easy read, and one that shouldn't be taken too seriously. Not a bad way to spend a few hours, curled up in your favorite chair.


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

ARC Review: Strike Up The Band by Sam Burns

Strike Up the Band (Wilde Love Book 3) - Sam Burns

This is the 3rd book in the Wilde Love series, switching back to Freddie Mercury Isn't Dead aka FRED, the band that got its start at Wilde's, Keegan's restaurant/bar in book 1. Some time has passed since then; they now have a hit single and are on a tour. 

The band is forced to take on a new member, to finish the tour as their record label demands, because record labels are cruel assholes only concerned with making money, no matter what it costs the band.

Jake McKenna doesn't want to stay on tour, he doesn't want to even interact with the new member of the band, one Brian Mulholland, and he sure as hell doesn't want a career in music anymore.

The aforementioned Brian is the ex-member of a now-defunct boy band, who is looking for a new start after firing his manager/mother when she caught him kissing another man. 

Now, I'm not going to give away the plot or why Jake feels the way he does about continuing in his music career - there's a reason why that's not in the blurb, and I'm not going to spoil things here. 

This book can be read as a standalone, though I don't know why you wouldn't want to read the first two books as well. 

I do want to talk a bit about Jake's sexuality - he identifies as homo-romantic/asexual - and how well the author worked that into the book, showcasing without ever getting preachy that love is definitely not dependent on sexual contact, and that someone like Jake can find the right person for him. Both Brian's bisexuality and Jake's asexuality are handled in really positive ways, making it clear that romance and love can happen even if sex is off the table. Brian is a really good guy, sympathetic and forgiving, even if Jake is prickly and disengaged at first, and they eventually begin a friendship that then leads to more, and I was happy that the author didn't change Jake for Brian, or vice versa. They had honest and open conversations about Jake not wanting sexual intercourse, and how that might affect Brian down the road, which allowed them both to make the right choice for themselves. 

If you've read the first book, Straight From The Heart, you already know what Jake is like, and I was happy to find that the author didn't change his personality from the first book - he's still the somewhat grumpy, mostly introverted guy who just wanted to play his guitar and write music. 

The author does a really good job fleshing out the characters and giving them realistic, complex, and somewhat flawed personalities. They're both more complex that what initially meets the eye, and I thought they were rather well suited to each other. There's not a lot of relationship angst here, though the beginning of book is somewhat difficult to read, and ... no.... not going to spoil it for you. I will say that I didn't expect the turn of events, and I must applaud the author for taking things in that direction, no matter how it... no... not going to spoil it for you. The romance develops slowly, as it should have, and is based on friendship with comfort, hugs, and kisses. 

What I also love is that this book isn't just about Jake and Brian and their slowly developing romance, but also about the other band members, about their strong friendships, about being a family of sorts, about their struggles to integrate Brian into the band, and how to move forward from... nope, sorry, not going to tell you.

Do yourself a favor and read this series. There's a 4th book out now too. 


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

Sandra's Best Of 2017

My 10 picks for Best Of 2017 

 

Unbroken, Larry Benjamin 

Be My Best Man, Con Riley 

The Garden, Rosalind Abel 

Not Safe For Work, L.A. Witt 

Arrows Through Archer, Nash Summers 

Back To You, Chris Scully 

The Perils Of Intimacy, Rick R. Reed 

Nightsong, A.M. Leibowitz 

A Love Song For The Sad Man In The White Coat, Roe Horvat

Ringo And The Sunshine Police, Nick Wilgus

BEST OF 2017

Our top reads for the year - check 'em out. There's also a giveaway!

ARC Review: Exposure by Aly Hayden

Exposure (Drawn Together Book 1) - Aly Hayden

I'm super late with this review - my apologies to the author.

This book uses the fake-boyfriend trope, in which the fake boyfriend eventually turns into a real boyfriend.

Sam has been lying to his parents about having a boyfriend - and it's even worse, because the man Sam pretends to be his actually exists, even though Sam has created a whole persona that is based on lies. And now Sam's parents insist that Sam bring his boyfriend to the annual Labor Day family reunion.

Ben is a struggling photographer and the man featuring prominently in Sam's desires. And Sam's lies. He reluctantly agrees to accompany Sam to the family reunion after being bribed into it. I say reluctantly because even though Ben is half in love with Sam too, he always thought him way out of his league. 

Because Sam has money and Ben does not. 

Sam works because he wants to. Ben works because he needs to. 

Ben is a bit wary at first, especially since there's someone in his past who hurt him badly, by making him feel that he wasn't good enough. 

I liked Ben, and I liked most of Sam's family (his grandma especially), but I didn't really like Sam all that much. He comes across as a spoiled brat on occasion, and he sounded younger than his actual years a few times. 

Of course, as expected, Sam's lies begin to unravel over their weekend in the Hamptons, and he hurts Ben badly when the truth comes out. Inevitably, they make up and get their happy ending, because, after all, this is a romance novel.

It's a sweet story, with a well-used trope, and while it ends on a good note, I had reservations about Sam's maturity level and his reasons for lying - he made out his family to be so much worse than they actually were. 

This is the kind of story that you read when you need something fluffy with little angst. 


** I received a free copy of this book from Gay Book Promotions as part of a tour in exchange for an honest review. **

Book Review: A Love Song For The Sad Man In The White Coat by Roe Horvat

A Love Song for the Sad Man in the White Coat - Roe Horvat

Dear Roe Horvat - you broke my heart, you stomped on it, and then, at the last possible moment, you healed me.

The book starts out with brief moment in which we meet Matej, a student in Prague, on his way to class to take a finals, stopping to buy a cup of coffee to which he attaches a note.

"Are you wondering the same things I am?"



The coffee is for his professor, Dr. Simon Mraz, a psychiatrist who teaches at the university Matej attends. 

Fast forward four years, we now hear from Simon, aka The Cruel Doctor Frost, as he is known among the students at the university, and Matej is but a painful memory. Simon lives with Marta, who is Matej's sister, but who is about to move into her own place. Nobody has heard from Matej in those years, not since he left after a tragic event. 

Simon's sadness is overwhelming. It is sheer willpower that keeps him mostly sane and standing upright. When the pain threatens to pull him under, Simon runs through the streets of Prague, exhausting himself to the point where he can sleep. It is evident that Simon is struggling - with the memories of Matej, with what happened, with what he could have done differently, with finding a reason for Matej's leaving. 

The author did a fantastic job conveying how very empty Simon's life is - he has a few friends, and Marta, but he's only barely holding on. He's numb. He can't even muster a congratulations when his best friend gets engaged. He's rude and offensive, and pessimistic and just so heart-breakingly sad. 

The writing is superb - I felt Simon's pain, his longing, the almost robotic way he goes through the motions of his daily life. It was occasionally difficult to see through my tears, especially as about 75% of this book are spent in Simon's head, seeing and feeling his pain, watching him on his way to self-destruction. 

Then Marta starts to look for her brother, without Simon's knowledge.

This is a powerful novel about pain and loss, and getting a second chance, even if you don't think you deserve one. It's about two complex and seriously flawed MCs, whose bone-deep pain just dripped off the pages. 

It's not your typical romance. This is not a meet-cute and live happily ever after story. This is a story that will break your heart and then slowly, ever so slowly, mend the jagged edges - and yet, the scars remain. 

There's a HFN at the very end, for those of you that need to know, one that I could easily see turning into a HEA, even with Simon's warning to Matej.

"Are you ready to spend your life with a sad man?"



I won't forget this book any time soon.

Highly recommended.


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

ARC Review: Sometimes The Best Presents Can't Be Wrapped by B.G. Thomas

Sometimes the Best Presents Can’t Be Wrapped - B.G. Thomas

This story is a rather different take on A Christmas Carol. It's adorable, really, and I had a fabulous time reading it. The author, one of my favorites, also deviated from his usual style in this story - which I also quite enjoyed.

Ned Balding is a bit of a Scrooge. After his father died, he's been running the family's company, which allows no time for anything else. Stressed, overworked, Ned no longer resembles the decent guy he used to be. In fact, he's gone as far as considering firing a long-time employee right before Christmas, because the poor guy took a couple of days off after losing his dog. Listen, Ned - dogs are members of the family, and people naturally grieve, and your piss-poor attitude made me mad. Especially since the man in question, Jake Carrara, is still grieving the death of his mother, and the loss of his boyfriend - all in the same year. So Ned needed to cut Jake some slack. 

Thankfully, Ned is prevented from firing Jake when a friend and co-worker steps in and halts Ned's tirade. 

On the way home, still raging mad, Ned attempts to kick a dog, which is witnessed by a Salvation Army Santa - who issues a stern warning, and tells Ned that enough is enough.

Come morning, Ned wakes up in his apartment, but the world looks very different than it did the night before. For one, Ned seems to be closer to the floor. And covered in fur. Colors aren't the same either. 

I really liked how well the author must have done his research to let us experience life as a dog. Some of it was fascinating, like the colors dogs apparently see, and some of it was hilarious, like lifting a leg to tinkle. I giggled quite a bit, watching Ned figure out how to be a dog.

Long story short, Ned is shocked, howls and barks, and ends up at the pound - well, almost. He's super lucky that the guy from the pound knows HD (he from Hounddog and Bean), so Ned, fortuitously, is put into foster care, being taken care of by none other than the guy he almost fired - Jake.

As Ned spends his days in Jake's apartment, and his nights sleeping on the bed with Jake, he starts to realize what an utter ass he's been, not only to the people he works with, but also to his remaining family. And he realizes that he has to make some drastic changes - if only he was able to figure out how to turn back into a human. On top of that, he sees Jake in a wholly new light, and can't for the life of him figure out why he would have been such a jackass to the man. 

And then Ned has to make a choice, one that could cost him dearly - but he does what he does out of love, and by then he realizes that love is worth anything and everything.

Due to the plot here, we actually don't really see the romance fully developing, as Ned spends most of the book as a dog, and Jake obviously doesn't realize that the dog he's fostering is in reality his boss, but we do get a very happy ending, and a lovely epilogue that takes place a year later and showcases the changes Ned has made. 

I thought it utterly adorable, with a good sprinkle of Christmas magic, humorous moments, and a massive act of selflessness that really shows the reader how much Ned has grown from the start of the book.


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

Release Day ARC Review: Getting His Man by B.G. Thomas

Getting His Man (Dreamspun Desires Book 48) - B.G. Thomas

A delightful, fluffy tale of being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong friends and being rescued by a knight in shining armor... er, I mean a bail bondsman/bounty hunter. 

Artie, one of our MCs, is 23, but everyone thinks he's much younger due to his small build and baby face. He's not had much luck finding a guy who wants more than a quick trick in a bar, where Artie is regularly carded, because baby face. Artie yearns for someone to call his, but the cards aren't in his favor.

He lives with Willie, a sort of but not really friend, who smokes a lot of pot and dabbles a bit with dealing on the side. Artie isn't happy with the weed that's in the apartment, and he's been saving up his meager earnings to get a place of his own.

Upon his return from a concert he attends with his real friend Ross, he finds Willie and cohort and a large amount of pot and the music blaring. Scared because of the drugs and pissed off with the ungodly noise, Artie does take one of the offered brownies, not realizing that they are baked. And I mean, BAKED. Which Artie is also, shortly after. Falling into bed stoned is one thing, being woken up by the police is quite another, especially when Artie is being charged with possession and dealing of an illegal substance and find himself in need of bail. 

Whoopsie.

Enter August, our knight, who's a bail bondsman and bounty hunter and manages to get Artie out of jail on bond, at the cost of basically every single penny Artie's been saving to get out of the shared apartment. As long as Artie doesn't skip town, August is sure that he can get Artie out of trouble with the Po-Po. And the slim, small man, still half-stoned, just tugs on his heartstrings and appeals to his inner hero.

If you love the old Hollywood movies themes in which a damsel in distress (Artie) is rescued by a super smart and super handsome hero (August), with tons of movie references, this is the book for you. Artie is delightfully clueless and helpless, and August dreams of being the man to be Artie's hero. 

Written in the author's usual emotionally charged and somewhat breathless style, this is a must read for all fans of BG Thomas. It's of course, as most books in this series, somewhat unrealistic, but I loved the tropes utilized here, and the expected happily ever after was definitely satisfying. 

Artie, despite being idealistic and slightly TSTL, does have a good heart, and it is because of his feelings and fear for August that he gets himself into additional trouble from which he then has to be rescued. But fear not, August is the quintessential hero and saves the day. 

Due to the limitations put upon authors in this series, there are limited explicitly intimate scenes, but what there was is well done and really brought their connection across. I was rooting for them both to ride off into the sunset together. 

A delightful tale that's well worth your time. 


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

ARC Review: Where Do I Start by Chase Taylor Hackett

Where Do I Start? (Why You?) - Chase Taylor Hackett

I'm super late with this review - my apologies to the author and publisher.

Where Do I Start, indeed.

Fletcher, immature and possibly a sex addict, is a serial cheater. Two years ago or so, he and his then-boyfriend Roger broke up, because Roger found out about Fletcher treating the gay scene in NYC as his personal buffet and Roger wasn't putting up with that.

Personality-wise, it was clear from the start that Fletch and Roger are two very different people - Fletch is immature, happy-go-lucky, spontaneous, whereas Roger is much more mature, set in his ways and a bit staid. Not that those are bad things, but at the time they were together, perhaps Fletch felt a bit... stifled.

Now two years have passed, Fletch is still sampling the buffet whenever he can, and Roger has a new boyfriend named Jeffrey. And Fletch just ran into Roger and might have realized what he lost. 

Some folks have perhaps shied away from this book because of the cheating mentioned in the blurb - none of that happens on page, and none of it happens once Fletch decides to win Roger back. 

One might think that Fletcher attempting to break up Roger and Jeffrey is selfish and speaks to his maturity level, and one would be right in as much as Fletch at first only sees his own desire to get back with Roger. But then, as I watched Fletcher grow throughout the book, I could also see that Roger, mature, staid, reliable Roger, really needed Fletcher in his life, and that the two of them, as opposite as they are, really complement each other, and bring out the best in each other.

Of course, Fletcher's scheming is not without its up and downs, and there are plenty of hurt feelings in the way at first, as well as a lack of trust, and obviously Jeffrey. 

I loved Fletcher snarky inner voice, his nearly child-like optimism, and his strength of conviction - once he made up his mind that Roger was it for him, he went full on ahead with the seduction, until... well, you read this for yourself.

I rather enjoyed this tale of one very flawed almost anti-hero who grew up and became a real boy when he realized whom he had, through his own actions, hurt. Making amends isn't easy, but he didn't give up, not even when the odds of success where minimal, and when it seemed like the rest of the world was conspiring against him. 

This was an excellent debut novel from a new author telling an awesome tale of an immature boy who became a man, almost on his own.

I look forward to Jeffrey's book which will come early next year. Cannot wait!

 

 

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

Book Review: Unbroken by Larry Benjamin

Unbroken - Larry Benjamin

No words. None.

 

If you read but one book this year - make it this one.

 

All the stars! Utterly breathtaking. 

ARC Review: The Twelve Days Of Randy by Heidi Cullinan

The Twelve Days of Randy - Heidi Cullinan

This is a review for the 2nd edition of this shortish novella, which was expanded prior to re-release. 

I read this for the first time quite a while back, shortly after reading Double Blind, because I simply had to know how Randy and Ethan would handle their first Christmas in Vegas together. 

Ethan now owns and runs the Herod Casino, and Randy still works the floor, and bakes cookies. They both miss spending time with Mitch and Sam, and are preparing for the Christmas shenanigans at the casino.

In previous years, pre-Ethan, Randy used to be the life of the party, the highlight of the entertainment, which, if you've read Double Blind, you'll know, served basically to hide his longing for something permanent, someone that was his alone.

Ethan hasn't got that memo. He's still hung up on the fact that all the tales around the Christmas shenanigans of years prior kind of involved Crabtree a lot, and it doesn't help his jealousy that a) Crabtree still hangs around the casino all the time, and b) Crabtree and Randy did the dirty quite a few times before Ethan even came to Vegas. Of which Crabtree only happily reminds him every chance he gets.

So Ethan is struggling - on one hand he wants Randy to feel free to do as he pleases, and on the other hand, he doesn't want to let Crabtree fuck with his peace of mind. 

The story is both kinky fun and emotionally tugging on your heart strings. You can't help but feel for Ethan's struggles, even though you know that his jealousy is unfounded. And Randy, heart of gold Randy, is unwilling to risk the amazing relationship he's built with Ethan and thus becomes almost a pawn in the power play between Ethan and Crabtree.

You can feel the wave building and you know it'll crash and drown them both, but then... well, you read this for yourself.

There's a scene toward the very end - gah. I had tears in my eyes, even the second time around, even when I knew what was coming, because, damn, this author just delivers the goods in such a beautiful way. 

I have a real soft spot for Randy. While he and Ethan aren't my favorite couple from this series (that honor goes to Mitch and Sam), Randy is my favorite character. There are layers upon layers to him, and only a very select few ever get to see the real him, the boy who was kicked out at home for being gay, who climbed his way out of the gutter by the skin of his teeth, who learned to hide his pain behind an easy smile and a lot of snark - that boy just wants to be loved and wanted and belong to Ethan. 

Anyway, before I turn you off with my gushing about Randy - read this book. It fits neatly between book 2 and 3, as intended, and gives us a good look at their happy ever after. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author upon re-release in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **

ARC Review: Hooch & Cake by Heidi Cullinan

Hooch and Cake (Special Delivery) - Heidi Cullinan

I read this once before, a long while back, shortly after I read Special Delivery and Double Blind, because Mitch & Sam finally get their wedding in this novella. 

There's some angst, because at the time when this story takes place, Iowa had marriage equality but lots of people in Sam's home town are still not on board with two men getting married and Mitch's heart breaks when he sees Sam get less and less enthusiastic about their wedding, and there's a lot of really kinky sex, which is ever so deliciously filthy, because Mitch still likes to watch, and Sam still likes the shame of being so very slutty for Mitch. 

And there's Randy, possibly the best friend anyone could ever have, because despite his smooth and snarky exterior, Randy has a heart of gold and would do anything for his friends, and he needs Mitch and Sam more than they could ever know.

Or do they? 

I adored this. It's full of Heidi's special kind of magic, because no matter how kinky the fucking gets, it is always, ALWAYS clear that the emotions between these men are strong enough to withstand anything and everything. 


** I received a free copy of this book for review as part of the re-release for an honest and unbiased review. **

Book Review: Barbed Wire Cowboy by Renee Stevens

Barbed Wire Cowboy - Renee Stevens

Barbed Wire Cowboy is at once a gritty tale of living and working on a cattle ranch and a love story between two men who suck at communicating honestly and openly.

After coming out to his rancher father, Marc Poulson found himself kicked out, stripped of his family and alone, but in the years since found a place as foreman of the Double R Ranch. If it weren't for his feud with his ex-friend Casey, foreman at the neighboring Del Rio Ranch, life would be nearly perfect. 

Marc doesn't understand why Casey would rather punch him than continue to be his friend - the reason for this change in status is not immediately clear to the reader, as neither Marc nor Casey provide any insight - but their continued fighting has now landed both of them in a jail cell.

Bailed out by their respective bosses, Marc and Casey are given an ultimatum - shape up or ship out. And learn to work together again. 

Marc is happy to call a truce between them, but Casey isn't on board. When Marc saves Casey's ass from a rampant bull, the event proves to be somewhat of a turning point. 

Except Casey continues to blow hot and cold, and refuses to tell Marc what demons are still haunting him. He makes mistake after mistake, driven by the terror of his past, until Marc has enough, and when provided with an unforeseen option, Marc is done with Casey's bullshit and leaves.

The author really brought the grittiness, long hours and hard work of the cattle ranches across, and the huge amount of physical labor that's involved. She also did a fine job with the characters - they are complex and complicated, and rough around the edges, like you'd expect cowboys to be - but also gave them individual pasts that continue to shape their actions and derail what might be. Neither knows how to really talk about their feelings, and Casey hiding a huge secret from his past that he refuses to address and would rather forget has a lot to do with his behavior - their actions and reactions made sense to me. 

This is a rollercoaster ride as Marc and Casey go from enemies to lovers to heartbreak, full of anger and fear and hiding, with an overriding sense that love may not always be enough to keep a couple together unless they're willing to confront their differences and their pasts head-on to have a future.

Whether Casey and Marc overcome the odds - well, find out by reading this for yourself. 


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

Book Review: A Viking For Yule by Jamie Fessenden

A Viking for Yule - Jamie Fessenden

As the blurb will tell you, this book is sort of a continuation of A Cop For Christmas, but focuses on Sam. It can be read as a standalone - I had no issues not having read the first one. The author did a fine job weaving in the important background information as to why Sam is terrified of snowstorms.

Sam still lives with his grandfather on their farm, but has taken a trip around the world with Aunt Jackie (I want one just like her, please), and their last stop is Iceland, where Jackie's good friend lives with her son, Arnar. Iceland. In the winter, a week before Christmas. Iceland. Apparently, Aunt Jackie didn't get the memo about Sam panicking in snow storms. 

Sam is looking forward to getting back home - he misses his Grampy, and he's worried, though he knows Mason and Steve are taking good care of him.

Arnar, who's about Sam's age, is initially not impressed upon meeting Sam, though attraction for them both is pretty much instant. But Arnar just got out of a relationship, he's still nursing a bit of a broken heart, and who would want to get involved with a tourist who's going to leave in a few short days, amirite?

So, Arnar is a bit grumpy and standoffish. 

I loved how descriptive the author was when talking about the scenery and the historical sites in Iceland as Sam and Arnar, thrown together by Aunt Jackie's scheming, make their way around the island. Vivid and rich descriptions of lava fields covered in snow, the rugged landscape - I felt as if I was right there with Sam and Arnar. We also get a bit of a culture lesson, which really made the people on this island come to life for me. 

This is a sweet, easy read, with just a bit of relationship angst - what with Sam going home to New Hampshire, and Arnar presumably staying in Iceland - so they both realize, reluctantly, that what they'll have will be nothing more than a holiday fling. Even if the emotions they both have for the other could and might have become so much more. Their occasional squabbles were relatable, and the two men felt real to me. I thought that the author did a really fine job developing both characters and give them distinct personalities with some obvious and some not so obvious traits. Arnar is not a morning person, not by a long shot, but Sam quickly figured out how to work that, and Arnar caught on how to anticipate and work around Sam's fear of snow storms. 

Hot-tubbing, hair-braiding, mud baths, sharing a double bed, language barriers, and ignorant tourists all play a role in their adventures. 

I would definitely recommend this book, even if you, like me, haven't read the first one. We get a big surprise at the end, and a lovely epilogue that leaves them both in a really good place. 


** I was given a free copy of this book by its author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **

ARC Review: A Christmas Promise by K.C. Wells

A Christmas Promise - K.C. Wells

It's no secret to anyone who follows and/or knows me that I adore the books this author writes, and this Christmas story is no exception.

The book begins with Micah Trant, early 20s, driving home at night, in the snow, somewhere in Wyoming, when the lights of his car shine upon what looks to be just a bundle of clothing. Micah stops the car and realizes that he has found a badly beaten young man who's nearly frozen to death. 

Micah immediately takes the young man to the nearest hospital and refuses to leave him. Greg, the young man, may be a stranger, but Micah will not abandon him alone in a hospital, and certainly not once he finds out the extent of Greg's injuries. 

Greg came to Wyoming to deliver a letter from his late father to Joshua Trant - who just happens to be Micah's father. Once that information is revealed, both Micah and Joshua convince Greg to come home with them to recuperate. Micah and his father and sister are still grieving the loss of their mother and wife not quite two years ago, while Greg is still struggling with the more recent loss of his father and the many years he missed out on truly knowing the man, since he was so very young when they divorced. 

This story is a sweet and quiet romance as feelings start to develop between Micah and Greg, and also a tale of lost love, not just once but twice, bittersweet memories and grief for what might have been, if it hadn't been for societal norms and disapproving parents. It's about family, the one you're born into and the one you choose for yourself. It's about missing what you've lost, but also learning to live again. 

Joshua, Micah's father, and Naomi, Micah's younger sister, play a huge role in this book as well - the focus isn't on the slowly developing romance - and they were both very supportive of Micah, his art, and his sexuality. I would love for Joshua to get his own story in a future book, one in which he learns to open himself up to living again and perhaps finding someone to spend the rest of his life with. My heart broke while reading about his grief, and the deep and abiding love he had for both Greg's father when they were mere teenage boys, and his wife, whom he lost too soon.

There are many poignant moments within, and as days turn into weeks, and the Trants and Greg prepare for Christmas, the story becomes about shared laughs and smiles, and finding joy again.

This is not a story filled with sexy times - while Micah may be a bit more experienced than Greg, neither has been in a relationship before, and Greg has only recently come to terms with his own sexuality. He's not out to his mother, and never had a chance to come out to his father either. There are tentative hugs that turn into sweet kisses and nights spent in the same bed, cuddling. And it's not about the sex - I think having Micah and Greg go at it repeatedly and explicitly would have been very detrimental to the story and the message of this book.

I think this book truly showcases the talent of this author - conveying real emotions with realistic, fully developed and complex characters that the reader can connect with and cheer on. 

Recommend holiday reading!


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

Release Day ARC Review: High Test by Elizabeth Noble

High Test (Dreamspun Desires Book 47) - Elizabeth Noble

Fluffy romance between a grad student and a rich, older man of Indian descent with hints of Cinderfella.

 

Hayden, the grad student, is working an alumni/sponsor event for his university, where he meets Neal, the rich guy. There's some apparent assumption on Neal's part that Hayden's last name, Owens, means he belongs to the Owens family of coffee house fame. Hayden doesn't get a chance to correct that assumption, and after a dance at the event, he must rush to catch his bus. Cinderfella, right? Leaving after the dance?

 

And Hayden also forgets to exchange contact information with Neal. No matter, because Neal knows where Hayden works, so the coffee house, it is.

 

They have another date, and still don't exchange phone numbers.

 

The book continues in this fashion for a while, with Hayden thinking that Neal believes he's related to the owners of the coffee house chain, but not finding an opportunity to correct Neal and confess that he's just a poor grad student barely scraping by.

 

I liked that the author gave Neal an Indian background - diversity is appreciated.

 

There's just a lot in this book I didn't like. I don't mind an age gap, and that wasn't my issue here either, but Hayden sounded and in some instances acted younger than he should have, and Neal kind of steamrolled him toward the end - I didn't appreciate that.

The two explicit sex scenes allowed under the provision of the Dreamspun Desires titles felt clinical, robotic, and unemotional. I got Tab A inserted into Slot B, but there was just no chemistry and no connection to be felt. As a matter of fact, I was only told about their connection - I wasn't really shown that they had one.

 

The writing itself and the plot progression were fine for the most part. I didn't like the bitchy female (the jilted woman from the blurb, who wasn't actually jilted at all, because Neal never even had a relationship with her), whose only purpose was to cause trouble between Hayden and Neal, and I didn't like the ridiculous "meet-the-parents" dinner with Neal's parents. They were utterly rude, for no particular reason other than their homophobia and Hayden's age. Hayden's mom was a sweetheart, though. I liked both Hayden and Neal - they were both nice, kind, thoughtful people.

 

Overall, 3 stars, primarily for the writing which was engaging, except the intimate scenes, as well as the overall flow of the story. YMMV.

 

 


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