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
124 Devoted To
3329 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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ARC Review: Textual Relations by Cate Ashwood

Textual Relations - Cate Ashwood

This was a sweet, low-angst, meet-cute novella. 

Henry Hathaway, an evolutionary psychology professor, gets up on his birthday to go to the dentist, because that's apparently what one does on his birthday. Except most people go to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, and a dental assistant isn't interchangeable with a dental hygienist. 

Henry is rather dull and a bit socially awkward. When he gets a text out of the blue from someone named Ash, confirming their dinner plans, Henry goes out of his way to meet Ash, thinking Ash is a woman who's going to be stood up, and he doesn't want her to think her date didn't show. Again, most people would reply by text, stating something like "hey, wrong number", but not Henry.

Except when Henry gets to the restaurant, Ash turns out to be Asher. Who's definitely not a girl. 

Meet-cute, right? Except Asher is gay, and Henry is definitely not. That he knows of. 

Henry is also super oblivious so when he and Ash hang out, he doesn't realize it's a date. 

Matter of fact, our oblivious prof doesn't realize much of anything until Ash kisses him. 

What I liked about this book is that Mr. Oblivious didn't suddenly have an existential crisis after The Kiss and his revelation that "huh, how about that, I may be bi", and Asher is spontaneous and fun, and Henry just goes with the flow, allowing Asher to pull him out of his preconceived notions and routines. 

Okay, so when I said "existential crisis", I didn't mean that Henry is all set to go explore his newfound attraction to Asher. There's a somewhat short time period where Henry doesn't answer Ash's calls and texts, but then, professor that he is, jumps feet first into researching sexuality, and... well, you read this for yourself.

As short as this is, there's plenty of steam, once Henry fully commits himself, and starts taking more risks - the staid professor type in Henry takes a leave of absence.

This is only a novella, so there's not a ton of relationship development, and we don't get Asher's POV, which didn't help explain why someone who's supposedly such a player (as we're told) is suddenly hell-bent on gaining the prof's love. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants? They for sure had sufficient chemistry, so even though this thing between them develops quickly, I didn't find it difficult to believe they had the hots for each other. The epilogue sealed the deal.

So, meet-cute, a clueless professor, and a smitten ex-player - this was a fun, albeit quick read. Perfect for an extended lunch break, amirite?


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

ARC Review: Gabriel (Legacy Ranch #2) by RJ Scott

Gabriel (Legacy Series Book 2) - RJ Scott

Gabriel, book 2 in the Legacy Ranch series by this author, was a difficult book to read, primarily because of the abuse Gabriel suffers and has suffered. If you saw my status updates while I was reading this book, you know that I wished a painful and horrific death upon Stefan, the pimp who picked up Gabriel after the trial and who exploited Gabriel's low self-esteem, his weakness and pain, to make him hurt even more.

I'm not sorry for wanting that slimeball dead. 

Gabriel is trapped. While he has escaped the abuse he suffered at the ranch, he's still not free of it. He honestly believes that all he's good for is sex, a lie fed to him repeatedly, constantly, by his pimp, and on those few occasions that Gabriel dares reach for just a little more, like Kyle's letters inviting him to Legacy Ranch, Stefan knows how to keep him down. With fists and dub-con sex, telling him that he's good for nothing else, reinforcing what Gabriel already believes himself to be.

Cameron Stafford, hotel owner, nearly blind from a degenerative disease, just wants his awful, cruel family off his back. His last boyfriend was a no-good thief who stole from him, and Cam has no delusions of finding someone permanent, and he relies heavily on Six, his bodyguard/friend, who's been with him for many years. 

Gabe's latest client has booked a room in Cam's hotel, which is how Cam finds out about Gabe and then decides to hire him as a fake boyfriend. 

It's not as cute as that may sound. Cam's family is ridiculously nasty to him, over the top nasty, to be honest, and Cam's father is trying to take running the hotel away from him, because clearly, someone who's blind cannot possibly run a hotel. Right. Sit down, you jerk.

And Gabe - OMG, he broke my heart. There are a few outs that present themselves to Gabe, ways out of the hell he lives in, but he's too broken, too afraid, to trust and take them, instead returning time and again to his abusive pimp. I cried and cried, and wanted Stefan dead. I don't usually react with such violence to a fictional character, so my reaction to Stefan should tell you how abhorrent his character truly is. There is nothing redeeming about him, and when he meets his demise, I cheered. 

I would have liked to see a bit more development of Cam's and Gabe's romantic relationship - unfortunately, we are mostly told that they develop feelings for each other. Cam tries hard to show Gabe that there is another way, that he doesn't have to stay with Stefan, and I liked that he didn't give up. Sure, he had help from Six, even if it was reluctantly given, but I could see that Six only wanted what was best for Cam, and didn't at first believe that Gabe fit the bill. 

Both characters have experienced pain and hurt, though Gabe's abuse was obviously much more horrific. I felt for both of them, cried at the damage inflicted on them by others, and I wanted them to have their happy ending.

Which, of course, they get. This is a romance, after all. I would have liked that to have been expanded on a bit more, and I felt that the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly. Most of the book also takes place away from Legacy Ranch, and we get only a few scenes there. 

Overall, this book had a very different feel than the first one in this spin-off series. It's a lot heavier, I believe, and on more than one occasion, I wanted to reach into the pages and alternately strangle Stefan, and grab Gabriel and Cameron and shield them both from the people who wanted to hurt them. 

Not an easy book to read, but, I would say, worth your time.


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

Author Of The Month - Mary Calmes - Week Three

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

Release Day ARC Review: Out Of The Shadows by KC Wells

Out of the Shadows (Dreamspun Desires Book 40) - K.C. Wells

I adored this so much! What a sweet romance between one hunky gardener/handyman and one damaged, hiding young man who thinks an accident 8 years ago that left him severely scarred turned him into a monster not fit for society. 

Josh is a gardener/handyman for an apartment complex and has been tasked with modernizing some of the apartments by upgrading the kitchens and bathrooms. The first apartment is the home of a mysterious resident, whom nobody has apparently ever seen. Josh is a really nice guy, easy-going and kind, and he has no preconceived notions about the man who lives in the apartment. Josh feels he's there to do a job, and he plans on doing a good one. He also has a nice group of friends, including two (Nate and Dylan) who may be given the "oblivious men of the year" award. I sure hope the author has a book planned for them as well. 

Christian made a horrific mistake 8 years ago while helping a stranded motorist to jump-start his car and hooked up the wrong side first, resulting in severe acid burns to his face, arms and chest. He moved to Boston to start a new life - if you can call it a life - and cut himself off from friends, family, and everyone. He orders what he needs online, groceries are delivered to his front door, and he only rarely goes outside, and when he does, it's at night, cloaked in darkness. He's afraid of people's reactions to his scars and would rather be alone than see them pity him or recoil from him.

Unbeknownst to Josh, Christian has been watching him work in the flower beds and such, admiring and lusting after him. Of course, Christian has no illusions of getting any closer to Josh than through the window, but ogling is enough. Or so he tells himself.

On the first day of the renovation job, Josh believes that Christian isn't home, but the truth comes out, and Christian has a difficult time believing that Josh's reaction to the scars (and the monster he sees in the mirror) is so calm and accepting.

A mutual love for Harry Potter brings them closer, they share lunch every day while Josh is working on the apartment, and even after he's done and has moved on to the next place, and it was so lovely to watch Christian begin to trust Josh, who starts to draw the slightly older man out of his shell. Shared lunches turn into watching a movie at the theater (late at night, of course), and meeting Josh's friends.

Christian blossoms under Josh's unfailing support, and their mutual attraction fairly quickly turns into real emotions and a desire to be together. Josh helps Christian realize that what he sees in the mirror is not a monster after all, and that while some people may react in a way Christian expects them to (recoiling in horror), the majority of folks do not. 

I would have liked Christian to consider therapy to deal with his self-hatred, because Josh is not a therapist, and while he provided steady support, love, and understanding, I wasn't sure that Christian's rather rapid progression to being comfortable in public spaces (after hiding for so long) was completely realistic. However, considering that this is a Dreamspun Desires title, this did not influence my rating or enjoyment of this book.

The author did a great job with the characters, and their romance was believable within the parameters of this series. Their story is, while definitely on the fluffy side, super romantic and hopeful, and their HEA was well deserved. A quiet, low-key romance, very little angst, and so very sweet - I had a fabulous time reading it.

And I'm serious about Nate and Dylan needing their own book. Please get right on that, Ms. Wells.


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

Author Of The Month - Mary Calmes - Week Two

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

ARC Review: Force Of Nature (Coming About #4) by J.K. Hogan

Force of Nature (Coming About Book 4) - J.K. Hogan

This is Neal Hesse's book. While it's not my favorite in the series (that was Rory's book), I think this was still a solid novel.

I had a couple of niggles, but I would classify them as minor.

The primary location for this book is in the North Cascades mountains; the rugged terrain poses multiple opportunities for the men to get into some serious, life-threatening situations.

Neal Hesse is a harbor patrol officer. After a bad break-up with his partner of 10 years, Neal is a bit adrift, and has been sleeping his way through quite a few one-night-stands trying to deal with the pain and hurt and his broken heart. Since those didn't fix anything, he decides a vacation is just the right thing to get himself back on track, and what better vacation than roughing it in the mountains. Except Neal can barely walk a straight line without stumbling, apparently, so he definitely needs a guide.

Enter Travis McCreary, mountaineer, who goes by Rock. Because, ya know, mountains. An ex-Ranger, he's now a survivalist, taking on guided tours (which he hates doing) while waiting for his big break to come through in the form of a survivalist TV show. Oh, he's also very much in the closet, because clearly mountain men cannot possibly be gay. 

Right.

So Neal gets dropped by helicopter and the two men set out on a trip across the Cascades to the pick-up zone. Seems simple enough, right? Except, no one told Neal about massive rattle snakes lurking under tree branches, or that a lot of rain can make for treacherous terrain, and thus the two men have to use all their wits to make it to the pre-arranged pick up. 

Which may include eating a rattle snake. Foraging for food. Sharing a sleeping bag for warmth. 

As for my niggles... no way is a single rattler, no matter how fat, enough sustenance for two grown man hiking over rugged terrain all day. Their food rations were so minimal that I had serious doubts either one of them would still be walking after the 2nd day without having more than half a cereal bar, with the exertion they were both putting out. Which may explain why Rock... nah, you read this for yourself.

Also, the blurb hints at dub-con - nah, I don't think so. This didn't feel like that to me. It felt more like Rock likes it rough, and Neal likes it rough, and their conversation beforehand was sufficient for me to not consider this dub-con. Now, the reason they had that first time sex was possibly because Neal hated Rock and vice versa, and possibly a bit because Neal felt like he had to be manly-man-assertive, but still not dub-con. YMMV. 

Anyway, after that first time, the two men get it on more often than not, and ew, ew, ew, you haven't showered in three days, and you've wiped your ass with leaves and moss, and ew. Not my kind of sexy, sorry.

I gave this book 3.5 stars for the tale it tells as the two men face adverse conditions time and again, and how both of them work toward a common goal, which is making it out of the mountains alive without any major injuries. Also, how feelings start to develop. And how often I was on the edge of my seat scared for their safety, because holy shit, some of that stuff is a little bit far out of my comfort zone. 

The book kept my interest; I didn't skim anything, and I loved how the two of them bonded. I also liked that Neal grew a pair with the ex-BF, and told him to fuck off. Well done, Neal. I do hope he'd have done that too if he hadn't already fallen for Rock, because Neal deserved better than to be dumped like that.

I do believe this might be the last in this series, and as such, it was a fitting ending. We got to visit with the three couple from the first three books and see them still super happy and in love, so that was nice. 

Solid writing. I enjoyed it.


** I received a free copy of this book via Indigo Marketing and Design as part of a blogtour. A positive review was not promised in return. **

Author Of The Month - Mary Calmes - Week One

Join us as we kick off our month-long celebrations for this fabulous author!

 

Release Day ARC Review: The Teddy Bear Club by Sean Michael

The Teddy Bear Club (Dreamspun Desires Book 39) - Sean Michael

The blurb sounded fun, and the general idea of this book was great, but the execution left me wanting. I expected more than talk about diapers, and burping, and bottles, and just kids in general from a book being billed as a romance.

Aiden has adopted his sister's two children, since his sister struggles with mental health issues and cannot take care of them. He works from home, mostly at night, and his adult interactions are pretty much limited to his twice-weekly trip to the local coffee shop where he meets with friends.

Devon is taking care of his much younger sister's newborn baby after she left town. He is completely over his head taking take of a baby, even three months in, and he hasn't started any legal proceedings either. Invited to join Aiden and the others at the coffee place, he's glad for some adult company too.

Most of this book is told in dialogue. Most of this dialogue is trite, bland, and non-engaging, and while a romance develops between Aiden and Devon, amidst taking care of the children, there just didn't seem to be any kind of believable spark. 

For a romance to work for me, there has to be more relationship development, and more to the relationship than just the commonality of taking care of kids. The kids just took over this book, and I was often rather bored while reading about their feeding times, their bedtimes, and their baths. While the romance itself was fine (what there was of one), the constant talking about the children was a major turnoff. 

There's some drama with Devon's mother who wants to take the baby from him, but that's also easily resolved, and her role in this book was slightly OTT, as was Devon's reactions to her threats. 

So yeah... this didn't do it for me. YMMV. 


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

ARC Review: Scrap by Josephine Myles

Scrap (The Bristol Collection Book 3) - Josephine Myles

This third book in the Bristol Collection is about Grant (Mas' asshole cheating married ex) and Dare, who had a thing for Perry, but didn't succeed.

There's a scene in Stuff where Grant shows up at Perry's store in hopes of winning back Mas, a little on the drunker side, and gets doused with wine, courtesy of Perry, and then escorted out by Dare, who also attended the 'grand re-opening' of Perry's store.

You see, Grant was married with children when he carried on an affair with Mas, but he's come clean to his wife, divorced, and now doesn't know how to move forward. He's gay, he knows it, but still closeted. His boss, a sleazebag first class, sends him on a fact-finding mission, which brings Grant to Dare's scrap yard, where Dare rebuilds travel vans (and lives in his "office" trailer), while taking care of his junkie brother who lives in Dare's house. 

Dare is out and proud, straight-forward, and doesn't take shit from anyone, especially not some real estate developer's minion who's rude and snobbish and looks down his nose at him.

Of course, to the wanna-be posh Grant, Dare's motor oil perfume isn't what he's looking for, but while he's busy looking down his nose, he cannot help but notice the other man's body and lust for what seems to be a sizable endowment. 

Dare remembers Grant from the store reopening and feels kind of sorry for the guy. They get physically close quickly, but Grant is an idiot and selfish and scared, which nearly costs him the one good thing he's found since he fucked over Mas and his wife and kids. 

With her typical charm and style, Jo Myles made me care even about someone like Grant, even though I usually cannot abide cheaters in my romance novels. I felt sorry for him, really. He sucked, sure, but I could see that he didn't really want to be a bad guy. He tried to do the right thing in the end, even if it cost him. 

This book was probably the angstiest of the three in this series. Dare's situation with his brother's addiction does have a positive ending, even if it didn't look like it would, for a while there. I liked Dare a lot - his no-nonsense attitude combined with his deep love for his brother, and his steadfastness when it came to people he cared about made him a lovable character and a good guy in my book. 

The author teases at the end that there might be another book forthcoming. Possibly a new character not yet introduced, or possibly a book that revisits all three couples in the future. I'd read it either way.


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

ARC Review: Stuff by Josephine Myles

Stuff  - Josephine Myles

In this second book from the Bristol Collection, we meet Mas (again, sort of) who was Jasper's sometime fuck-buddy, suddenly out of a job and suddenly homeless. And nevermind the nasty security dude following him and accosting him in the store about the bottles of perfume Mas might be smuggling out in his backpack. 

But Mas runs fast, and then slips into a small store while trying to hide from the big bad security dude.

Fortuitously, Mas ends up in a Vintage shop owned by Perry, who's a bit (okay, a lot) more posh than Mas. And quite startled at the young man popping into his store.

With her typical Britishness and fabulous sense of humor, Jo Myles lets their story unfold one vintage garment at a time. Mas is a quirky and often exasperating character, and Perry, much more sedate, doesn't quite know what to do with the quivering and bouncing slip of a boy. 

I adored them both so much! Perry doesn't know what hit him, never thought of himself as gay, but holy hot boysecks, there's not a single thing he lets stand in his way once he allows Mas to sex him up. Except maybe for his belief that he's not good enough for Mas.

All the while, Mas has a similar issue thinking that he's not good enough for the very posh Perry in his vintage vests and shirts.

Of course, neither one of them has the guts to talk about their self-doubts so they just dodder along until - well, you read this for yourself.

A fitting continuation of book one, we also get to revisit with Jasper and Lewis, and their oh so happy ever after. 

Utterly charming and adorable, this book made me smile and giggle and awww a lot. Perry is wonderful, Mas is slightly crazy, but together they just fit perfectly. 

Recommended.


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

ARC Review: Junk by Josephine Myles

Junk - Josephine Myles

I can always count on Jo Myles to write a very British book, and this first one in the Bristol Collection has all the usual charm and style I expect from this author. 

Jasper, he with the dull librarian job at the university and the unfashionable somewhat dowdy clothes, is a hoarder. Of books, magazine, newspapers, pamphlets - anything printed, really - and the immense collection in his house is preventing him from really living his life. 

The book gave some great insights into what it must be like to live with this disorder (and it is a disorder, let's face it), and how it can impact a person so very detrimentally. 

Intellectually, of course, Jasper realizes that he has a problem - unable to use most of the rooms in the house he inherited from his mother, he is cognizant that one day, and likely one day soon, one or more of the stacks of books and other printed materials will collapse and bury him. And yet, he cannot stop himself from bringing home ever more material, because he cannot allow books etc to be just thrown away. His home is a prison, more or less, but he just cannot stop. Even when he tries to remove a single book from his house, his mind simply shuts down and refuses to cooperate. Anxiety is trapping him, in more than just one way.

In a moment of clarity while in the clutches of an anxiety attack, Jasper reaches out to a brother-sister declutter/organizer team and soon meets Lewis and Carroll. 

Lewis knows Jasper from long ago, when they were both in still in school, even though Lewis was a few years behind Jasper. Nursing a crush way back when, Lewis still feels the attraction when coming face to face with Jasper.

Jasper remembers Lewis too, and the admiration he had for the younger, but out and proud boy a few years below him. 

At 30, Lewis still lives with his parents, dealing with unhappily falling in love with men he wants to change, and a bit of a shopping addiction, which explains his usual lack of funds and having to live with his somewhat eccentric mum and dad. 

But attraction is burning brightly, and if it weren't for the dilemma of not dating a client, and Lewis' history of falling for men not good for him, he'd be climbing Jasper like a tree. As their relationship begins to change from a business transaction to friendship to lovers, some of Lewis' demons make him doubt and question his feelings and his motives, and he tries to set boundaries time and again, and breaches every single one himself. 

Jasper is a complex and flawed character, full of shame for his hoarding, not willing to allow anyone into his home because of the hoarding, which has cost him what few friends he had, with occasional one-night-stands with his fuck-buddy Mas (he of book 2) the only real human contact he has. It is immediately clear how very lonely Jasper is, and how deeply he yearns for friendship and love. He's shy, but kind, and also has a bit of a backbone when pressed, and I really adored him. I wanted him to get help. I wanted to hug him. 

It was fascinating to watch this story unfold. It's pretty quiet and sedate overall, and the romance between Jasper and Lewis grows ever so slowly, which made perfect sense within this plot, but you can see with every passing day how much stronger Jasper gets, how he and Lewis work not only on cleaning out the clutter but also on chasing away their respective demons. 

A beautiful story, complex characters, a great supporting cast; this is a book definitely worth your time. 


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

Author Of The Month - Sue Brown - Grand Finale

Join us once more as we celebrate this fabulous author!

 

ARC Review: What The Cat Dragged In by B.A. Tortuga

What the Cat Dragged In (Sanctuary Book 2) - BA Tortuga

Whoever said cats and dogs don't get along hasn't met the feline and lupine shifters of this series. 

What a fun follow-up to the first book! Also, while this could be read as a standalone, you'd miss out if you didn't read about Sam (a panther) and Gus (a wolf) getting together in the first one.

In this book, we have Connor Ragbone, a bobcat shifter, and Brock Herman, a wolf shifter like Gus. 

Connor finds things. Something inside him pulls him in a certain direction, calling to him, even though he never knows what he might find when he answers that call. He never thought he'd have a permanent home base, being a bit of a loner, but he's found a place to come back to with Sam and Gus and their awesome family. 

His current call leads him to Brock. 

Brock Herman is self-sufficient, self-reliant, and basically also a loner. He's working undercover, trying to break up a poacher ring. He has no time for the bobcat that suddenly shows up in the middle of his ops, but the cat just won't leave him alone, dammit.

I laughed out loud so many times reading this book. Connor is a unique character, and I really enjoyed how much he trusts that inner voice calling him to his next find, and how laid back he was, never questioning whether following the call might end up with him in trouble or not.

Two loners - what could possibly go wrong, amirite?

Turns out Connor and Brock are mates, feeling that inexplicable pull toward each other, even if this doesn't fit with Brock's plans at all. The author did a great job not forcing the mating call, but letting Brock ("I work alone, dammit") come to terms with Connor's presence, despite his annoyance, and the romance develops slowly. Sure, UST and sexy times come fairly quickly, but the emotional bond takes time to grow. Well done, that. 

Connor was utterly adorable - I loved him from the start. He's quirky, funny, snarky, and super laid-back, but also quick to lend a hand, smart, and definitely loyal and courageous. His easy-going personality was well contrasted with Brock's more serious and focused personality, and I thought that the two men complemented each other rather well. They worked well as a team, which comes in handy when... nope, not gonna spoil this for you.

The story has action galore, what with the poacher ring, and bears in cages, which culminates in an edge-of-your-seat sequence of events that leaves Connor seriously injured, help from an unexpected source, and the villain... nah, you read this for yourself. 

The author did a fantabulous job with world building in this book and its predecessor, and the specific shifter mythology employed here worked really well for me. There's no magical healing, no mating bond compulsion, and no instant ILYs, but the book sure delivers what it promises - a feel good shifter romance. 

I can hardly wait for the next book in this series. 


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

ARC Review: The Garden (Lavender Shores #2) by Rosalind Abel

The Garden - Rosalind Abel

I may have asked the author for an early copy. Possibly.

Oh, who am I kidding - I shamelessly begged as soon as I saw CrabbyPatty reading it. 

And I would beg again, if given the choice, because this book was fabulous. Gorgeous. Rapturous. Captivating. Brilliant. If my 15 status updates didn't convince you to pick up a copy of this as soon as you can, hopefully my review will.

Where book 1 was a mostly easy love story between Andrew and Joel, book 2 isn't like that at all. In this 2nd book, the author created a much more emotional and pain-filled plot, giving both of the MCs past hurts and some big issues they must overcome.

Gilbert Bryant (Andrew's cousin who sold him the cabin), a member of one of the founding families of Lavender Shores, has escaped his hometown as soon as he could. He designs one of a kind jewelry for the rich and famous, and he's perfectly happy in his cabin above Lake Tahoe, having no illusions that he'll ever be as happy as his cousin. Not that he thinks he deserves to be. Except he's having to go back for family get-togethers every so often, one of which is Andrew and Joel's engagement party.

Walden Thompson has recently moved to Lavender Shores, a place he visited once as a kid and dreamed of making his home ever since. He's a teacher and running from a past he's not proud of. It's clear early on that Walden keeps mostly to himself, and also doesn't have any aspirations of finding someone to love. 

The two meet at the gym, where Gilbert is on a treadmill behind Walden on a Stairmaster. Lusting for the well-formed ass in front of him, Gilbert thinks Walden is a tourist. Attraction is immediate, and after some steamy times in the steam room, they spend a hot night together. Their specific kinks line up pretty well, and that first bedroom scene was .... uh, well... let's call it rough and rowdy. I don't think I've ever read a scene like that in an M/M romance novel... not even in one that I knew would be kinky. 

I might have fanned myself.

Moving on.

Then Gilbert and Walden meet again at the engagement party, and Gilbert finds out Walden is a teacher. Immediate recoil by Gilbert makes things a bit awkward for Walden. I was scratching my head as to why that would be an issue for Gilbert, since no reason is given at that time.

Still licking his wounds, Walden ends up in a resort kind of place on a short vacation near Lake Tahoe, unaware that Gilbert lives in the area. While being propositioned by a Gilbert-lookalike, the real deal shows up, and the attraction still burns brightly. Also, Gilbert might be a little jealous. Possibly. Even if he tells himself that he shouldn't be, because he's no good for Walden.

And Walden fears being hurt again, and possibly falling down that rabbit hole of pain and shame once more if he lets himself get close to Gilbert. Sex is easy (and super hawt) - feelings are not welcome here. 

I really liked that the author didn't make things easy for them. There's a lot of angst here, and both men have pasts that still haunt them. No, I'm not going to tell you what those pasts are, but let it suffice that they both struggle, in their own ways. They're both still hurting, and while they don't immediately share their deepest and darkest secrets, they are both honest about being troubled, and how those troubles are impacting their views and actions. 

Of course, true love will not be thwarted, no matter how hard they both fight it. This is a romance, after all. 

What I really loved is how Gilbert and Walden help each other come to terms with their pasts. Even as Gilbert believes he doesn't deserve Walden, believes the things hateful people have told him in the past, even as he confesses his fears, his depression, his attempts at ending things when the pain got too much, all of his darkness, it is clear that Walden doesn't judge Gilbert for his past. And when Walden comes clean about his own past, he realizes that Gilbert isn't judging him either. 

The author created two complex, flawed, and yet strong characters, with histories that still shape their actions, but also allowed them to grow, to realize things, and to forge a new path - together. Their story isn't without pitfalls, and for some time, it's two steps forward, one step back, but as the plot progresses, their relationship goes from hot animalistic sexy times to real intimacy. Their fears don't disappear overnight, there's no magical healing here, but they face their fears, they move forward, they learn, they grow. 

This is hurt/comfort/healing at its finest, and I didn't want to put this book down until I had finished their story, only stopping for such pesky reasons as work and sleep. Absolutely heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. A fantastic supporting cast rounded out this novel, with many of the characters making repeat appearances in this book and its predecessor. 

While this book could easily be read as a standalone, I would personally recommend you read the first one too, because a lot of the history of the town, as well as the intermingled family history, is explained in that first one.

 

What I also want to mention are the titles. The Palisade and The Garden are both places that are important to the stories and to the characters. I thought that this was rather clever on the author's part, since both places play a huge role in the plot lines of their respective stories. I imagine that a veranda will be prominent in the third book, which is Donovan's story.

That's next. I'll be begging for a copy, for sure. 

This is one series you do not want to miss. Read it!


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

Author Of The Month - Sue Brown - Week Three

Come join us again today as we continue our celebrations for this amazing author! 

ARC Review: Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys #3) by Brandon Witt

Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys Book 3) - Brandon Witt

This is the 3rd book in the Mary's Boys series, all set in and around a Hamburger Mary's in Denver, CO.

On his way home from Hamburger Mary's after a performance as his drag queen alter ego Ariel Merman, while still dressed as Ariel, Zachary Cooper becomes the victim of a gay bashing. 

I was already crying when he comes to in the hospital, in pain and worried that the homophobic assholes who attacked him messed up his face and that he won't be able to perform anymore. 

In walks Teegan Chau, his doctor, and things suddenly look up.

Teegan has only recently come out as gay, and while he's divorced from his wife, they share a little girl and have a great friendly, supportive relationship. Teegan has had some hook-ups with other men, but has never been on an actual date with a man. Instantly smitten with the younger, somewhat femme guy in the hospital bed, Teegan and Zachary agree on a date. 

While the story had the potential to be really angsty, it actually wasn't, and there's a lot of inner strength to Zachary. He has a steely interior, and while he struggles a little with the trauma from the attack, he doesn't allow it to destroy him. 

I loved that the author didn't rush the developing relationship. Teegan's adorkable awkwardness on their first date was super cute, but neither he nor Zachary jumped into a commitment - they took their time to test the waters and really build a foundation.

As Ariel, Zachary is free to be himself, instead of worrying about meeting expectations other men might have of him. I loved that the author wrote about a femme man and the misconceptions that come with that. 

This book is the most heart-breaking and also most heart-warming of the series so far, as Zachary and Teegan, and the whole Mary's chosen family, deal with societal expectations, homophobia, the bashing, immediate family issues, and how to forge their own way.

There isn't a lot of steam here, and I for one don't need that in a romance novel to believe the relationship. Zachary grows into himself here, and Teegan finds exactly what he never knew he always wanted. 

So well done. 


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