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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Currently reading

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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ARC Review: The Glasshouse by Rosalind Abel

The Glasshouse (Lavender Shores #6) - Rosalind Abel
The Glasshouse is the 6th book in the Lavender Shores series, and tells the romance of Adrian and Harrison.

You may remember Adrian Rivera as Micah's business partner, growing organic produce they sell to the businesses in Lavender Shores. On the farm is an old, somewhat dilapidated glass house (a growing house) with which Adrian isn't sure what to do. The Riveras are of course a founding family. 

Harrison Getty is a former NFL football player, now underwear model (after a career-ending injury), who's been starring in a reality TV show about his romance with and upcoming wedding to Will Epstein, who is also a member of a founding family. Their wedding ceremony will be broadcast live on national TV (as one does, I suppose). 

Adrian has a crush on Harrison, but obviously that can't go anywhere because Harrison is getting married to Will. He's one of the groomsmen and trying his best to keep his distance, and his mask in place.

And then Harrison, overwhelmed, unsure, and feeling trapped, runs. While the cameras are rolling.

Oh, the scandal!!!

And this is only the first chapter or so. Obviously, I'm not going to give away the entire plot here. Let's just say that Will leaves town to escape the humiliation (I did feel sorry for him), and Harrison hides in his brother Jasper's apartment. 

The fallout is massive, for sure, and gets worse when Harrison and Adrian are caught in a passionate embrace in said glasshouse. 

It's obvious from the start that Harrison hasn't been happy for some time, not with Will, not with how his life was going, and not with the TV crews following his every move. For a very long time, Harrison has been who everyone expected him to be, to the point that he doesn't even know what he really wants anymore. Or who he really is. So he's got some work to do on that front, and I really liked how the author gave him that chance here. 

The glasshouse becomes an important part of their story, and I thought that the analogy the author used here was rather clever - as Adrian cleans up the glasshouse (which is sort of the foundation of their romance) and reclaims the space, so Harrison de-clutters his life to make room for the person he wants to be, to make space for his true wants and needs. 

While some aspects of this book touch on couples from the previous books, and supporting characters from the series show up here as well, this can be read as a stand-alone, especially if you've reviewed the author's website that fully lays out how everyone is connected in this town. 

Though, to be honest, I would recommend you read the entire series. These are feel-good, easy reads, high on romance and passion, and well worth your time. 


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

 

ARC Review: Nasu by Jet Lupin

Nasu - Jet Lupin

I was approached by the author about a review for this book. The blurb doesn't really tell you a whole lot about who (and what) Shige is, but I was intrigued so I said yes.

I'm glad I did. This was an interesting and enthralling read, despite the multitude of grammatical and spelling issues that a good editor or proofreader should have found. 

Phil, a nurse, is in dire need of some time off. He basically works, comes home to take care of his dog Hugo, eats, sleeps, and goes back to work. His shift is the graveyard one, so he's awake at night and asleep during the day, which doesn't really make for much of a social life. But now he's got some vacation coming, and his good friend decides they both need a night out on the town.

While at a club, Phil meets Shige, a handsome stranger. Attraction is instantaneous and mutual, and they spend a night together.

Then weird things happen. 

I won't spoil the plot here, but suffice it to say that the book had a myriad of interesting characters and doesn't focus on the romance between Shige and Phil. Evil forces are at work, and the relationship doesn't develop naturally because of those, as Phil and Shige don't spend a whole lot of time together, and even when they do, they keep getting interrupted. 

While Phil and Shige are interesting and engaging characters on their own, I didn't feel as if their relationship truly developed outside of the potential supernatural attraction they felt. Shige's mysterious aura, combined with his unwillingness to reveal his secrets, made for a contentious relationship, and though Phil eventually believes what his eyes (and everyone else) are trying to tell him, he too expresses a reluctance to commit. Not that I blamed him - if your entire life is suddenly uprooted because some guy you met a club whisks you off to his lair because of having put your life in danger, but doesn't tell you what's going on, you'd be pissed off too. 

The author did a fine job with the world-building. There was no info-dumping, and information was revealed slowly as part of the plot. There's a myriad of supporting characters, and the atmosphere created here is often dark and mysterious. The book kept me interested, and I didn't feel bored at all. The dialogue felt organic and believable, and I liked that Phil didn't take any crap from Shige or anyone else unless he absolutely had to. I also liked that he wasn't written as a "damsel-in-distress". 

What bothered me a bit was the ending - this wasn't advertised as the first in a series, and I was a bit surprised when I came to the end without having a HEA or even a strong HFN. There are still too many open questions, and I wasn't all that happy to find that the 2nd book isn't finished yet. While we leave Phil and Shige in a somewhat good place in their still developing relationship, their story isn't done, and I wish I had known this before starting this book. I wouldn't call it an absolute cliffhanger, but it wasn't a real ending. 

I mentioned the editing issues - on occasion, they would yank me out of the flow, and I recommend that the author get a good proofreader to fix those issues. I'd hate to see folks miss out on a good book because they can't get past the errors. 

This was my first book by this author, but I'm definitely interested to see what they cook up next. 


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

ARC Review: A Full Plate by Kim Fielding

A Full Plate - Kim Fielding

This was utterly adorable. And it's apparently true - the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

At least, in this case, that old adage works - Sage seduces Tully with his cooking skills.

I'm getting ahead of myself though...

Bradford Tolliver aka Tully is a hot shot young lawyer, living in a fancy condo, driving a fancy car - and living an empty life. When his colleague asks for a favor for her cousin to live with Tully for a few months, less than a year, Tully reluctantly agrees.

Sage Filling (what the heck, Kim Fielding?) took a job as a short order cook for reasons, but his dream is cooking on a much higher culinary scale. He loves trying out new recipes, and Tully is only too willing to be the guinea pig. He doesn't mind the hot kissing either. He doesn't mind spending a bit of his cash on some fancy cookware either if that keep Sage cooking up culinary delights.

The focus of this story is on the slowly developing romance between the two men and the presumably inevitable ending - Tully's life is in the city, and Sage wants to go home to his small town. 

There's a wee bit of drama with Tully's filthy rich ex Eddie who needs to learn the meaning of NO, and who comes across as a bit smarmy. I didn't like him much, though the Thanksgiving standoff was highly entertaining. 

This is a romance, so of course they get their happy ending. That's not a spoiler, is it?

This is a really sweet, adorable story, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone - the author is Kim Fielding after all. Enjoy this with a glass of wine or two, or read it lounging by the pool this summer. You won't regret giving this book a chance. 


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

ARC Review: Bad To The Bone by Nicki Bennett

Bad to the Bone - Nicki Bennett

This was for the most part a sweet second-chance romance between two men who were friends in high school and could have been more if it weren't for small town bigots and needing that scholarship.

Back in high school, Alex was going to be a big shot football player at college until an injury put an end to that dream. But that injury didn't happen until he had already lost his heart to Ricky Lee, a boy his age from the wrong side of the tracks, who shared his love of books. 

So Ricky Lee left town, and Alex stayed. He's now working at his hardware store he co-owns with his sister, his marriage has failed, and his life hasn't turned out at all how he imagined it would.

And then Ricky Lee comes back into town because of their high school reunion and makes it very clear from the start that he's never forgotten Alex. Ricky Lee now lives in Portland and is some kind of technology genius. He wants Alex and he starts his pursuit from the time he arrives back in town. 

This being a Dreamspun Desires title, the plot and happenings inside are deliciously OTT, the characters are slightly too perfect, and the supporting cast is a bit one-dimensional. I liked Alex's sister a whole lot - she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, and I liked his cop friend as well. I liked Alex and Ricky Lee, and Ricky Lee's somewhat flamboyant friend/business partner. 

As the romance gets its second wind, the small town bigots do their very best to try to put a cork in it. This is where the plot leaves realistic territory and veers dramatically into what the hell just happened. 

I was entertained, of course, and the scenes where Alex and Ricky Lee are on page together without others are really well done. I believed that they still had feelings for each other after all these years, and that those feelings were easily rekindled into a raging fire. 

This is a feel good book. It's an easy read for a day at the beach or curled up in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage. It's not deep, it's not memorable, but it's definitely enjoyable.


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

Author Of The Month - Quinn Anderson - Grand Finale

Please join us once more as we celebrate this fabulous author! 

ARC Review: Bad Attitude by K.A. Mitchell

Bad Attitude - K.A. Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

ARC Review: Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson

Fourteen Summers - Quinn Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highly recommended.


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

ARC Review: Hawk In The Rowan by Sam Burns

Hawk In The Rowan - Sam Burns

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

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

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

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

And then danger visits Rowan Harbor again.

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

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

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

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

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



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

ARC Review: Forgiveness by Grace R. Duncan

Forgiveness - Grace R. Duncan

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

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

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

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

And Eric freaks out. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Author Of The Month - Quinn Anderson - Week Two

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

Author Of The Month - Quinn Anderson - Week One

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

ARC Review: Hard Line by Sidney Bell

Hard Line - Sidney Bell

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

Until he isn't. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Diego's Secret - Bryan T. Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This was my first book by this author. 


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

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

Join us once more as we celebrate this fabulous author!

 

 

ARC Review: Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

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