Fighting For You: Fighting For Love, Book 1

Author: J.P. Oliver
Book Name: Fighting For You
Series: Fighting For Love
Order: 1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb: Luke’s life couldn’t really get any worse. His parents have died, his family bar is failing, he’s had to drop out of college, and he’s now engaged in a custody battle with his grandparents over his younger brother.

Adam is a drop-dead gorgeous lawyer, representing the grandparents in the custody battle. He isn’t pleased to be representing such snobby clients, and he’s definitely miffed to be shipped out to the Midwest for this case. But all that changes when he meets Luke. He’s handsome, charming… he gets Adam’s sense of humor, and definitely deserves to win the case.

They’re not supposed to even be talking to one another, much less dating, but both Adam and Luke feel a connection they can’t ignore. Can they figure out a way to make it work? Or will the case – and the things they have to do to win it – tear them apart?

This just barely hit the okay mark for me. Honestly? I was bored and ended up skimming through a lot of this book because there just wasn’t anything overly believable or emotionally stimulating here.

I love books about kids and families, yet this book uses the kid, Seth, as a prop and an afterthought when he should be the underlying focus of the story since that is the whole premise. Luke behaves and makes decisions like there isn’t even a kid in the picture at all, let alone one that he is willing to fight for. For someone who is apparently desperate to keep his brother with him, he sure as hell doesn’t act like it outside of a few pat sentences provided as a way of saying “See, this IS a book about battling for custody.” The kid is 12 and yet Luke apparently leaves him alone pretty much 100% of the time, treating him like he is much older and nearly ready to be living on his own instead of like a young kid that just lost both of his parents. There isn’t even any kind of cover like calling to ensure Seth knows where Luke is or checking in to make sure Seth is okay. That aspect of the story just flat out fails on all fronts.

The whole legal issue and sabotaging the case thing is so outside of the realm of believability as to be laughable. The fact that there were zero consequences for that ridiculous mess makes it all even more unbelievable.

Throw in some really meh or unlikable characters, even some of the peripheral ones (are they ALL fallen down drunks? Really?), and you aren’t left with much that is worth the time unless you just enjoy fluff stories with little to no substance.

A Family For Keeps: Rheland Richmond

Author: Rheland Richmond
Book Name: A Family For Keeps
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

Blurb:

Tristan was devastated when his sister died. His only consolation was her newborn daughter. He promised to take care of her like she was his own, but he’s broken that promise.

After growing up in foster care, Nathaniel’s finally built the life he’s always wanted. Now one case of human error could tear it all apart.

An unthinkable mistake that could never be rectified. Two men. Absolute strangers until tragedy and unforeseen circumstances bind them together. They must now find a way to co-parent and make the best of a bad situation. With no shared history to help them and two little girls caught in the middle, they now have no choice but to make it work. What could possibly go wrong?

Can two men put their differences aside for the sake of their children? They both have difficult choices to make, or what they love most will be taken away.

When I first read the blurb for this, I was pretty excited because it checked a lot of boxes for me on things I love in a good story. The premise and idea behind the story is really good, if maybe a little bit over the top. Sadly, the execution of that idea kind of flopped. There were just too many things that kept yanking me out of this story for me to ever really sink into it emotionally and I hated that.

The majority of this book is contained inside the characters heads, giving the reader very little dialog. Even a lot of character interaction is handled this way, even several situations being a character’s remembrance of scenarios instead of allowing the characters to experience them as a natural flow of events. That hampered my ability to connect with the characters and feel their connection with each other. This is a classic example of needing to show, not tell.

What little dialog you get was painfully one sided. There was almost no actual back and forth conversation, only one character speaking without getting any feedback, either in words or actions, from the other character(s) in the scene, leaving you with this bizarre kind of monologue. The few times you do get a little back and forth between characters, it is nearly impossible to tell who is speaking, which made all the dialog scenes even more convoluted because you couldn’t always tell if it was a monologue or back and forth. I honestly got lost several times in the dialog parts.

This is written in a dual POV between the two main characters. Sections were made clear as to who’s POV the reader was getting, yet there were still these random jumps where we get a tiny bit of perspective that came out as the other character, lasted maybe a sentence or two or even a paragraph before shifting back to the designated character’s POV. These always tripped me up and I had to go back and reread to try and figure out if I misread something or had missed a noted POV switch.

While I do really like the concept idea of this story, the details to make it happen are just too pat. Both main characters are stupidly good looking and stupidly wealthy. Tristian has the added benefit of being surrounded by stupidly good looking, talented, equally stupidly wealthy friends and adopted family. The kids are all insanely perfect, docile little dolls that roll with every single change like it is nothing. Anyone that has kids or even knows a kid will tell you this is straight up fantasy, because that would NEVER happen no matter how you work to justify it. Yes, there are a few historical challenges and difficulties as well as the issue of the medical thing (which also turns out perfectly), but… there just are no character imperfections to make them feel realistic, believable or relatable. Even the one real struggle towards the end seems overly simplistic.

And as much as I hate harping on editing mistakes… this just had too many obvious and annoying ones that just made all the other annoying issues combine to make me just not enjoy the story. I’m pretty sure I even ran into a few character history/background contradictions (massive peeve of mine). This story is okay, but this is one of those books that could have been really good if some of those issues had been noted and fixed before someone hit publish.

Daddy Issues: Seth King

Daddy Issues
Daddy Issues

Author:  Seth King
Book Name: Daddy Issues
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

Blurb:

Their bond is forbidden. Their relationship could upend lives. But their love? It’s a force of nature…

Ten years ago, a desperate and confused Robert Glazer briefly married a woman before confronting his sexuality and starting his life as an out gay man. They divorced and lost contact – until now.

Today, a sudden family death throws Robert and his ex-wife back together for the first time. That’s where Robert meets her son Eliot, who was raised with his own father and is now a gorgeous – and openly gay – adult. And to Robert and Eliot’s surprise, sparks fly.

Passion ignites, then threatens to explode. Soon Eliot knows three things. One: Robert is not his father figure, and never was – in fact, he barely remembers him. Two: news of their union would still rock his whole world. And three: he craves Robert more than anything he has ever wanted. And as suspicions arise, their attraction only grows…

This was kind of a train wreck. I came so close at least a half dozen times to putting this down and walking away, but kept at it wanting to see why it was so highly rated (Amazon).

There were so many things about this one that just drove me up the wall. A big one, which confuses the hell out of me because apparently the author is gay himself, is the way he drops almost every negative gay stereotype into this story in such a way that he turns being gay into an ugly caricature. Then, he turns around and seems to get on his soap box about how bad life can be for gay men and how they are treated by the world around them. It is a glaring contradiction, being this incredibly strange cross between preachy and offensive at the same time.

I had a terrible time trying to overlook some of the errors in scene specifics or contradictory plot elements. You could read something in one chapter/paragraph/line and in the next, you would read something that appeared to be the opposite of what was mentioned previously. I found myself flipping back to reread several times to to check that I didn’t miss something or read it wrong, but it was just two very different versions. One in particular dealt with a character having put clothing on then the next mention, there isn’t any and it just killed the entire scene.

I get that authors have habits or phrases that they like to use. Often, they are done well enough that they are either not noticed or are not annoying, but this one drove me up the wall because because it was used in nearly every single dialog scene in the book. “… he said soon.” or some version of that phrase. For one, this extreme level of repetition shows a lack of depth, but it also very often didn’t even work for how it was used and made the already choppy dialog even clunkier. Dialog that often left me feeling as if I’d missed huge chunks of the conversation. What makes all that even worse is that there is so little dialog in the first place. Nearly this entire book happens inside the characters heads and there is a lot of history dumping and even repetition that had me skimming through parts of this.

The scene/timing transitions also often left me confused because most of the time they didn’t flow between one and the next in a smooth way so I wasn’t sure that the scene had even shifted or how much time that had passed between one scene and the next. Toss in a sudden POV shift from the two main characters to a third character somewhere in the 60% range, only to go back to the two main characters, never getting the POV of that third again, only to then be tossed into a 4th POV a few chapters later and you get the readers version of whiplash. Don’t even get me started on the convoluted, crazy mess that was the last couple of chapters.

Neither of the main characters showed any level of believably or maturity, no matter their age. It was like watching extremely immature 16 year olds rather than adults, let alone someone that is supposedly in their 40s. The yo-yoing is off the charts and makes it all that much worse.

Even though I’ve pretty much blasted this book, there are tiny parts that are genuinely good, but they aren’t nearly enough to make up for all that isn’t.

One Man’s Trash: The Heretic Doms Club, Book 1

One Man's Trash
One Man’s Trash

Author:  Marie Sexton
Book Name: One Man’s Trash
Series: The Heretic Doms Club
Order: #11
Genre: Romance/LGBTQ
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars


 

 

Blurb:

After four tours in Afghanistan, Warren Groves couldn’t settle into civilian life. For the last twelve years, he’s survived by working odd and often illegal jobs for some of Denver’s less fortunate. His personal life is equally unsatisfactory. He can barely remember the last time he had sex, let alone the last time he got to use somebody hard and rough, the way he likes. Fate intervenes when a favor for a friend leads him to a pretty young rentboy named Taylor Reynolds.

Taylor’s spent the last few years on his own, working as a hustler, going home with anybody who’ll give him a warm meal and a place to sleep. He enjoys having a bit of force used against him, and he makes Warren an offer he can’t refuse — all the sex he wants, as rough and dirty as he likes, in exchange for room and board.

At first, Warren thinks he’s struck gold. Taylor’s the perfect roommate — he cooks, he cleans, and he’s dynamite in the sack. But Taylor has some dark demons in his head and some even darker cravings. Falling for somebody as volatile as Taylor is dangerous enough, but when Taylor’s urges turn truly self-destructive, it’ll be up to Warren to decide just how far to let things go. 

*Potential Minor Spoilers*

First off, no matter how I feel about this book, it is absolutely not one for everybody. It runs along a very dark side and deals with some seriously ugly subject matter that will just flat out be unappealing to some (addiction and abuse for some specifics). That said, that dark is liberally laced with spots of brightness and the better aspects of humanity shining through.

I thought this was beautifully written, no matter the subject matter. It pinged on several concepts of right and wrong that I’ve been pondering a lot lately, so some of those background themes really resonated with me. Even though I don’t usually go for dark books like this, I did really like it. Probably because of how many of those issues were presented and dealt with. There was no preaching to either direction, side, or right or wrong, simply presented as just the way it is.

The very imperfect humanness of the characters and their situations made them feel real. That kept me skirting this edge of compassion and understanding for them. It didn’t tip me into being overly emotional about them. That and the darker side that isn’t my favorite kept this from getting that slightly higher rating.

Even with the heavier nature of this, it does have a positive ending for the main characters. That is probably the other reason why this did work for me. I wouldn’t have like it even a fraction as much if this had not had that kind of ending.

Forever With You: Londra Laine

Forever With You
Forever With You

Author: Londra Laine
Book Name: Forever With You
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay/Didn’t Like
2+stars


 

 

Blurb:

Kelly Brooks Montes is only nineteen years old and just starting college in New York City when tragedy strikes, and he becomes a single dad to his toddler brother. Four years later, Kelly and his baby brother, Jaylen, are doing well, though Kelly leads a double life to make ends meet. He’s a high-level administrative assistant by day and a racy go-go boy by night. Between raising his brother, dancing, and trying not to run afoul of his new boss, Kelly doesn’t have time for a boyfriend. Even if he did want a man in his life, a past trauma makes him question whether he can ever trust a man with his body or his heart. But then Kelly receives an unexpected but steamy birthday kiss from his boss, a man he was sure hated him, and he begins to wish for things he knows he shouldn’t.

Andrew Whitman knew from the moment he held Kelly’s hand that the man was special, and it both annoyed and terrified him. Kelly makes him feel a little out of control and Drew is a highly controlled man. He has to be to keep his sexuality a secret from his father, a conservative politician. And he is OK with that. He has a perfectly good, mutually beneficial, life plan with his best friend, Lex. A long time ago, he’d made his peace with the fact that he’d never find a man worth turning his life upside down for. Then he ends up with his capable and gorgeous assistant under him on top of his desk, and his life plans change. Drew can’t seem to get out of his own way when it comes to the quiet, sexy, and surprising single dad, but he can’t stop himself from falling for Kelly and his sweet baby brother. And just when it seems that Kelly has worked through his past hurts enough to let Drew into his body and his heart, manipulative family and words unspoken threaten to tear them apart. But after getting a taste of a life he never thought he could have, Drew won’t let anything tear his fledgling family apart.

***Please be aware that this book contains a flashback of and several references to sexual assault that may be triggering to some readers.***

Andrew, aka Drew, killed this book for me. He is an absolute a**. He started out that way so much so, that I nearly didn’t finish the book. Towards the middle, it became better and I thought he might, just might, redeem himself. Then it all went down in flames towards the end with his ridiculous excuse for his deception. There was absolutely no realistic or believable reason for that deception. It was childish and inane. When you look at that on a balance with what Kelly trusted him with, it makes Drew an absolute selfish douche, putting him on par with Kelly’s past abuser.

The only reason I could give this two stars instead of one is because Kelly was a pretty decent character and I liked Jayden, but they weren’t enough to overcome how awful Drew was.

TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid

I am kind of kicking my own butt over how long it took me to actually pick this series up and read it. I’ll say straight up that my reasons for not doing so look pretty stupid at this point, but they seemed valid at the time.

Continue reading “TJ Klune: Author/Series Review; Bear, Otter, and the Kid”

Someone to Call My Own: Road to Blissville, Book 2

Someone to Cal lMy OwnAuthor: Aimee Nicole Walker
Book Name: Someone to Call My Own
Series: Road to Blissville
Order: 2
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Psychic Emory Jackson and former black ops specialist Jonathon Silver are men from two completely different worlds with one thing in common: heartbreak. Emory still mourns the loss of his husband five years prior, and Jon is reeling with grief from the recent death of his twin brother.

Sparks fly when mutual friends introduce them, but it’s so much more than basic attraction. There’s an undeniable awareness and a sense of belonging that neither man can deny. Despite Emory’s premonition of a future with Jon, he has vowed never to love again. Jon is convinced that his tainted soul is the reason he will never have someone to call his own. What if they’re both wrong?

Maybe these broken men with their jagged edges could somehow align perfectly to form something whole and beautiful. But will that realization come too late for them?

This was on the disappointing side. Having read all the books in the Curl Up and Dye series and loved them, I had high expectations for this series since it is set in the same world with lots of run ins from the characters in that series. Sadly, with the second installment in The Road to Blissville series, it just doesn’t measure up.

My first issue is that there are so many overlaps between the story lines in the Curl Up and Dye series that there is a good chunk of events and information in this book that I’d already read in that series. I think in this case, you just might be better off if you haven’t read the other series first. For me, that made the first third of this book seem to drag because I needed something new (kind of the point in picking up a new book).

The other is probably more of a personal taste issue, but I strongly dislike stories with this concept of fated mates where the people have no choice. Don’t get me wrong. I love all kinds of things that run to the paranormal and I don’t even mind the general concept of fate, but when it is pushed to the point where it feels like all choice is taken away and it doesn’t matter how a character feels about it, that is just the way it is going to be, I lose any kind of connection to the story. It pushes boundaries for me that are distasteful to me. This pushed those boundaries.

Because of how unwelcoming both characters felt about this relationship, it made it even harder for me to believe anything that happens emotionally, especially when you are suddenly getting the “I love you” bombs dropped and they know absolutely nothing about each other. When you have absolutely nothing to base those feelings on, I cannot find any realism in them. It just does not work at all for me.

There was so much energy and character and fun in the Curl Up and Dye series that this book (and the first one in this same series) is lacking. I was expecting at least a few touches of the same here, but you never get it. That is also a part of why this only rated as okay for me. I was just expecting more.

 

 

 

Looking In: Michael Bailey

Looking InAuthor: Michael Bailey
Book Name: Looking In
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Okay

3+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: David Barrows world fell apart at the age of eleven after his mother died. Years of physical and emotional abuse followed, leaving him scarred in body and mind, mired in the belief that he is unlovable. He spends his days working in a comic shop, and his nights alone wrestling with the ghosts of his past.

As a Marine, Adam Duncan has sworn to protect and serve, and there is no one he is more protective of than his brother and nephew. When tragedy strikes, threatening the security of his family, his protective instincts kick in. But how can he fight an enemy he can’t see?

David and Adam feel the connection between them, but David has built walls around his heart that no one has bothered to break through, until Adam. Adam can see what a special man David is, and is willing to do whatever it takes to break down those barriers. Can he make David see he doesn’t have to keep living his life…Looking In?

As a debut novel for a new author, this is a decent book. It was a sweet read, but edged just a little too close to being too sweet.

Adam’s character, being a former Marine, doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. Partly because of a complete lack of any kind of emotional trauma after being in the service, in combat, for 15 years. There are allusions to people he knew that had issues, but he was immune to those, apparently.

David’s character kept confusing me because he would seem so utterly withdrawn and broken and messed up and then suddenly he would say or do something that felt way too confident or just didn’t mesh with the brokenness of his character.  Both his character flaws and Adam’s came across as flawed in the wrong ways, making them both hard to believe.

My other, big issue, and why I could not rate this any higher were all of the editing mistakes. I hate, hate, HATE having to harp on those issues, because it is beyond impossible to catch them all. But if you have enough and they are just obvious and bad, they yank you right out of the story and you lose whatever emotional flow you had going on. If a story is done incredibly well, it can cover some of those, but not the big ones. If the story is only decent in the first place, those things can really drag it down.

Things like sentence sections being duplicated, obvious sections left out entirely to where you don’t even understand what the sentence said, putting periods in the middle of the thought for a pause instead of commas or ellipses or ANYTHING else to indicate the thought isn’t complete, and typically misused or mistyped words. This book had all of those sprinkled throughout. Sadly, this looks to have gone through both one editor and one proofreader (I double checked the info noting them in the beginning of the book at one point) yet it STILL had all of these problems, so I gotta say, they aren’t all down to the author.

I think one of the main reasons I have such a huge issue with editing problems is the fact that one tiny mistake can entirely change the mood or meaning of a sentence. Enough of those and you can completely misinterpret an author’s intent on character, mood or story development. I think that, at least in part, was why I had some of the issues I did with this story.

I won’t discuss my issues with the ending as it will give things away. Suffice it to say, it didn’t really fit in places, wasn’t enough information in others and the ended with the absolute PERFECT outcome and part of why this was just a bit too sweet for my tastes. So, this was decent and it was sweet. If that is what you like, then this is perfect for you. If you like your characters to be a little bit more developed and full and things to be just a bit more real, then maybe not so much.

 

Love You, Moore: Moore Romance, Book 2

Love You, MooreAuthor: Alex Miska
Book Name: Love You, Moore
Series: Moore Romance
Order: 2
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: Xander Griffith was mesmerized by Julian the moment he laid eyes on him in a club; he’s gorgeous, brilliant, and unabashedly himself. But when he discovers Julian is his good friend’s, off-limits, baby brother, he promptly drops Julian off at his parents’ house with a promise to call. Unfortunately, his life took a left-hand turn that night, and Xander was unable to keep that promise. When they meet again months later, they can’t be in the same room without bickering like small children, and both men wonder whether the person they’d fallen for that night was an illusion.

Julian Moore is at loose ends after getting his Master’s: he can’t start his government cybersecurity job until he gets high-level clearance, his boyfriend and best friend are far away, and even his dojo closed down. All the sparkly, snarky white-hat hacker does these days is read M/M romance novels and hang out with his brothers’ friends. Of course, that means bumping into that over-privileged, condescending jerk, Xander, at every freaking turn; the man would be completely insufferable if it wasn’t for his sweet, hat-loving dog, Cassius.

When Xander discovers Julian is deeply depressed, his protective instincts kick in and he puts together a plan to help his friend’s brother fight his way through the murky gloom. The first step? Move the brat into his condo! It seems like the perfect solution: he certainly has plenty of room, it gets Julian out of his parents’ house, his boxer is head-over-paws in love with Julian, and someone has to keep their friend’s pug from destroying all of Xander’s left shoes.

From the moment Julian moves in, his and Xander’s lives fit seamlessly together and both men soon realize their initial attraction may have been stronger, and deeper, than they thought.

I struggled with rating this because there were some good things about it, but in the end I just didn’t like it. There were too many things that annoyed me or threw me out of the story to give it a higher rating.

First (and totally on me), I didn’t realize until I was about a third of the way through and struggling not to be totally confused that the book I thought was book one in this series was actually a short story written in the same world. Reading this before reading that first book left me at a huge disadvantage. While you can technically read this as a stand alone, there are so many references to things that happened in book one (more so than you’d expect since a large portion of this happens alongside the timeline for book one) that it left me lost and not really understanding some of who the different characters were and how they knew or were related to each other.

This had lots of elements that made it funny, but for me, it was so over the top and too much that it became ridiculous instead of quirky. Even when the situations got more serious, the characters were never able to pull off that level of necessary somberness. It became irritating after a while.

Besides feeling lost because I hadn’t read book one, I ended up seriously confused in several places because I just didn’t understand what was going on. It took nearly a full chapter to really understand a 2 line conversation between Xander and Trip about secretly dating, one that gave absolutely no real context, detail or background. I finally understood much later that THEY were supposed to suddenly be secretly dating each other, but I still never fully understood what the hell was going on or why because it just never made a whole lot of sense. Why the hell would Xander do that? There was no real genuine reason expressed other than Trip thought it was a good idea. The whole thing was really kind of stupid, but again, I felt that way because I didn’t get it. I had something similar happen at least 3 different times because there was just not enough information provided or what felt like essential portions of conversations were skipped entirely. Others weren’t to that extreme, but were enough to drag me out of the story over and over.

On a couple of different occasions, a character would speak to or react to another character’s thoughts, thoughts that had not been expressed in any fashion other than the understood fact that it was a thought, as though they’d had a conversation about it. One that annoyed the crap out of me was when Julian is thinking about the whole living situation with Xander as though they’d had this conversation about him moving in, a good paragraph or two before the subject of him moving in came up in an actual, spoken conversation. Throughout this whole book, I was forced to go back and reread sections over and over to try and figure out what I’d missed only to realize that I hadn’t missed anything. It kind of felt at times as though, in the editing process, a paragraph or two accidentally got deleted, but never added back. It felt like chunks were missing or moved around slightly out of order.

It may in part be because of these issues, but I never fully believed any of the characters. Definitely not emotionally. At one point Julian overhears Xander say something about him that, taken out of the context it was said in, as he heard it, should have been emotionally devastating to him, but it ended up being nothing more than a little twinge on his self confidence. The reaction, or lack thereof, to that situation nearly made me stop reading at that point because it was so weird and contradictory to who the Julian character was supposed to be.

Overall, this was a pretty chaotic and confusing read.

Loving Jay: Loving You, Book 1

Loving JayAuthor: Renae Kaye
Book Name: Loving Jay
Series: Loving You
Order: 1
Genre: Romance, LGBT
Rating:  Excellent

5+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: One thing Liam Turner knows for sure is that he’s not gay—after all, his father makes it very clear he’ll allow no son of his to be gay. And Liam believes it, until a chance meeting with James “Jay” Bell turns Liam’s world upside-down. Jay is vivacious and unabashedly gay—from the tips of his bleached hair to the ends of his polished nails. With a flair for fashion, overreaction, and an inability to cork his verbal diarrhea, Liam believes drama queen Jay must have a screw loose.

An accident as a teenager left Liam with a limp and a fear of driving. He can’t play football anymore either, and that makes him feel like less of a man. But that’s no reason to question his sexuality… unless the accident broke something else inside him. When being with Jay causes Liam’s protective instincts to emerge, Liam starts to believe all he knew in life had been a convenient excuse to stay hidden. From intolerance to confrontations, Liam must learn to overcome his fears—and his father—before he can accept his sexuality and truly love Jay.

This was kind of a three bears kind of book for me in that it was just right. Just the right amount of sweet, without being saccharine or shallow. Just the right amount of funny without being over the top crazy or never serious.

I felt the same about the characters. I absolutely loved Jay and his quirkiness, but he didn’t cross the line into the stereotypical. He had his vulnerabilities without being weak. Liam was this perfect blend of finding himself and going for what he wanted without being either “oh, I’m suddenly gay and everything is perfect and I’m all chill no matter what happens” or all angsty and fighting it, refusing to admit it or accept himself. He had his issues, his struggles, but he dealt with them in a mature way.

I have read a couple of Renae Kaye’s short stories and enjoyed them, but this is the first full length novel and I really loved it. I will definitely be adding move of these to my want to read lists in the future.

From Ashes: Heathen’s Ink, Book 3

From AshesAuthor: K.M. Neuhold
Book Name: From Ashes
Series: Heathen’s Ink
Order: #3
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Okay

2+stars

 

 

 

Blurb: “When the broken man with scarred skin walked into Heathens, asked for a job, and showed me a sketch of a phoenix, it felt like fate.”~ Adam

It started with an anonymous post by someone who didn’t want to live anymore. I read it over and over again, unable to get it out of my mind. What if my brother Johnny had posted something like this before he’d taken his own life? Would someone have been able to save him?

I’ve been living a lie for 16 long years and I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to keep it up. And when a beautiful, broken man walks into my tattoo shop asking for a second chance at life, I know I’ll never be able to turn him away.

“When I was so far down I couldn’t even see the light, a stranger reached in to save me”~ Nox
I didn’t have anything to live for, until a kind stranger pulled me back from the brink. With physical and emotional scars I have nowhere to turn now but to that same stranger who saved my life without realizing it. But as my feelings for Adam grow, will I ever be anything other than a surrogate for the brother he couldn’t save? Am I even worthy of his love?

 

For the most part, I’ve liked the other books in this series, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into this one. It has been a while so I don’t remember if the other books had editing issues, but there were quite a few throughout this whole book. They were bad enough they kept yanking me from the story. I don’t like to harp on that because no one is perfect, but some of the mistakes in here are the kind that should have easily been caught even with a rough run through kind of edit. Spelling, word tenses, incomplete thoughts, you name it, I found it.

Beyond the editing, I struggled to find these characters believable on their own. It was even harder for me to believe them together.  I just didn’t really like them that much and was never able to find an emotional attachment to either of them.

Not being a fan of this one, I don’t think I’m going to be too interested in the next one in this series when it comes out.

Being Sawyer Knight: Souls of the Knight, Book 1

Being Sawyer KnightAuthor: Nicola Haken
Book Name: Being Sawyer Knight
Series: Souls of the Knight
Order: #1
Genre: LGBT/Romance
Rating:  Okay
3+stars


 

 

Blurb:  As lead singer and guitarist of the internationally renowned Souls of the Knight, Sawyer Knight is living a life most men can only dream of. He’s surrounded by music, fame, wealth, women throwing themselves at his feet. He has everything…

Yet he has nothing.

Life as one of the world’s most sought after rock stars is tiring, oppressive and lonely. He spends every day being who the world wants him to be, who his manager tells him to be, who his mother expects him to be… all the while fighting against who he really is. Truth is, he’s used to it. He’s actually gotten pretty good at pretending… at living the lie.

Until Jake Reed, his ex-best friend and the only person who’s ever made him ‘feel’, waltzes back into his life as the band’s new head of security. Jake wants Sawyer – always has, always will. Now, he just needs to get Sawyer to admit that he feels the same…

“You will be mine, Sawyer Knight. The faster you try to run the quicker you’ll fall to your knees. Then, Sawyer… then you’ll be too weak to resist.”

Review:  When I was trying to figure out what to say about this book, one word just kept poking around in my head.  Bland.  No matter what aspect I was trying to focus on, that word fit.  The story itself, the characters, even the sexy scenes were all just pretty bland.  Which is kind of a surprise considering the story is about a rock star.

Rock stars should never come across as bland, especially a rock star trying to come to terms with his sexuality.  Rock stars are the stereotypical bad boy, or at least they are on the surface, no matter how soft they may be at heart.  Here, while we get something of a history of a guy that was famous for his slutty ways, it is never really apparent in the character that we see.  Sawyer’s character comes across as incredibly insecure and weak.  We never really see anything truly rock star like out of him other than the crazy death threats, fans and the press, all of which is only on the periphery.   Even with the weakness of his character, it isn’t so much so that I couldn’t stand him, just that he wasn’t all that interesting.

Jake isn’t any better.  He is supposed to be some elite level body/security guard, but is so easily distracted by attraction, it takes away what it supposed to be special about him and makes him rather ordinary instead.  When he comes on the scene at the start of the book, his words and actions seem bold and confident, but it comes across off in a way that is kind of unbelievable and almost creepy stalkerish instead.

With the lack of something special from the main characters and a story that also doesn’t have anything that stands out and says “This is what makes this book different and awesome”, it isn’t one that will ever stand out and won’t prompt me to run out and read other books by this author.

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Hell & High Water: THIRDS, Book 1

Hell & High WaterAuthor: Charlie Cochet
Book Name: Hell & High Water
Series: THIRDS
Order: #1
Genre: SciFi/Fantasy/LGBT
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  When homicide detective Dexter J. Daley’s testimony helps send his partner away for murder, the consequences—and the media frenzy—aren’t far behind. He soon finds himself sans boyfriend, sans friends, and, after an unpleasant encounter in a parking garage after the trial, he’s lucky he doesn’t find himself sans teeth. Dex fears he’ll get transferred from the Human Police Force’s Sixth Precinct, or worse, get dismissed. Instead, his adoptive father—a sergeant at the Therian-Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron otherwise known as the THIRDS—pulls a few strings, and Dex gets recruited as a Defense Agent.

Dex is determined to get his life back on track and eager to get started in his new job. But his first meeting with Team Leader Sloane Brodie, who also happens to be his new jaguar Therian partner, turns disastrous. When the team is called to investigate the murders of three HumaniTherian activists, it soon becomes clear to Dex that getting his partner and the rest of the tightknit team to accept him will be a lot harder than catching the killer—and every bit as dangerous.

Review:  This is one of those books that has a lot going for it that is really pretty good, but has a handful of things that just rubbed me wrong and kind of threw it off.

Overall, the story line is pretty good and kept things interesting, though I picked up the bad guy and a lot of details right off the bat, so it fell more into the predictable range after that.  Where things got weird and kept yanking me out of the story is with the characters.  Don’t get me wrong, I really kind of liked them, but they just didn’t quite work for me.

Both of the main guys, Dex and Sloane, are these supposed tough guy cops with lots of experience, Sloane even being more badass as he is a shifter.  Yet… their general personalities and several situations contradict those facts.  Dex is constantly getting his ass handed to him, whether by several people at a time or sparring with Sloane.  This happens several times throughout the book, even towards the end when it is up against only one guy.  Compound that with some of Dex’s personality and antics that gets thrown around in what is supposed to make him funny, but it makes him seem kind of weak and cowardly (the funny usually worked, but in a really weird way).  Sloane didn’t bug me quite as much as Dex, but we hardly saw any of what should have been his potential strengths.

There are certain job types or rolls that really do take a certain kind of personality to fit those rolls.  That may seem a bit stereotypical, it is still something of an expectation people have.  In what is darn near a SWAT like team or even a kind of military group, the personalities of both Dex and Sloane just don’t quite always work.  Dex especially as there are times that he just really kind of comes across as the nerdy guy everyone beat up on rather than as a tough cop.  Sloane’s was more in how his thoughts and emotions were presented along with his more “off duty” personality.  Enough that it was hard for me to stay immersed in the story and that ended up overshadowing what could have been a really good story.

Throw into that mix a story that doesn’t really have any clean resolutions by the end of the book and this was a mostly good, but frustrating read.

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Stay With Me: P.I. Guys, Book 1

StayWithMeAuthor: S.E. Harmon
Book Name: Stay With Me
Series: True Destiny
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars


Blurb:  Private investigator Mackenzie Williams’s newest client is everything he’s looking for in a guy—charming, beautiful, intelligent, and successful. There’s only one itty bitty problem—the guy’s not exactly gay. In fact, Jordan Channing is looking for a PI to follow his fiancée. The smart thing would be to thank Jordan for his time, turn Mr. Perfect away (don’t let the door hit you on the rump, thank you very much), and forget he exists.

Of course, Mackenzie has never been accused of doing the smart thing. Being smart aleck is more his MO. Relationships aren’t up his alley, never have been. So why’s he so inexplicably drawn to his new client?

Jordan has always been the high achiever, a man who lives in a focused, controlled, and carefully constructed manner. But for the first time in his life, he has to admit the impossible—another man is getting his engine running on all cylinders. Despite Jordan’s denial, it’s not long before he can no longer resist the strong undercurrents pulling them together. Now Jordan must decide if he can go against everything he’s ever known to have the only love he’s ever wanted.

Review:  Just sort of fell in love with this one.  It is this beautiful balance between real and sweet and sexy and funny that just came together in a truly wonderful story.

Mac’s utter irreverence to pretty much everything makes him this silly, adorable guy, even when you get peeks at the vulnerability that that irreverence tends to try and hide.  It was so easy to fall for his character right away.  Mac is definitely damaged and has some serious trust issues, but they come across as genuinely being self preservation kinds of issues rather than a “poor, pity me” kind of attitude.  He is damaged, not pitiful, which is a refreshing perspective.

It was a bit harder to find that connection with Jordan, mainly because we don’t get to see anything from his perspective but I ended up liking him a lot as well.  Wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that he was willing to even contemplate stepping into a relationship with Mac while dating someone else, but I think that also stems from his just not knowing what was going on with his attraction.  His lack of communication with Mac when it came to still meeting up with her, was also something of a strike against him, but I guess even our fictional characters can’t be perfect and that is part of this book’s charm is the realism.

This is the first book by this author that I’ve read and after this one, I won’t hesitate to pick up another one.

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Leveled: Saints of Denver, Book 0.5

LeveledAuthor: Jay Crownover
Book Name: Leveled
Series: Saints of Denver
Order: #0.5
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Good
3+stars


Blurb:  We all need a hero…let the Saints of Denver begin

Orlando Frederick knows what it is to be leveled by pain. Instead of focusing on his own, he’s made it his mission to help others: sports stars, wounded war vets, survivors of all kinds. But when Dom, a rugged, damaged, sinfully attractive cop, makes his way into Lando’s physical therapy practice, he might be the biggest challenge yet. Lando loved one stubborn man before and barely survived the fallout. He’s not sure he can do it again.

Dominic Voss is a protector. The police badge he wears is not only his job, it’s his identity, so when he’s sidelined because of an injury, the only thing he cares about is getting back on the force. He expects Lando to mend his body, he just doesn’t realize the trainer will also have him working toward a hell of a lot more. As attraction simmers and flares, Dom sees that Lando needs repair of his own…if only the man will let him close enough to mend what’s broken.

Review:  According to the intro at the very beginning, this book is sort of a cross over between Ms. Crownover’s Marked Men series and her upcoming Saints of Denver series.  We get to see many of the characters from the Marked Men series, even if briefly and this has much the same emotional feel as the stories in that series.

This was a sweet story that I did enjoy but it was a bit on the predictable side of things.  I had a harder time connecting with Dom’s personality emotionally than I did Lando and that made a few situations feel a little clunky or even a little one sided.

There were also just enough editing errors that I kept getting pulled out of the story to figure out what was actually being said that it was a bit frustrating.  More so because I normally really like Ms. Crownover’s writing.  I think I might have enjoyed this a bit better if their story was given the time and attention that all of her other characters normally get instead of making this a shorter novella.

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Glitterland: Alexis Hall

GlitterlandAuthor: Alexis Hall
Book Name: Glitterland
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Okay
3+stars

 

Blurb:  Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and — most of all — himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

Review:  So many times when an author attempts to portray a character suffering with severe depression they manage only to make the character this horrible, pitiful thing that generally has zero redeeming qualities.  That isn’t the case with this book.  The depression Ash’s character deals with is handled in a much more realistic, genuine and sympathetic way.  Unfortunately for me, it seems that was almost the entire focus of the book, the depression rather than the romance.

Even with the interesting characters (really liked Darian, his uniqueness and personality) and how well written the depression issues, I was disappointed with how little it seemed we got to see of the actual relationship between Darian and Ash.  They were both such good characters that I wanted more of them rather than just the depression.  I get the point, absolutely, about how all encompassing that is, but since I picked this up as a romance, that is more of what I was expecting.

I do have to note that I found it frustrating while also completely hilarious at how mind bending it was at times to decipher what was being said as an American reading a wholly British novel.  That is always something I find entertaining, but this one was just so much more than any others I’ve read in the past.

 

Tempest: Playing the Fool, Book 3

TempestAuthor: Lisa Henry & JA Rock
Book Name: Tempest
Series: Playing the Fool
Order: #3
Genre: Romance/LGBT/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  Something wicked this way comes.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness and con man Henry Page are on the run again. This time they’re headed back to where it all began: Altona, Indiana. Population: some goats. Henry’s not happy about lying low at the McGuinness family farm, but they’ve got nowhere else to go.

While Mac fights to clear his name and Henry struggles with whose side he’s really on, a ghost from the past threatens to destroy everything. And those aren’t the only storms on the radar. Cut off from both sides of the law, Mac and Henry must rely on their tenuous partnership to survive.

If Henry can convince himself to let Mac see the man behind the disguises, they’ll stand a chance of beating the forces that conspire against them. The course of true love never did run smooth, but for the two of them, it might be their only hope.

Review:  This was a great ending to this little series (at least I’m pretty sure it is the end based on how this book finished up).

I will be the first to get all critical when it comes to Scooby Doo endings and resolutions, but not here.  This is a first for me with this book because we do get some of that, with it spread a bit more than as a single dump in one scene to clear up all the mysterious bits of the story, but what we got was done in a way that totally mocked how that plot trick is so overused.  This is something that normally drives me nuts and I end up dropping a book rating when it is used because I dislike it so much.  But in this case?  I’m loving it because our guys are literally looking down the barrels of guns and Henry is doing this whole monologue in his head about how ridiculous the situation is, how much he always made fun of it in the past, how that would never happen in real life and here he is experiencing that ridiculousness right before he is most likely going to die.  It took this overused cliche of a plot trick and turned it completely around making it new and hilarious in a situation that should have been seriously tense and stressful, not funny.  It was awesome and kind of genius.

I’d have to say that both Mac and Henry are probably one of my favorite MM couples from all the books I’ve read from that genre.  They are perfectly genuine and fallible.  Plus, they have their own dose of seriously cute crazy that I can’t help but love.

 

 

The Merchant of Death: Playing the Fool, Book 2

The Merchant of DeathAuthor: Lisa Henry & JA Rock
Book Name: The Merchant of Death
Series: Playing the Fool
Order: #2
Genre: Romance/LGBT/Suspense
Rating:  Excellent
5+stars

 

Blurb:  All’s fair in love and war.

There’s something rotten in the state of Indiana. When con man Henry Page takes it upon himself to investigate the death of an elderly patient at a care facility, he does so in true Shakespearean tradition: dressed as a girl.

FBI Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness has more to worry about than Henry’s latest crazy idea. Someone is trying to send him a message—via a corpse with a couple of bullets in it. He needs to figure out who’s trying to set him up before he gets arrested, and he really doesn’t have time for Henry’s shenanigans. Then again, he’d probably be able to focus better if Henry didn’t look so damn distracting in a babydoll dress and a wig.

But when Mac discovers that Henry has been keeping a secret that connects the cases, he has to find a way to live on the right side of the law when he just might be in love with the wrong sort of man.

Review:  Still love Mac and Cheese… uh, Henry.  This second book in the series is just as entertaining and funny as the first one, though we got to go a little deeper emotionally while getting to know Henry’s history a little bit more.  He really is this great guy doing not so great things to try and do the right thing.

Mac is awesome.  Seriously!  That scene in the car with the Rocky song?  Cracked me the hell up.  The guy is absolutely losing it, talking to himself, making up these crazy rescue scenarios and singing (or rather mumbling) to the Rocky theme song at the top of his lungs and yelling at other drivers on the road while I’m laughing hysterically.

Like book one, we get an excellent blend of both actual, great story line and well executed romance, which outside of the amazing characters is one of the reasons I’m really loving these books.

 

The Two Gentlemen of Altona: Playing the Fool, Book 1

The Two Gentlemen of AltonaAuthor: Lisa Henry & JA Rock
Book Name: The Two Gentlemen of Altona
Series: Playing the Fool
Order: #1
Genre: Romance/LGBT/Suspense
Rating:  Really Good
4+stars

 

Blurb:  Mischief, thou art afoot.

Special Agent Ryan “Mac” McGuinness is having a rough week. Not only is he on a new diet, but he’s also been tasked with keeping Henry Page — the world’s most irritating witness — alive. Which is tough when Mac’s a breath away from killing the Shakespeare-quoting, ethically-challenged, egg-obsessed Henry himself. Unless killing isn’t really what Mac wants to do to him.

Con man Henry Page prefers to keep his distance from the law…though he wouldn’t mind getting a little closer to uptight, handsome Agent McGuinness. As the sole witness to a mob hit, Henry’s a valuable asset to the FBI. But he’s got his own agenda, and it doesn’t involve testifying.

When evidence surfaces of a mole in the FBI office, Mac and Henry are forced to go into hiding. Holed up in a fishing cabin, they’re surprised to discover that their feelings run more than skin deep. But as the mob closes in, Henry has to make his escape. And Mac has to decide how far he’s willing to go to keep Henry by his side.

Review:  This has a wonderful blend of story and characters, funny and serious with a little bit of dorky and cute and vulnerable.  I really fell in love with both Mac and Henry and am so glad that their stories aren’t done yet even if I was left hanging at the very end.

The different aspects of this story are pretty well balanced out.  The focus isn’t too heavy on just the suspense or the romance.  This was a bit of a surprise for me as that seems to be something of a rarity in this genre, at least as far as I’ve seen.  I’m definitely going to be grabbing the next one in this series.

The Opera House: Hans M Hirschi

The Opera HouseAuthor: Hans M Hirschi
Book Name: The Opera House
Series: *
Order: *
Genre: Romance/LGBT
Rating:  Didn’t Like
2+stars

 

Blurb:  Raphael doesn’t believe in a higher power, or in anything, for that matter. After the death of his son, his life shattered, Raphael regrets that he didn’t lie about some perfect paradise, and he pushes away everything that once mattered to him—his lover, his job, his reputation as a top architect.

Then he meets Brian, a homeless, maybe hopeless kid, a street kid. When he disappears, Raphael realizes that he cannot fail another person, and he launches a full-out search.

What he finds both breaks his heart and begins to heal it. The price of saving Brian is high, maybe too high.

But Raphael is no stranger to sacrifice, and he’ll risk everything to save Brian and reunite with the man Raphael now loves. The question is—how?

Like the architecture of the opera house Raphael designs, the steps to regaining his life will depend not just on careful planning, but faith, hope, and maybe just the magic of love.

Review:  I really wasn’t a fan of this one, which is sad because the beginning of the book was incredibly heart wrenching.

Once I got past that part, it was a real struggle at times to follow along.  The dialog just didn’t flow in a natural conversational rhythm and there were word choices and phrases used that seemed really off.  I’d guess that English is not the author’s first language and, based on the author blurb in the back and the fact that this author’s homeland is Sweden, those issues are potentially the difference between cultures and countries.

The struggle to follow or get over term or phrase hiccups made it difficult to really connect emotionally with the characters.  Some of the situations seemed extremely far fetched, even ridiculous at points.  The deeper into the book I got, the less in tune I was with what was going on.  In a few places, the plot timeline seemed out of order and there were several things that were flat out, word for word repeated at different points in the story, which became annoying.

I liked the basis of the story, but just not the follow through and how it was fleshed out.