Review: As Sure As The Sun (Accidental Roots #4) by Elle Keaton

The universe is trying to tell Sacha Bolic something. A fire escape collapses under him, he lands in crap, and a killer barely misses his target... all in the same few seconds. That's on top of a long list of mishaps and job dissatisfaction. Not one to ignore signals when they're shoved in his face, Sacha retires and uses his savings to buy an old building in Skagit, Washington. With a little help from DIY videos, he’s going to bring it back to its former glory.  And, yeah, it’s a metaphor. If he makes one change, others will follow…

Seth Culver avoids entanglements, romantic or otherwise. Who needs them? He’s learned the hard way that people betray you or leave. Still, Seth finds people compelling. He kind of collects them, learning their secrets before letting them go their own way. His commitment to no commitments may have met its match in Sacha. Handsome and hot, Sacha seems to offer a permanence that scares Seth more than anything ever has. Seth will have to decide if he’s going to grab life by the balls or keep watching from the sidelines.

A box of inconsequential belongings hidden for decades in the old building hints at lives imagined but not lived, reminding them both there are no guarantees in love, or this thing called life.



As Sure as the Sun is quieter than it's predecessors but I found I didn't mind that aspect at all.  Sometimes it's nice to read a simple love story without all the murder and mayhem getting in the way.
  
I've been wanting to read Sacha's book ever since I met him in book two.  He intrigued me with his stoicism and curmudgeonly ways and I wanted to get to know the man underneath the scowl.  Turns out, he is a beautiful, lonely soul looking to make his life more complete.  He's led a rough life - born in a war torn eastern European country, growing up in foster care after emigrating to the states and putting his life on the line daily as a US Marshal while keeping himself in the closet.  He's tired and worn out and he's had enough so he decides it's time to retire and pursue what he really wants out of life.  He moves to Skagit, the town where he spent a couple of years deep undercover as a mob goon, and purchases an historic building, intent on restoring it.

Sparks fly when he meets Seth, another recent transplant to Skagit.  There is an instant attraction between the two that leads Seth to offer things he normally wouldn't to a complete stranger, namely a place to shower and launder Sacha's clothes since Sacha has done without due to living in the building while restoring it.  Both find they have quite a bit in common; their love of history and old buildings being among them.

Seth reminded me of a puppy, bouncing around and getting excited over the simplest things.  He put on a great face, that of a carefree life full of love and happiness.  But, it's just a face, a facade.  Underneath the smiles and laughter is a scared little boy who just wants to belong to someone.  

I enjoyed watching these two navigate through their blossoming relationship, first as friends, then as lovers.  I feel they stayed true to themselves throughout the story, even when they weren't sure who they were at all.  They had a lot to overcome and I felt their reactions and the decisions they made, even the bad ones, were realistic.  I could understand why Seth did what he did though it upset me.  And I'm glad Sacha was strong enough to put his insecurities aside and pursue his happiness.

And there was still a mystery here, just not prominent in the story.  It was a bit heartbreaking to read about the two men in the photograph Sacha found hidden behind a wall in the building he's restoring but it was also hauntingly beautiful.  It made me tear up a little bit.

This was a great addition to the Accidental Roots series and I can't wait to read the next book.  Elle Keaton has proven to be a talented author and, frankly, I just like how she writes.  The storyline is smooth and easy to follow.  Bits of humor interjected  here and there bring levity where it's needed to keep the story from becoming too maudlin.  And it's just plain interesting.  I want to know more.  

Recommended to, well, pretty much everyone.  If you haven't given this author a try I urge you to do so.  This, and her other stories, are worth the read.





https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36229057-as-sure-as-the-sun


Release Blitz + Giveaway: In Over Our Heads (Stories from the Shore #2) by CJane Elliott


CJane Elliott and IndiGo Marketing celebrate the Dreamspinner Press release, In Over Our Heads (Stories from the Shore #2)! Check out today's post and enter in the giveaway for a chance to win any eBook from CJane Elliott's back list!


Title:  In Over Our Heads
Series: Stories from the Shore
Author: CJane Elliott
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: October 16, 2017
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 67,000
Genre: Romance, Second Chances, Vacation

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Synopsis

Anthony Vallen is the life of any party. Full of energy and fun, Anthony adores romance and enjoys playing matchmaker for his friends while dancing the night away with a series of Mr. Right Nows. But he’s given up on his own happy ending. A bad breakup years ago made him a secret cynic about love… until he runs into Walter Elkins—the boy who broke his teenaged heart—on a scuba-diving vacation in Key West. Suddenly, Anthony’s reasons for shunning romance no longer hold much water. Being with Walter again forces Anthony to get serious—about himself, his worth, and his heart’s desires.

Brilliant and self-contained, scientist Walter Elkins prefers deep thoughts to other people. He’s a good boss and a model citizen, but Walter doesn’t let anyone get close. After a tragedy drove him out of his science career, Walter landed in Key West and became owner of a dive shop and a bar. Things are fine until Anthony Vallen—the only person who ever penetrated his defenses—shows up, and Walter’s calm, controlled life capsizes. He and Anthony have a second chance for love, but Walter must confront the old fears that threaten to torpedo their happiness.

Excerpt

The door burst open, and Sophia sailed in with my morning cappuccino. She was humming under her breath and had that telltale postsex glow about her. I tried not to hate her too much.

“What’re you doing in here with me, doll? Don’t you have a sexy dive instructor to entertain?”

“She had to leave early.” Sophia handed me the mug. “She’s taking her group out on the ocean dive too, and she had to go to Back Bay to get the boat ready.”

I took a restorative sip of cappuccino. “Ahh. Well, I hope you didn’t tire her out too much last night. Or vice versa.” I winked at her, even though I didn’t feel very winky.

“Guilty on both our parts, I’m afraid.” Sophia smirked, then perched on the side of my bed. “Can we talk more about what’s going on with you and Walter?”

“Going on?” I blinked and buried my nose in the cup. “I mean, I told you guys last night. What more do you need to know?”

“Whatever it’ll take to help you and him figure yourselves out, because second chances like this don’t come around often.”

“God, not you too. You and Jonny need to start a group for incurable romantics.”

She straightened, her dark eyes snapping with intensity. “Caro! You’re the one who talks about destiny. This is your destiny!”

I sighed. She was so over the top sometimes. Must be her Italian blood. “Maybe my destiny is to be reminded to never let a guy walk over me the way Walter did.”

“I…. Look, Marco has a good point, and I agree with him that Walter needs to apologize. It was awful of him to drop out of sight. You so don’t deserve to be treated that way.”

“Right.” I put down my cup, having lost my taste for the cappuccino.

“But you two were barely out of high school. So young! People change. It certainly doesn’t seem in character with how he is now.”

“Doesn’t it?”

“Well, I mean, Walter seems so conscientious and thoughtful. Yes, a little gruff, but not someone who would knowingly hurt you. But maybe… safety seems to be a huge concern to him. And maybe he couldn’t stand that you almost drowned, and he couldn’t face you after that? Did he ever explain it to you?”

“No. I begged him to tell me why, and all he would say is ‘I’m not good for you. I don’t want to hurt you anymore.’ I guess the safety thing is the most plausible explanation. Because other than that, it’s bizarre that he would walk away and throw away a great thing. We were….” I paused, hit by an unexpected wave of grief. “Damn it, Soph, we were really good together. Yes, we were young, but we complemented each other so well. Like, I brought him out of his shell, and he calmed me down. And he took me seriously. He listened to me in a way no one but Jonny ever had before.” My eyes betrayed me by welling up.

“Oh, Anthony. That’s lovely. I can tell he still does. Take you seriously, I mean. He hasn’t been able to stop staring at you the whole time we’ve been around him. It’s obvious he still cares.”

Sophia’s words threw little daggers at my silly heart. Jonathan had said essentially the same thing. If they both thought Walter still cared for me, maybe it was true. And God, if it was true, I was in deep waters. I knew I should stiffen my backbone and armor myself with outrage. But I couldn’t. Still hung up on Walter Elkins? Guilty as charged. Convicted. Lock me up and throw away the key, because I had no hope of rehabilitation. I put my face in my hands for a moment. What a hopeless sentimental fool!

Luckily for my humiliation factor, Marco came barging in with a brilliant grin. “All right, darlings! Today’s the day! Scuba diving or bust! Get ready for the adventure of your lives.” He stopped short and peered at me. “You okay?”

Pulling myself together, I returned his smile. “Fabulous, doll! Off to the reefs we go to swim with the fishies!”


Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon


Celebrate the release of In Over Our Heads with a special sale: All the Way to Shore is on sale for 99 cents at Amazon through October 24 with that price matched at the Dreamspinner Press store October 16-24

Meet the Author


After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.

CJane is the author of the award-winning Serpentine Series, New Adult contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Serpentine Walls was a 2014 Rainbow Awards finalist, Aidan’s Journey was a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist, and Sex, Love, and Videogames won first place in the New Adult category in the 2016 Swirl Awards and first place in Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC eBook Awards.

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Tag Team Review: The Fireman's Pole by Sue Brown

The flames of passion rise for the lord of the manor.

It’s springtime in Calminster village, but things are already heating up. Sexy firefighter Dale Maloney is new to the local station. When Dale backs the company fire engine into the village maypole, he attracts the ire—and attention—of Benedict Raleigh, the Baron Calminster.

Soon after meeting Dale, Ben breaks off his relationship with his girlfriend, and the sparks between Ben and Dale are quickly fanned into flames.

Unfortunately the passion between the two men isn’t the only blaze in the village. An arsonist’s crimes are escalating, and it’s up to Dale and his crew to stop them. Meanwhile, as they investigate, an unscrupulous business partner attempts to coerce Ben into marrying his daughter. The May Day parade is around the corner, but they have plenty of fires to put out before Ben can finally slide down the fireman’s pole.

3.25 Hearts average
Sara - 4 Hearts

I am going to jump up on a soap box for a moment… I adore the Dreamspun Desires stories as they reflect on the beginnings of my romance reading as a young girl. There is a comfort in knowing when I open one of these books, I am going to get a romance; not erotica or sex filled pages, but a romance between two men and how they fall forward toward an HEA. This series and I have had our ups and downs, but it delivers on the promise of the publisher, “Where the men are hot, the romance is rockin’, and there’s always a happily ever after!” I have said this house line reminds me of the Hallmark Movies I can’t get enough of, just with more diversity. Anyway, I think for anyone wanting to read a story in the Dreamspun line needs to be aware what the line represents before judging a book on what you thought you were getting…

*jumps down*

So, this story was fun. I am a fan of the author's work and this line fit Sue Brown’s story telling beautifully.
“The minute I laid eyes on you, I wanted to….”
“To?”
“Do I really have to say this?”
“Yes, you do.”
“Dale Maloney, I wanted you to take me to bed and fuck me senseless.”
We meet Dale Maloney as he is starting a new job with a new firehouse after moving across the country to leave behind his old life. You see, Dale was dating a fellow fireman but they kept their relationship in the closet. When Dale was ready to propose, he caught his boyfriend in bed with another crew member, a female crew member. Devastated and betrayed, Dale is ready to move on but with his first call away to a cottage fire gives way to a terrible first impression of Lord Calminster and his attitude.

Benedict Raleigh, nineteenth Baron Calminster of Calminster Hall, is used to living life a certain way. He’s been raised with responsibility of being Lord of the Manor of Calminster. He also takes the lives of those who work for him seriously. When his cook’s cottage catches fire and he can’t get to her to make sure she is okay, he frets and takes his frustrations out Dale who has no clue who he is.

Granted, Ben and Dale don’t have a traditional meet cute as they more have a calamity of situations that throw them together, the men have a spark of enemies to lovers that I love. They truly aren’t enemies, they just rub one another the wrong way when they first meet but both men have an attraction and through both their POV’s we know how they feel.

I was worried when I found out Ben had a beard; a woman he’s been “dating” for a few years who is the daughter of a man he would like to merge business with. It’s bad to marry for business, but Ben has resigned the false life so that he could again do what’s right and produce heirs. I absolutely love that when Ben owns his interest in Dale, he decides to break off the relationship with Sabrina and their whole dinner conversation was fantastic. Thanks to the author for not making Sabrina out to be some vapid girl and instead makes her to be an amazing, strong and professional woman wants nothing for the best for Ben in his personal and professional life. Sabrina is pretty kick ass and I love how she remained in Ben’s corner even when her father was trying to destroy everything Ben has.
“Going out with Sabrina was lazy and convenient, but it was wrong of me to lead her along. Although I might have ended up marrying her, because I’m a coward.”
“But you’re gay.”
“I’m also someone who is expected to marry and produce heirs.”
“So what stopped you?”
“I met you.”
But back to the romance. Ben and Dale do take their time with the relationship. They acknowledge the attraction and respect one another’s boundaries; Ben wanting to keep the relationship quiet as he isn’t publicly out and Dale wanting to take things slow as he is getting over his breakup. Though Ben wants to keep things quiet at first, he does understand that Dale won’t go back in the closet and let’s just say that nothing in a small town is ever kept secret when everyone already knows your business.

These two were really sweet and the relationship was built on honesty and trust from the get go. Ben and Dale talk about their issues and share their dreams with one another. We know Ben has a fantasy of being rescued by a fireman and we know how much Dale’s mother would love to see a place like Calminster House in person. We get a small conversation about children early on with these two and I found it true to who the men were to be open about wanting kids someday, having them together and Dale commenting about the offer from his sister. I don’t think it was too soon to talk about anything when it came to their relationship or their future, even if the talks happened *gasp* before they fucked.

I adored the crew of the Calminster firehouse and the staff at Calminster Hall. It cracked me up when Dale would mention how hot Colson the butler was and when we learn about Joe, I felt for Dale wanting to hide from Colson and his hearing and yet I nodded along to the porn scenario. The small village feel of Calminster was warm and inviting. The added mystery of an arsonist was handled in a way I would expect of a small town where everyone knows one another and dealt with reasonably. That end was a bit rushed for me but I just wanted a bit more from the couple and wasn’t ready for the book to end.

The Fireman’s Pole (yes take every innuendo with that and you’d be right) was simply a light and sweet romance about two men met under non perfect conditions but found they wanted one another more than first impressions allowed. Ben and Dale were a delightful couple to get to know as they became friends, as they found dark corners, had sexy AF picnics and realized that letting go of the past allows them to live fully in the present and plan for one hell of a future together.

*side note* There is a cat on the cover and while the cat is not front and center of the book, there is a cat mentioned in the story. Ben’s dogs just take over and as a dog person, I am a-okay with that.

Lorix - 2.75 Hearts

I wanted to like this book way more than I actually liked it, unfortunately. Sue Brown's writing is usually a winner for me, but this just didn't work. I loved the premise but the execution felt too choppy and all over the place. It's like the story was written then bits cut out to fit a word count (I'm not suggesting this is what happened, but it just didn't read cohesively to me). I chose this ARC as I'm usually a fan of this author - the Dreamspun Desire series isn't my favourite though, and unfortunately liking the author didn't help me here.

My real problem was the characters, I think. They felt like caricatures and the romance didn't work. I don't mind books with aristocracy, but how everyone called him Mr Ben got on my nerves, I'm not sure why. Probably because in my heart I don't believe anyone person is better than another - we all crap the same. I don't know, the book just pee'd me off. It felt forced and didn't feel at all reflective of this author's usual works. It was a short read though and I didn't dislike it enough to DNF.

So basically I'm a grumpy sod about this book - that doesn't mean that you won't like it, however, it just means I didn't! ** shrugs**



Review: Shifting Currents (Mermen & Magic #4) by L.M. Brown

Can a merman and an Atlantean, separated by centuries and prejudices, find love together?

Merman Delwyn is an Oracle of the past. He loves nothing better than observing the comings and goings of those who lived centuries before he was born. His favourite time period to visit is the days when both Atlantean and mer inhabited the sunken city of Atlantis, and his guilty pleasure is watching lovers come together in passion. Secure in the knowledge that no one can see him when he’s viewing the past, nothing can prepare Delwyn for the moment Fabian, an Atlantean living in the past, speaks to him.

Fabian is a man with divided loyalties. The demi-god son of the Goddess of Sea Creatures has sworn to serve the Goddess of Prophecy as her Oracle of the present. His unique status gives him the power to see anything in the present, including the mysterious merman voyeur from the distant future.

Despite the centuries that separate them, Delwyn and Fabian find they have a lot in common and quickly form a friendship that both hope one day will become something more. But before they can be together in the present, Delwyn and Fabian must unravel the mysteries of the past.

Only time will tell if the truth about the long-since vanished Atlanteans will bring them together or tear them apart, as the battle for the sunken city of Atlantis begins.

Rated 3.9 Hearts

Shifting Currents is the fourth book in the urban fantasy/paranormal series, Mermen & Magic. And though each book features a new couple, they're not standalone. You must read in order.

And finally we get to travel back in time when Atlantis was newly sunk and the Atlanteans and mer lived together in the sunken city. And in Dangerous Waves (#3), oracle of the past, Delwyn was told his love was already in Atlantis. He's searching very hard despite being contained to underwater city and being blind.

The silver fin virgin is the youngest of the oracles an the most romantic. It was apparent in previous books and finally fully blossomed in book #4. Delwyn is attracted to a ginger haired demigod/ oracle of the present, by the name of Fabian. Normally no one can notice Delwyn when he watches the events of the past. Somehow, Fabian does. And he can talk to Delwyn. Both are intrigued with the other. Other than conversation, Fabian and Delwyn couldn't physically touch. Their courtship was very unconventional but nothing will stand in the way for soul mates.

That's right fated mates. (Squee)

For the first half of the book, this was getting close to 5 Hearts for me. The mystery, the mates and their hardship of having many centuries separating them, finally getting to bottom of the Atlantean day. It was a lot of information to go through. And I was very happy.

This series is something like paranormal brain candy. It reminds of reading early Sherrilyn Kenyon from book #1 and it's still consistent to the latest. It's sort of light, sort of simple but the magic works.

Delwyn is endearing because he's this big heart searching for his happy ever after. Fabian is sexual Atlantean and how Delwyn firsts meet Fabian is hot. (Note: Fabian does have sex with another but Delwyn doesn't mind...it already happened. Plus, he has a voyeuristic streak).

We get a lot more action compared to the previous books.



The sea dragons finally get fully explained! We get to read the time when the Atlantean gods were in charge. When the story remains in present day, about 55-60%, the strong set up suffered a little from the slower pace. And the romance takes a backseat, so by the time I got to the end, I thought there was going to be more.

My overall rating is 3.9 Hearts. That's right, I'm rating this 3.9 Hearts. (It could have easily been my favorite of the series, the second half matched the first)

Once the start of the war happens, the action and the pace drags a little. The author makes sure to explain the entire scene, where I felt it could have been summarized a bit. With the romance removed from the driver's seat, the impact wasn't as strong as I think it could've been.

In L.M. Brown's Atlantis and merfolk world, the mer are sexual beings. They have mating seasons which coincide with the two solstices. The mer must have sex and release their triggers or they'll have physical pain the longer they go without. And the mer have different triggers to orgasm, like bottoming or penetration, or spanking.

Delwyn is a virgin in Shifting Currents and hasn't explored sexually. So we the readers never find out other than Delwyn isn't interested in being penetrated. I'm happy the author kept to his feelings and didn't write a gratuitous sex scene. Is there penetrative sex? Between the MC's: no. The sexual scenes are limited.

Due to a little thing about being born at different periods of time and setting up the war between the deities that hate the mer and the allies, the book spends more time on the mystery of that day. The impossibility of the two oracles being together in the same time helped pushed this plot. Though I still have questions about that day. I need a definitive reason why. We get to learn who cared for the Atlanteans and who were against them. But why exactly were they banished? What's up with Mariana's hatred? Where does it stem from?

The author went deeper this time in the wonderful mythological world created. And we learn more about Caspian. I CAN'T WAIT FOR HIS BOOK ALREADY! *cough* So I'm sorta satisfied but I want deeper, more explanation on actions made. #greedy.



Do I recommend this series? Well, I've read the entire series so far and have no plans to get off the Mermen & Magic train - so yes. I think this would work best for readers who don't mind lighter simpler paranormal themes.

Shifting Currents does end with a HEA (not without major sacrifices). I'm curious as to what's in store for the future because Atlantis and the current state felt unfinished.



Review: The Supers (The Supers #1) by Sean Michael

Hunting ghosts and finding more than they bargained for.

Blaine Franks is a member of the paranormal research group the Supernatural Explorers. When the group loses their techie to a cross-country move, newly graduated Flynn Huntington gets the job. Flynn fits in with the guys right off the bat, but when it comes to him and Blaine, it’s more than just getting along.

Things heat up between Blaine and Flynn as they explore their first haunted building, an abandoned hospital, together. Their relationship isn’t all that progresses, though, and soon it seems that an odd bite on Blaine’s neck has become much more.

Hitchhiking ghosts, a tragic love story forgotten by time, and the mystery of room 204 round out a romance where the things that go bump in the night are real.



I was a huge fan of show Ghost Hunters with Jason and Grant from TAPS. I loved that their reason to investigate the paranormal was to debunk the probability of ghosts being real yet both men had their own experiences with ghosts. I won’t go into detail, but I’ve had my share of experiences and had “the voodoo man” explain my gifts so this book sounded like it would be right up my alley.

I’m Blaine Franks, and with my buddies Flynn, Will, Jase, and Darnell, we’re the Supernatural Explorers.

It started out really good as we get to meet Blaine doing his daily business working at the family farm and the first impression he has of Flynn the new tech guy to possibly join The Supernatural Explorers. It’s group of four friends who like to hunt ghosts and who are all gay. Flynn gets the seal of approval from the boys and he begins a minor crush on the face of The Supers and Blaine begins a crush on Flynn as well.

“Are there any horror stories associated with the place?” Flynn asked. “I mean, obviously people died here, but were any of them under mysterious or sinister circumstances?”

“There was a mass shooting in the emergency room in the early sixties. Eight people died. Four nurses, two doctors, and two patients.”

The ghost hunting aspect of the book was what I loved the most. I liked the guys going into the Eugene Thurston Memorial Hospital, to see if they can get any readings of ghosties hanging out and doing what they do best. The mystery of what happened in Room 204 was what kept me reading the book and it was as tragic as I hoped it wouldn’t be.

We’re told Blaine and Flynn like each other but I never felt it. We are told a lot about what they feel and they tell us out loud how they feel but the chemistry was a hot as a cold spot in a haunted room. I felt absolutely nothing for either of these boys. Yeah, I am calling them boys because even though they are supposed to be 33 years old, they talk to one another like they are perpetually 12!

“You two just keep thrashing over the same shit,”

Honestly this book dragged and went from interesting to OMMFG can we stop rehashing the same issue over and over again?! I get it. Blaine has a bad feeling about Room 204 but the voices kept telling him to go there and Flynn wants to know what the big deal is but Blaine won’t talk and ugh. They beat that issue to death and kept torturing it.

There is sex in this but I skimmed it because of the dialogue during and just wanted to find out what happened in Room 204. An insta-relationship happens and I skimmed most of that too. I just wanted to find out what happened in Room 204. Do we see a theme here?

This had a strong beginning that I liked but it was Sean Michaeled to death. If you are familiar with the author’s style of storytelling and like it, this might be for you.

Sadly, I think I need to steer clear of the authors’ work from this point on.

I’m just not that into it.


Review: The Past Comes Home (Ames Bridge, #2) by Silvia Violet

Twenty years ago, Paxton Marshall realized he liked boys, in particular his brother’s best friend, Brad. Pax now runs a successful art gallery, but he’s never found anyone who stirs his heart the way Brad did.

Brad Watson is back in town for his twentieth high school reunion. However, the celebration of long-ago days is the last thing on his mind. He’s there for one reason: to finally tell Pax how he feels.

Pax is shocked to learn Brad is not only gay but also interested in him. Dating a man in Ames Bridge isn’t as simple as it sound, though. In order to make a relationship work, both men will have to bolster their courage and alter their expectations.







Sadtown 
Population 1 Cupcake

I was crazy excited about this book. I mean, brother's best friend, age gap, unrequited love being requited twenty years later... what's not to like?

Pax. Pax is what I don't like. Let me tell you about Pax. There are realists. There are pessimists. Then there's Pax. He deserves a category unto himself with its own personal black cloud following him around like Pigpen. You'd think the fact that he's been crushing on and for all intents and purposes half in love with Brad since he was FOURTEEN would imbue him with an excitement the likes of which can only be witnessed in kids on Christmas morning when Santa has made it rain.

You'd be wrong. He acts like the prospect of getting with his fantasy man is on par with getting a root canal. It was painful, it went on far too long and it snapped my enjoyment like a twig. I skimmed the last 30ish% because I could not deal any more. I think I get the gist of his characterization and I do think it's plausible, maybe even likely, but woooooweeeeee did he get on my last good nerve.

Told from both of their perspectives Pax's negativism interfered with their dynamic making it seem awkward and forced at times, clunky. The ending is a happy one but I couldn't buy it. It's rushed, for one, I needed more time with them as a couple and then perhaps I could buy into their coupletry. But as it stands Pax is too negative to Brad's optimistic and gregarious personality for me to buy them long-term. Or maybe I just like Brad and feel like he deserves better?

The sex between them is hot. On paper. But since I couldn't connect with them I didn't really get into it. Brad's bossy and there's a bit of size difference between them which is typically my catnip, but Pax and his stuttering and general milquetoastness left me cold.

I like the premise of unrequited love finally being requited after twenty years in a small Southern town, no less, though be forewarned there is a significant amount of homophobia and general nastiness from some of the townsfolk. Some of them are really supportive and the general vibe of this small North Carolina town was well crafted.

This can be read as a standalone. I had no trouble keeping up and I may even be interested in the next one, but this one I can't recommend. Unfortunately.




An ARC was provided.

Audiobook Review: Provoked (Enlightenment, #1) by Joanna Chambers

When a man loses his heart, he has no choice but to follow…

Enlightenment, Book 1

Lowborn David Lauriston lacks the family connections needed to rise in Edinburgh’s privileged legal world. Worse, his latest case—defending weavers accused of treason—has brought him under suspicion of harbouring radical sympathies.

Troubled by his sexuality, tormented by memories of a man he once platonically loved, David lives a largely celibate life—until a rare sexual encounter with a compelling stranger turns his world on its head.

Cynical and worldly, Lord Murdo Balfour is more at home in hedonistic London than dingy, repressed Edinburgh. Unlike David, he intends to eventually marry while continuing to enjoy the company of men whenever he pleases. Yet sex with David is different. It’s personal, intimate, and instead of extinguishing his desire, it only leaves him hungry for more.

As David’s search for the man who betrayed the weavers deepens, he begins to suspect that his mysterious lover has more sinister reasons for his presence in Edinburgh. The truth could leave his heart broken…and more necks stretching on the gallows.

Warning: Contains mystery and danger set in 1822 Scotland, and a forbidden love between two men that will leave you on the edge of your seat—until the next book.

Narrated by: Hamish McKinley
Listening Length: 5 hours and 52 minutes



Guest Reviewer - Annery

Historicals were my gateway to romance and it was no different with m/m. My first was “Tangled Web” by Lee Rowan and I loved it. Since then I’ve mostly gravitated to contemporaries but always keep a gimlet eye on what’s out there in the crinoline and gauntlet era. The problem is that most m/m historicals are either wildly inaccurate, as in the historic part is window dressing, or self-flagellating tales of woe where the best possible outcome is some Lord/valet arrangement for a HEA. I tread carefully but have lately come upon some gems and this is one of them.

First things first: the audio is by Hamish McKinlay and it’s divine. A work of art all on its own. The characters are clearly and distinctly identified not only by their accents but also by their ‘voice’ and tone. At every turn you know exactly who’s speaking. The emotions are clear and vivid and more than once I felt David’s quiet sadness and moments of joy. Bonus points for clearing up the Scottish pronunciation of many words that I’m sure I’d otherwise be mangling and just in time for the return of “Outlander” too!

So let’s talk about the story. The book opens with the execution of Andrew Hardie & John Baird. This was a real event. Here’s a historical snippet not from the book:

“... on 8th September 1820, Andrew Hardie, a weaver from Glasgow, and John Baird, a weaver from Condorrat, met similar fates in Stirling: they were also hanged and beheaded. 19 others, mostly weavers, were sentenced to transportation, and already on their way to the colonies (mainly New South Wales in Australia); and that was the end of what became known as the Radical War, or the 1820 Rising. But, as Britain charged headlong into an age of immense industrialisation, it wasn’t to be the last time that the recently coined term ‘radical’ would serve as a prefix for a popular movement of workers demanding their ‘rights’ in society, and threatening revolution if their ‘rights’ were withheld.

One astonishing fact about the 1820 Rising, accepted by many historians today, is that the government, through the agency and double-dealing of spies, actually incited the rising in the first place. Why would a government, gripped by the fear of a popular revolution amongst its populace, incite a general strike in the very epicentre of radicalism? To answer this question, we must unearth the roots of the 1820 Rising, and of radical politics in general.

In Scotland, the Presbyterian Church, although often repressive in policing the moral fortitude of its flock, had passionately defended certain ‘rights’ amongst the ‘common people’ since the time of the Reformation – the first and foremost of these being the right to read the bible in one’s own language, without the interference of Latinate priests. Consequently, throughout the 18th century and into the early-19th century, Scotland had one of the highest levels of literacy anywhere in Europe, and indeed the world – a much higher rate than in neighbouring England, or even in revolutionary France.

As the economic situation worsened for many workers in Scotland, not only were they receptive to new, ‘radical’ solutions to their problems, but they could read for themselves the works of Robert Burns singing the merits of the common man, or read the pamphlets of Tom Paine, such as the famous ‘Rights of Man’ (1791-92) which popularised the notions of universal suffrage (for men) and republicanism as never before.

Beyond this peculiarly Scottish trend of literacy, it must be stated that the major influence on the 1820 Rising is the fact that those involved had lived in an age of revolution for over a generation. The American Revolution of 1776 had already struck a blow to kingship and its attendant system of feudal privileges.” [1]


This is the world in which we meet David Lauriston, an advocate who worked on the defense for the two doomed men. He has come to witness their execution as a final act of solidarity. This is a genius way of showing us who David is and what he stands for and that is one of the things that Joanna Chambers does masterfully. Each scene helps to illuminate who the characters are and what they’re about; whether it’s something mundane like having dinner or momentous like bearing witness to a hanging or mind blowing like sucking cock in a dark, filthy alley. These are all moments in a life, the life of David Lauriston. David comes from a small village, the son of hardworking farmers, and the first member of his family to go to University. He’s a young lawyer trying to make a name for himself in Edinburgh. He’s conflicted over having ‘lost’ his country accent in order to succeed in his profession; he doesn’t know how to feel over becoming a city dweller and having abandoned manual labor and country habits for the life of books, but he is absolutely guilt ridden by his continuous failure to resist his weakness or defect, which is that David is attracted to men, however he forges ahead with quiet dignity. When he fails he gets up, dusts himself off, and goes on as best he can. I loved that about him. He knows who he is, though he’s not inflexible, and is trying to forge a life within personal moral boundaries. This means he’s unwilling to deceive any future wife with promises of love and fidelity and therefore chooses to remain a bachelor however socially advantageous a marriage could be.

On the day of the execution, while lodging at an inn, David meets one Murdo Balfour and they share a memorable encounter which haunts both men.


“The cobbles under his knees were hard and wet, but he didn’t care. … Even if David didn’t climax now, he would be able to do so later, just from remembering this. His own cock was painful in his breeches, swollen with desire but constricted by the tight fabric and his kneeling position. In an odd way, he relished the uncomfortable sensation. Strangely it almost enhanced the delight of pleasing Balfour.”

Luckily or not through fate and circumstance they meet again and their lives become intertwined which leads them to circle each other with interest and certainly desire. For David this is a problem because giving into his ‘unnatural’ proclivities is something he tries to minimize, though he knows eventually he’ll always fail, and that is David: trying to do his best but clear on his imperfections. His polar opposite is Murdoch Balfour or as it turns out, Lord Murdo to civilians.

Lord Murdo the younger son of a Marquess. He’s tall and dark where David is of average height, slender, and a coppery redhead. Murdo is an unabashed hedonist, who enjoys the pleasures of the body, without regard of what others may think, whereas David has been brought up to believe that sex between men is not only a sin, but he also knows it to be a crime in the eyes of the law.


“I don’t think the fact that I want to stick my cock in the occasional arse is any business of God, the King or anyone else.”

This devil-may-care attitude on the part of Murdo is due in large part to his social class and upbringing, but Murdo is also a pragmatist where David is an idealist or a romantic in the classical sense, as Murdo accuses … and yet when they come together they’re combustible. David and Murdo share a couple of intimate and devastating encounters during which David allows himself to go further than he ever has in any previous tryst and Murdo finds himself falling deeper into an attraction and desire that go very much against his wishes.


Being a brilliant writer Joanna Chambers knows that a HEA within the scope of this first book would be disingenuous to say the least and dishonest. It would also be false to who these characters have shown themselves to be and their historical and social reality. As a balm she gives us the last two chapters of the book. In my opinion they are the heart and soul of the book and one of the spots where Hamish McKinlay’s narration shines bright. He made my eyes leak. David and Murdo finally see each other’s true mettle and it comes as no surprise, that though battered, David is the one left standing, whereas you can see the cracks starting to form in Murdo’s carefully constructed exterior. Nothing is done out of character and I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by saying that they go on their separate ways to live out their respective lives. The heartbreaking, but ultimately honest, final chapter has David embracing the only HFN he can envision for himself. I’m not being glib when I say that I felt happy for him. David was loved and accepted by those who mattered to him and he felt it. He’d reached a level of inner peace. Those aren’t things to scoff at in any time period.

When I was done with the last period in this book I blindly One-Clicked the rest of the series. I’d recommend that everyone do it too and for this one add the audio. It’s the only one available for now but I’ll be on the lookout for the rest of the series.


A review copy was provided.


Blog Tour + Giveaway: His Convenient Husband (Love and Sports #1) by Robin Covington



Robin Covington and IndiGo Marketing make the final stop on the His Convenient Husband blog tour! Don't miss today's exclusive excerpt and giveaway! Enter for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Title:  His Convenient Husband
Series: Love and Sports, Book One
Author: Robin Covington
Publisher:  Entangled Publishing
Release Date: October 9, 2017
Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 50,000
Genre: Romance, marriage of convenience, interracial romance, sports romance, LGBTQ

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Synopsis

NFL football player Isaiah Blackwell lost his husband three years ago and is raising their teen son alone. He lives his life as quietly as his job allows, playing ball to support his family but trying not to draw unwanted attention. His quiet life is shaken up when a mutual friend introduces him to Victor, a visiting principal ballet dancer who is everything Isaiah is not.

Brash and loud, Victor Aleksandrov has applied for political asylum to avoid returning to Russia, where gay men are targeted and persecuted. He’s been outspoken about gay rights in his home country, and if he doesn’t get asylum, going back to Russia is a death sentence.

Their one-night stand turns into a tentative friendship, a relationship they both agree is temporary…until Victor’s denied asylum. Isaiah can’t offer Victor a happily ever after, but he can propose something that’ll keep Victor in the US and safe. . .marriage He just doesn’t expect his new husband to dance away with his heart.

Exclusive Excerpt

I had so much fun writing HIS CONVENIENT HUSBAND but I’m not gonna lie that some of the most fun for me was putting Victor and Isaiah through hell. These were two men, so very different, and brought together for a really good reason but the sexual attraction between them was a huge problem when Isaiah didn’t want to risk his heart every again. So, I tortured them and made them earn their HEA – as one does.

Here’s an exclusive excerpt just for you guys . . .  one where I loved cranking up the emotional stakes:

“You took your time coming home,” Isaiah said, his tone as at as the granite countertop.
“I needed to blow off some steam,” he replied, his accent heavy on his tongue tonight, a result of the drinks and his fatigue. He’d pay for it tomorrow on the rehearsal floor, but he didn’t care. “The last place I wanted to be was here until I’d settled down.”
“Two a.m.,” Isaiah said, his gaze turning pointedly to the clock glowing on the surface of the microwave oven. “You’ve got rehearsal in the morning.”
His anger had cooled, but Isaiah’s words threw gasoline on the embers, and in a ash he was back to a three-alarm blaze.
“Well, he was worth it.”
His first reaction to Isaiah’s shocked expression was a mean and petty glee that his words had hit the mark. But as his husband’s expression morphed into raw hurt, his victory was tarnished by shame of not only the lie, but also the smallness of the behavior. He wasn’t that man, not a guy who hurt other people to make himself feel bigger.
“I see,” Isaiah said, clearing his throat as he leaned heavily on the kitchen island, hands visibly unsteady, but his usual mask of calm and unconcern slamming down like a gate barring any access to the man underneath. “Well, I guess that’s...” His jaw clenched like he was fighting back revealing any emotion, but his words gave him away. “You didn’t waste any time.”
“You told me you didn’t want me and that I should look elsewhere. I did what you told me to do, Isaiah.” He shrugged, hopefully transmitting a nonchalance he wasn’t feeling at all.
The silence that stretched between them was even more pronounced in the stillness of the early morning. God, he wanted to tell him that nothing had happened with that guy because of him, to reopen this discussion and try to get another outcome, but Victor knew it was a waste of time. Isaiah had been nothing but clear. Victor was the one with the problem.
No time like the present to deal with another problem.
“About what happened today with Evan,” he said, his words changing the subject so quickly that Isaiah paused, visibly taking a few seconds to get caught up.
“I can’t have him exposed like that. Stephen and I built his life to be normal and away from all the bullshit of Hollywood and Los Angeles.”
“My activism isn’t bullshit, Isaiah,” Victor said, interrupting him. “The reporters hit a nerve today when they called me a coward.”
“You’re not.” Isaiah started to object, but Victor cut him off. This was his time to talk.
“I feel like one sometimes. I’m safe here, because of you, while my brothers and sisters are suffering, and that is why I can’t stop talking about it. I have the freedom and the platform, and I’m using it because I can. I understand your concerns about your team, and I agree that Evan shouldn’t be part of it, but I’m not going to stop.” He took a breath and swallowed. “I figured it was a given considering how we ended up here.”
Isaiah dipped his head, lifting to scrub at his two a.m. stubble. Victor let him think; nothing about this situation was easy. When he looked up again and their eyes locked across the darkened kitchen, Victor knew how hard this was on Isaiah. His dark eyes were roiling with emotions, and none of them were good, except for the ashes of desire. That was good, except for the fact that it would never lead anywhere.
“I know how we got here, but I can’t let our arrangement derail my life, Evan’s life.”
He didn’t say it out loud, but the word “temporary” hung in the air. Victor wasn’t expected to be around forever, and that hurt. It was as simple as that. And it made his next suggestion very easy to say.
“My place here in the L.A. company isn’t guaranteed.” Isaiah’s expression was confused, but understanding took over as he continued his solution. “Other companies are interested. London, Paris, and New York have all been vocal about wanting me to come there. I’ll be going to New York in a few weeks to do a special performance, and I think they’ll offer me a spot as a principal dancer. If I take it, then it could solve our problems. Not even the immigration people could dispute a legitimate job offer.”
“I didn’t mean you had to leave,” Isaiah said, his tone full of the regret that also tightened his jaw. “I don’t want you to have to leave.”
Before the events of the last couple of days, Victor would have indulged in his hopeless romanticism, but this time he wouldn’t make that mistake. Isaiah had been clear, honest, and Victor would be the same. It was the least they owed each other.
He opened the dishwasher and placed his glass inside. Victor passed his husband, suddenly wanting nothing more than his own bed. “I know you aren’t telling me to go, Isaiah, but you aren’t exactly asking me to stay, either.”

Thanks for reading! If you love my guys as much as I do, drop me a line at robin@robincovingtonromance.com

xoRobin

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36158863-his-convenient-husband

Purchase

Entangled Publishing | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes




Meet the Author

A USAToday bestseller, Robin Covington loves to explore the theme of fooling around and falling in love in her books. Her stories burn up the sheets. . .one page at a time. When she’s not writing she’s collecting tasty man candy, indulging in a little comic book geek love, hoarding red nail polish and stalking Chris Evans.

A 2016 RITA® Award finalist, Robin’s books have won the National Reader’s Choice and Golden Leaf Awards and finaled in the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice, and the Book Seller’s Best.

She lives in Maryland with her handsome husband, her two brilliant children (they get it from her, of course!), and her beloved furbabies, Dutch and Dixie Joan Wilder (Yes – THE Joan Wilder)

Drop her a line at robin@robincovingtonromance.com - she always writes back.

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Audiobook Review: Mahu (Mahu #1) by Neil S. Plakcy

Mahu -- a generally negative Hawaiian term for homosexuals -- introduces a unique character to detective fiction. Kimo Kanapa'aka is a handsome, mixed-race surfer living in Honolulu, a police detective confronting his homosexuality in an atmosphere of macho bravado within the police force. A man of intelligence, strength, honesty, resourcefulness, and intense dedication to the people of Hawaii, Kimo is a hard-boiled hero you will never forget. Fast-paced, intricately plotted, thoroughly enjoyable, this is a sexy, surprisingly moving mystery about discovering oneself as much as catching a killer.

Listening Length: 11 hours
Narrator: Joel Leslie


Reviewer: Annika

Every time I pick up a book narrated by Joel Leslie, my immediate reaction is always "Oh no, not him again". There's just something about his tone/intonation that sounds condescending to me, and I can't stand condescending people so it gets my back up.

At the same time, Joel Leslie is also brilliant at narrating books. He makes them come alive. Every time. And he has such a wide range of accents that he delivers without fail. So even though the first few minutes of his books are a bit of a struggle for me, I always end up enjoying his narration, without fail. Which is why I keep forgetting that oh no moment each time I pick up his books.
Mahu was a really good combination of coming out intertwined in a murder mystery.

A drunken night out changes Kimo's life in ways he never expected.

On his way home after hanging out and drinking with his friends, Kimo impulsively decides to go into a gay bar not far from his home. Going into this bar is his first step to admitting who he really is - a gay man. And he is fascinated by what he finds, and so turned on. But most of all he is scared. Leaving the bar he witnesses a crime. A crime he has no idea how to handle.

I found it refreshing that Kimo was honest with his partner from the beginning and didn't cover up or make excuses for what he did and didn't do that night outside the bar. That easily could've turned out to be one of those big and dramatic dragged out secrets that just explodes in the end of the book. The ones where you're thinking "Why wasn't he just honest from the beginning?" I was honestly waiting (resigning myself) for it to happen but it never did. Sure he didn't shout it from the rooftop or tell everyone, but he did enough to keep it from becoming dramatic.

I liked Kimo and his struggles felt real. Sure he came across as melodramatic and a bit too scared of himself at times, but honestly - who am I to judge others feelings and beliefs? (And yes, I know that Kimo is a fictional character, but the sentiment still applies).

Something that didn't work for me was that basically as soon as Kimo started to admit to himself that he was gay, every gay guy he meets turns him on - and he turn them on. It was never ending and just too much. I don't know if it was supposed to be because that he was allowing himself to see, after repressing that side of him for so long, but it just didn't work for me. I really don't mind exploring or cruising/hooking up or whatever, but this came across more like a teen boy just discovering what his dick could do - with as much self-control...

This book was written some 10+ years ago, and you can tell that while reading. There are a number of issues raised in this book, and you realise how much some things have changed in that time in regards to rights and opinions, and how many that are (sadly) still the same.


I loved reading about Kimo's first stumbling steps towards admitting to himself and others that he was gay. You can feel that his struggles and fears are real. By the end of the book he still has a very long way to go, but he is on his way, there's promise in that ending. It was a really good start to a promising series and it will be interesting to see what happens next.

A free copy of this audiobook was provided in exchange for an honest review..



Review: Taming the Beast by Andrew Grey

The suspicious death of Dante Bartholomew’s wife changed him, especially in the eyes of the residents of St. Giles. They no longer see a successful businessman… only a monster they believe was involved. Dante’s horrific reputation eclipses the truth to the point that he sees no choice but to isolate himself and his heart.

The plan backfires when he meets counselor Beau Clarity and the children he works with. Beau and the kids see beyond the beastly reputation to the beautiful soul inside Dante, and Dante’s cold heart begins to thaw as they slip past his defenses. The warmth and hope Beau brings to Dante’s life help him see his entire existence—his trials and sorrows—in a brighter light.

But Dante’s secrets could rip happiness from their grasp… especially since someone isn’t above hurting those Dante has grown to love in order to bring him down.


This story was pretty angsty, but then I would expect that from the title. Dante isn't so much a beast as a very damaged man who has a lot of secrets, and some big gaping wounds to heal.

Enter Beau. The newest psychologist at the local drug and alcohol centre that gets a lot of its funding from Dante’s charity foundation. Beau is used to getting things done, and had no interest in taking more money from the foundation than it needs, but he can't help but want to be around Dante, even if it's just to find out more about him.

I liked Beau’s character. His personality was good and his connection to his colleagues and the centre was convincing. I could tell he loved what he did.

His relationship with Dante started off very rocky, and neither of them really got with the program right away. It seemed like they were not on the same page, and part of that is Dante's secret.

The angst was a bit much for me. I'm not into that level of drama and secret keeping. I know readers out there enjoy this level of angst, so I think there is definitely readers who will love this.

Angst aside, this was an easy read, with some nice chemistry and the familiarity of the fairy tale it represents. My favourite character in this story is the butler, Roberts. I love a meddling butler. He added some comedic flair to Dante's life, and helped the story flow.

Recommended to all of those readers who enjoy fairy tale romances, with secrets revealed, and great physical chemistry between characters.