Debra E's Never-Ending TBR

I read what I like and then review it in a completely subjective manner. 

 

I also review at Sinfully ... Addicted. Please give us a visit!

A Family for Christmas

A Family for Christmas - Jay Northcote A wonderfully sweet, feel-good Christmas tale. No angst, no over-the-top sappiness, but a moving story of co-workers to lovers. Both Zac and Rudy are strangers to relationships. Rudy's been crushing on his quiet new co-worker from afar, but a night of tequila and a drunken kiss that leads to Rudy inviting Zac to his family home for Christmas give them a perfect opportunity to spend some time together - especially when Rudy fails to correct his mother's assumption that they are boyfriends. Zac, who grew up without a family, falls under the spell of not just Rudy, but his big, loving and boisterous family.

This is an adorable Christmas story that will give you feels, heat you up and leave you with a smile.

Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas Book 4)

Santa Baby (Minnesota Christmas Book 4) - Heidi Cullinan Review originally posted at Sinfully.

The signs were there. In [b:Sleigh Ride|22055733|Sleigh Ride (Minnesota Christmas, #2)|Heidi Cullinan|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1399597736s/22055733.jpg|41383859] Gabriel tells Arthur that one of the kinks he was most interested in when he looked at porn was orgies. Arthur telling Gabe that when he felt safe with his main partner he would be more likely to want to try it in real life, though Arthur wasn’t sure he could share Gabriel. What appeared to be a throwaway comment in [b:Winter Wonderland|25537817|Winter Wonderland (Minnesota Christmas, #3)|Heidi Cullinan|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1431619912s/25537817.jpg|45328363] about Gabriel’s apparent interest in Dale and whether he and Arthur would invite Dale for some fun, now appears to have been a seed planted for this book. This is definitely going to be a polarizing book for fans of the series. If you are not a fan of bringing someone new into an already established relationship, you are going to want to think twice about this story.

Santa Baby picks up right where Winter Wonderland ends. I would suggest having at least read Sleigh Ride prior to this one so you understand the relationship between Gabriel and Arthur, but Dale is pretty new to the series so you could jump in here. Dale is polyamorous and is taken by Gabriel after working with him for weeks on the Logan development project. He is running from a bad situation with a co-worker and plans to spend a lot of time in Logan. When Arthur invites him for a little fun with him and Gabriel after noticing the sparks between the two of them, Dale wants nothing more. When the time comes though, things don’t go as planned and Arthur realizes that for him it’s a bit of kink, but for Gabriel it’s so much more.

In Sleigh Ride, Gabriel had for the first time accepted who he is and what he wants, Arthur guiding him through it all. Here, with Dale, Gabriel is continuing that journey and once again, it is Arthur guiding him. Arthur wants nothing more than for Gabriel to be happy and if Dale makes Gabriel happy, then Arthur will do everything he can to make that happen.

If you follow my reviews at all you know I love ménage books, but this was a uniquely written relationship from anything I’ve read before. This wasn’t a story of a couple bringing in a third for fun and games then accidentally falling for him. Gabriel and Dale are polyamorous, but Arthur is not. While Arthur doesn’t mind playing with others, he only wants one romantic partner. But Arthur’s outlook on sex and relationships is open and he isn’t going to deny Gabriel what he needs, even if Gabriel doesn’t understand that he needs it quite yet. They both craft their own relationship with Dale. For Gabriel it’s another romantic partner to love and share his life with. For Arthur it’s a sub and a friend. For both, Dale’s a part of their life that fills a void they knew was there, but weren’t sure how to fill. Dale is a wonderful addition to the family these men in Logan have created and to Gabriel and Arthur’s relationship.

I liked the way the men were open and communicative with each other; obviously the only way any of this would work. The sex was there, of course, but it wasn’t the focus of the story. I do have to say though, that the scenes with the men ranged from tender to dirty and were different depending on who was involved. Arthur and Dale have a D/s relationship that has a set schedule of scenes, while for Gabriel and Dale it’s a full-blown romance. There are also times set aside for the three to be together and connect. I loved to see that Arthur was firm in his mindset, that he is not poly, he does not consider Dale to be his romantic partner such as Gabriel is, but he has a D/s relationship with Dale that is separate from everything else. He is not magically converted, rather the three work out something unique to them.

There was a bit of insta-love between Gabriel and Dale and I would have liked a little more time spent on the start of that relationship. There are some time jumps that took away from the initial bonding for me, but as the story went on it was clear that there was something very real. What Gabriel and Dale had was very different from what developed between Dale and Arthur, but at the heart of it is still Arthur and Gabriel’s relationship. It really is the anchor for everything else that happens and Arthur has cemented himself as my favorite in this series. I did want to be in Gabriel’s head a little more instead of feeling like he was just riding the waves. It’s in his nature to allow Arthur to lead and fix things, but I wanted to really know what was going on outside of those times where he voiced his feelings or he was having a moment of crisis.

There is a sub-plot regarding the abusive co-worker Dale had been with before leaving for Logan and the continuing development project. Dale was put through a horrifying ordeal that haunts him throughout the story. As Heidi Cullinan tends to do, there are serious issues brought up and on occasion the narrative tends to get a bit preachy in spots, but not enough that it impacted the overall story for me.

All the couples from the first three books are back and their engagements finally come to fruition, but only one ceremony had me with a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. So while there were things I loved, and things I felt weren’t given as much time as I’d have liked, overall I really enjoyed this exploration of sexuality and love. These three men did what was right for them, regardless of what society and the small town gossip mill would say. They kept true to themselves and nurtured what was important to them and in the end found something that works and enriches their lives. In keeping in true Heidi Cullinan fashion, there is a HEA for everyone involved in the series.

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Limitless (The Underground Club Book 2)

Limitless (The Underground Club Book 2) - SJD Peterson Reviewed at Sinfully.

3.5 stars


Joshua has had a lifetime of abuse and abandonment. SJD Peterson doesn’t delve too deeply into the details, but gives us enough to know where his mindset comes from. He believes he has nothing much to offer anyone and will do just about anything, take any pain, as evidenced by the prior dangerous and disastrous D/s relationship he barely got out of with his life, to find oblivion for a little while. Abandoned by that Dom, Joshua is lost and is looking for a Dom as a way to stay off the streets, not the best way to go about things.

Nash has had his eye on Joshua since he first saw him and he’s not too happy with the way he believes Master Troy is treating him. He’s heard from others at the club that Joshua has no limits and is a pain junkie. He wants nothing more than to take Joshua as his boy, but he thinks he might be in over his head, especially once the truth of Joshua’s situation comes out.

It may sound strange, but despite the BDSM, the many sex scenes and the short time they are together, the relationship progresses in a quiet, tender manner. Nash is insistent on letting Joshua know he is desired, not just for the pain he can take or the submission he offers, but for the kind man he is as well. The line blurring between Dom/sub and lovers, definitely has Joshua off-kilter, but it seems Nash knows just how to balance the two to give Joshua what he needs on all fronts.

There is no magic BDSM cure and I was glad to see Nash encourage Joshua to get professional help. Nash does use scenes to help Joshua see that he doesn’t need endless pain, but can satisfy his needs through his submission as well and learning to trust in Nash. Joshua’s past is heartbreaking, but the story didn’t feel overwhelmed by angst. It does color the present though and as much as Joshua has trouble believing he can find happiness he also feels the need to run when he starts to get a little taste of it. Nash, on the other hand, fears that Joshua will heal and leave him behind.

After all the time that is spent getting Joshua and Nash to agree to continue to work together, the ending was quite abrupt and left with a HFN; in fact I expected to find another chapter or Epilogue when I swiped the page and that disappointment did drop this from 4 to 3.5 stars for me. They have reached common ground as far as their contract goes, but still have a long road ahead of them in the relationship, especially when it comes to Joshua’s problems.

For anyone going into this story, know that it’s really about the start of a new relationship and the building of trust enough for Nash and Joshua to go forward. Joshua now wants and believes that he deserves what Nash offers and the two are happy to work towards their ultimate goal. I don’t know whether we will get more of these two in the future, but I would like to see what they could build as Joshua really begins to put his past to bed.

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Summer Lessons

Summer Lessons - Amy Lane Review originally posted at Sinfully.

3.5 stars


I absolutely adored Mason in [b:Winter Ball|27991851|Winter Ball (Winter Ball #1)|Amy Lane|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1448573325s/27991851.jpg|47993918] so I was thrilled to see he was getting a book and I loved him just as much here. You don’t need to have read that story to jump in here, but it’s a fantastic one and the MC’s from that book, Skip and Richie, do play a big supporting role. The story between Mason and Terry itself is fully contained here though.

The book starts off with a hilarious view into Mason’s childhood and really set the tone for knowing Mason as a 37 year old adult. He grew up in a happy supportive family, has a good education and is a successful executive. His love life has been less than great, with a few relationships with men that never really understood him. He also can be socially awkward since he has a bit of a mouth-filter issue (which you’ve experienced if you read Winter Ball) and sometime can’t rein in his brain whose default mindset seems to be that of an adolescent with a sex obsession (see the flashbacks referred to above).

Terry Jefferson is fairly young (about 25), inexperienced when it comes to life in general and a bit flighty. He lives with the vile creature that is his domineering, emotionally abusive, bigoted and hateful mother and finds it hard to break away from her.

Terry and Mason meet through Skip’s soccer league and start hooking up. It’s clear from the start that physically, they give each other just what they want. The sex is hot! Mason falls pretty fast for Terry, who he thinks gets him like none of his partners have before. Terry really doesn’t understand that Mason could possibly want him around for anything other than sex. He sees Mason as an older, smarter classy guy and figures they will just keep hooking up until Mason is done with him since he has nothing else to offer. As Mason helps Terry move away from his mother and as they spend more time together, Mason knows Terry is exactly what he wants, but he also thinks Terry isn’t in a position to commit to something long-term since he’s just starting out on his own.

I understood Terry’s confusion and inability to understand having a relationship and I understood Mason’s need to let him go out and experience things. Mason trying to save himself from further heartache didn’t seem to work too well for the most part as Terry does seem to leave him in the dust. I had a hard time connecting with Terry. I really wish I had a bit of his POV, as I think it might have helped me understand just what he was thinking about the relationship, especially once he’s out on his own. I definitely felt bad for him and could feel his sadness and loneliness, but when it came down feeling that emotional connection between him and Mason, that fell a bit short for me.

I did enjoy the sub-story about Carpenter (Skip’s co-worker from Winter Ball) and Mason’s completely adorable brother Dane. Dane is trying to figure out his friend Carpenter’s sexuality, as he seems to be flirting and responding to Dane as if he’s not straight. Their budding friends to lovers story was a strong thread throughout the book and I would love to have their story in the future.

Dane also struggles to live with his bi-polar disorder as Mason tries to keep him on his medication regimen and from falling into an emotional spiral over Carpenter. Although I didn’t find the main love story to pack quite the emotional punch as Winter Ball did for me, the relationship between Mason and his brother Dane was beautiful and did choke me up a few times.

The friendships amongst the soccer team are another strong point of this story and Mason has found his people amongst Skip, Richie, Carpenter and Terry. The banter and camaraderie help Mason through and even serve to give Terry a bit of the push he needs to move forward. And if you’re looking for a strong woman here, Mason’s secretary, Mrs. Bradford takes the cake, while Mason’s mother is the mom every child should have in their corner.

Amy Lane’s writing is wonderful as always. There is depth and emotion and each character has their own voice and personality. If it wasn’t for my trouble connecting with the romance between Mason and Terry, this story would have been as good for me as the first one. Regardless, there is plenty to like here and if you were a fan of Winter Ball you are definitely going to want to read this one.

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Just Drive

Just Drive - L.A. Witt Review originally posted at Sinfully.

This is the first in a new series from L.A. Witt taking place in and around a naval base in Oregon and it’s a great start. A sexy and sweet romance between 42 year old career Navy Captain Paul Richards and early-twenties college student/cab driver and Navy brat Sean Wright. The last few books I’ve read by L.A. Witt were pretty angst filled so I was glad to have something less dramatic that still had me fully invested in figuring out how these men would make it to a HEA.

The two men meet just moments after Paul and his boyfriend have broken up, when Sean picks him up on a call for a car. After being told to “just drive” the two get to talking, then eyeing each other in that way, then they really get down to business in the backseat of Sean’s car. What starts out as some hot hookups becomes more as they realize they enjoy each other’s company, regardless of Paul’s concerns about their age gap. The problem is all their time is spent in motel rooms in an effort to avoid the rumor mill. That really turns out to be the least of their problems when they discover that Paul is actually Sean’s father’s commanding officer. They are devastated by the realization that they will have to end their relationship. As pained as they both are, they realize what needs to be done and try to be very adult and responsible about it even though it hurts and even through some backsliding, but eventually things must come to an end.

It’s at this point that Sean comes to his breaking point and realizes how much his father’s career has cost him over his life. He’s not angry at his father and knows his father loves him, but he is hurt and resentful to realize that it will always be the Navy first, everyone else second. It’s the same with Paul who is trying to work his way up to admiral. The obstacle they face is very real and seems insurmountable but, again, it’s not overly dramatic but definitely emotional. My heart broke for Sean at that point when he feels as if he is left with only one option and it’s not something he feels good about.

I love age-gap stories and even though there is a gap of around 20 years, that wasn’t a big factor in the story to me, probably because Sean is so mature and rational about things. Paul is concerned about dating someone half his age, but his friend and co-worker Travis sets him straight. There are times where it’s Paul who seems like a horny, reckless kid and Sean is the voice of reason (not that Sean isn’t just as into it as Paul; they really heat the plentiful sex scenes up). Regardless, I loved how these two just couldn’t get enough of each other. They just pine so beautifully when they don’t see each other for a few days and it makes their ultimate breakup that much more difficult for both them and the reader.

Consequences become a big issue in the story. Not just the consequences Paul would face if he’s found carrying on with their relationship, but the consequences of his past decisions and the decisions a father makes in what seems to be the best interest of his family. Sean’s not the only one who realizes that everything has a price and even things that are completely out of his control or interest have a huge effect on his life.

Written with alternating chapters from Sean and Paul’s POV we really know what they are thinking, but I would have liked to have learned a bit more about Sean’s life outside of Paul and his driving and seen them interact more outside of their clandestine meetings. Luckily the Epilogue was great and provided me enough of a peek into their lives to know that they were right about how good they could be together. I’m looking forward to picking up Travis’ book next.

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bare

bare - Lynn Kelling Review originally posted at Sinfully. Check it out and enter to win a copy!


If you've never read Lynn Kelling because her dark or hardcore subject matter made you nervous, this is the book you should read. It’s a beautiful love story that contains the multilayered characters I expect from Lynn Kelling. It’s also a coming of age story that follows Ev’s breaking away from the constricts placed on him by a religious and political family as he finally follows his heart and explores the sides of himself that make him as nervous and scared as they equally excite him.

When Adam discovers Evelyn as he's working as a nude model for another art teacher, he sees Ev as the perfect model for the series of paintings he is creating for a show that will highlight the vulnerabilities and the feminine beneath the masculine. It’s not long at all until Adam has quickly fallen for his muse. It’s not just Ev’s physical beauty that draws him, it’s what he sees beneath. He sees the war between Ev’s shame and desire and how Ev fights it and that draws out the dominant side of Adam. The side that wants to take care of Ev.

Evelyn has repressed everything he is in order to survive his family. His father is a US Senator from Kansas and they are religious conservatives. He has been used as a prop for his father’s political career. Ev knows his family would never accept what he feels inside and what he wants to do with his life. The fear is greatest with regard to his sexuality as his family and church are affiliated with a conversion camp his cousin was sent to when they were children. The fear of what happened there and the lingering threat that it could happen to him, has kept Ev on the straight and narrow until he finally made his escape across the country to attend college, much to his family’s disapproval.

When he takes on a nude modeling job at school, it’s a bit of rebellion and also something that excites him, even as he thinks it means there is something wrong with him. He likes being looked at. Ev tries to tell himself that the brief attractions he had to guys in school, teammates in the locker room, were just him liking the attention, but Ev can’t say that about Adam. From the moment Adam walks into the art room during a modeling session, Ev is attracted to the intense man with the fiery red hair and blue eyes like he has never been attracted to anyone else. Ev knows the danger of taking on an exclusive modeling job with Adam, but deep down he also senses the opportunity and he can’t resist the pull he feels to Adam.

Adam falls quickly for his muse and he challenges Ev like nobody has before. He questions everything and pushes Ev’s boundaries until Ev is challenging all his parents’ rules and his own repressed desires. From Adam’s insistence on using Ev’s full name to pushing Ev to voice and accept the truth of who he is and what he wants regardless of his upbringing, Adam is firm but loving and Ev slowly opens up and reveals all his pain, desire and fears to Adam. The modeling and the subject matter of Adam’s paintings help Ev work through his embarrassment and shame at being aroused by a man. Adam’s touch as he positions Ev lights a fire within him and Ev is soon helpless to resist the sexual attraction.

I loved these two so much, I could have easily kept reading once the story ended. Adam was tough to get a read on at the start, but he very quickly revealed himself to be a firm but caring man, truly invested in Ev’s well-being and clearly enchanted with his beauty. Ev is trying so hard to fight every impulse that was ingrained in him that what he feels is wrong, but it’s not easy. Ev has always seen beauty in art, appreciated things that his father would have scorned. Ev sees his truth through Adam’s paintings of him, in the positions Adam poses him in, and that has so much effect on his eventual decision to accept himself and allow the world to see him for who he truly is.

There is a lot of sex in the book but it’s organic to the story, flowing naturally from the modeling and from the intense attraction between the two. It ranges from tender to rough, vanilla to D/s, but all of it was scorching. Ev is new to it all and just finding what he likes and how to voice it, while Adam is an experienced Dom who likes to be in control. It’s a gradual journey for Ev opening up, laying himself bare and vulnerable even as the relationship between them moves rather quickly. Ev acknowledges that logically it may be too quick, but he also realizes how much he comes to need the one person who has ever seen the real him.

This is not a story with a magical sex cure, although it is the catalyst for Ev facing his demons. Ev is encouraged to seek counseling to deal with past abuse and the shame that was drilled into his head. The amount of his parents’ influence is clear in Ev’s shock anytime people accept his relationship with Adam. There is a master-slave relationship that evolves as Ev very naturally falls into the submissive dynamic. Adam reads Ev very well and, cognizant of his fears and worries, brings out in Ev everything he’s ever repressed, allowing him to live the life he was always afraid he never could. The master-slave and D/s lifestyle here is fairly light and shouldn’t scare you off.

Told from Ev’s point of view, you feel his constant fear of the consequences he will face for loving Adam. Those consequences that his parents and church always warned of. While I said this is not dark or hardcore Lynn Kelling, there is a bit of darkness and yes, it was hard to read when Ev has to face just how far his parents will go to save him. Even as his fantasy that someday his parents may accept him is brutally destroyed, we again see just how sensitive and loving Ev is as he still tries to see the best in his family.

There is such beauty in this story and in Lynn Kelling’s words. The pictures she paints through Adam’s brush were so clear in my mind and added so much to the storytelling. This was a softer side to her writing that I have glimpsed in the past, but is on full display here. If you were ever curious about this author I would have no reservations in recommending you start with this story. I know I’ll be reading it again in the future.

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Enemy of My Enemy

Enemy of My Enemy - Tal Bauer There is so much going on in this book, plot twists like mad, it is absolutely crazy, but I enjoyed it just as much as the first (except maybe that cliffie ending since I really want to see what happens)!

You have to have read book 1 first. So much is set up in the first part of the story and so much continuing from the first book, but the rest of it was a roller coaster ride. It's so much like an action movie in parts, but you really need to pay attention to the details and the complexity of the many plot threads. New relationships, new enemies, madmen who are even crazier than I thought, plenty of WTF moments and of course Jack and Ethan. My head was spinning in a good way for most of the book. Jack and Ethan are really put through the wringer in this book and I can't wait for the next one!

Ricky

Ricky - Ashley John Review originally posted at Sinfully.

3.5 stars


Although this book is a standalone, if you’ve read [b:Timing|29756459|Timing|Ashley John|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1459536880s/29756459.jpg|50115224]Timing you’ll remember Ricky as Tom’s friend and also remember his alter-ego, Miss Kitty Litter the drag DJ. I really liked Ricky in that book and was glad to see more of him here, though it may be harder for you to warm up the brashness that is Ricky if you haven’t already seen his sweet, caring side.

Ricky equates love with heartbreak. He has spent last 10 years having meaningless sex, following rules that keep feelings out of the picture. He’s basically a “one and done” kind of guy. He says he’s happy the way he is, but his friends Tom and Cole aren’t convinced. Soon even Miss Kitty Litter isn’t enough to keep Ricky from cracking.

Tattoo covered, muscular gym owner Chase lives for his six year old son. He works and goes home except for the occasional nights where he finds a hook up at one of the gay bars. He tolerates the father that walked out on him and his family when he was a kid for the sake of his son. His brother seems to be a lot like his father and his bitchy sister-in-law harps on him non-stop about his parenting skills and finding Dylan a mother. The only one who seemed tolerable in the family was Barbara, the woman his father left the family for, but she really didn’t have a lot of page time. He allows his awful family to shape the way he thinks, and is convinced he needs to find a mother for his son, so he hides his attraction to men.

When Chase is on his way back to a hook-up’s apartment one night, he finds Ricky badly beaten in an alley and calls for help, staying with Ricky in the hospital until he wakes up. When Ricky takes him up on his offer of some self-defense classes, they strike up an unlikely friendship that soon turns physical. Chase’s brother makes it clear that he doesn’t know why Chase is wasting his time hanging around Ricky and Chase’s bigoted father turns out to be the officer who is investigating Ricky’s case. Chase tries to keep the nature of his relationship with Ricky secret from his family and Ricky tries to keep Chase at arm’s length.

These two have plenty of secrets that slowly come out and some hurt more than others. The real crux of the problem however is can Ricky let go of the past and risk his heart again on Chase and, does he even want to? For Chase the problem is bigger. Even as he starts to admit that he’s not completely straight, and starts to accept himself, he still allows the family that thinks so little of him to have a lot of sway over his life choices, and they’ve convinced him he needs a mother for his son. He is afraid to come out to this horrible family for some reason and goes to great lengths to hide Ricky from his family and his family from Ricky.

I was a bit hot and cold on Chase. I understood he was trying to figure out his sexuality and trying to do what was best for his son, but one moment he’s being a doormat and the next saying he didn’t care what anyone thinks, it was pretty frustrating at times. Ricky was pretty consistent throughout although he does take some drastic steps when all the feelings between him and Chase got too strong. I would have liked to see Ricky interact more with Chase’s son Dylan as the little time we did see them together was pretty awkward and adorable.

The two had great chemistry and I did enjoy much of their time together. They are both trying so hard to fight the best thing to have happened to either of them in a long time though and it did, at times, become a bit repetitive. I think a bit of editing would have definitely helped the flow of the book.

There was a lovely bit of support in Chase’s elderly neighbor Annie and of course, Cole and Tom are back and have plenty of interaction with the guys too. The book definitely had its highs and lows for me, but I think if you liked Ricky in Timing you’re going to want to read this. There was a lot of back and forth, but not a lot of angst. If hurt-comfort is your thing and you don’t mind occasionally wanting to knock some sense into your MCs as they really fight against getting to their HEA Ricky will probably work well for you.

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Running Blind

Running Blind - Kim Fielding, Venona Keyes Release day review posted at Sinfully.

3.5 stars


While the blurb indicates the potential for a lot of angst and drama, this book is surprisingly low on that scale. There was a lot of good in this book, including the writing and the characters. I was intrigued by Kyle’s medical condition as Riddoch syndrome was something I had never heard of and I enjoyed Kyle’s journey adapting to his new life, unfortunately the romance aspect of the story didn’t work all that well for me.

The authors waste no time getting into the story. We meet Kyle and his longtime boyfriend Matt as they are starting their day and heading out to work as usual, but later that day Kyle lays down for a nap to get rid of his headache and then wakes up in the hospital. The details of his weeks in the hospital and then even more time in rehab are not the focus of the story and most of that passes with little mention. The focus is on Kyle not only starting over his life as a blind man, but starting it over as a single man after breaking it off with his best friend and lover Matt.

I liked the way the authors handled things between Kyle and Matt. Everything is very adult, no evil ex or horrible breakup storyline. Matt and Kyle have known each other half their lives and spent a good part of it as a couple and their friendship is something that is a big part of both of their lives and not something easily thrown away.

When Seth enters the picture, Kyle has made great strides in adapting to his visual impairment, but is still struggling with the impact on his career and his day-to-day life. He is not wallowing in pity, but has his moments where it all seems too much. For the most part though, I found him to be an optimistic character who is willing to push himself and make the best of the hand he has been dealt, but just needs an occasional pep talk or a push to remind him of who he really is deep down inside away from the blindness.

Seth has recently returned to Chicago after having been in California working as an attorney. He comes upon Kyle as they are both out running and Kyle literally runs into a problem. The two chat briefly and it’s not until a few weeks later that they meet again when Seth shows up as a prospective running guide for Kyle. They start off just meeting for runs, but soon start up a real friendship. It’s not until Kyle’s meddling sister Lily gets involved though that they start to explore a possible relationship.

Speaking of Kyle’s sister Lily, she has as big a part as Seth in this story, if not bigger. She is Kyle’s caretaker when he gets out of the hospital and spends most of her time with him. Even when she moves out, she still works out of his house and assists him with his work. Generally I despise meddling family members, but Lily fell just short of annoying for me. She was supportive and caring for the most part, but was way too pushy when it came to Kyle’s love life.

There is a super slow build up to the two men getting together. Seth doesn’t first appear on page until about 25% into the story and then the two agree to take things slowly, which makes absolute sense. Kyle isn’t ready to jump into anything and Seth has his own worries and secrets to deal with as well. The problem I had is that although there are plenty of sweet scenes between Seth and Kyle and plenty of fun banter, I didn’t feel the sexual chemistry between them. For me they made great friends, but I didn’t feel the passion and UST that they talked about having. I felt the relationship showed a lot of what we heard Kyle’s life with Matt was like, friends who love each other without that spark.

While the romance aspect of the story didn’t work that well for me, the rest of the book did. The friendship Kyle and Seth build was lovely and the way Seth deals with Kyle adapting to his disability did have me rooting for them to get their act together. Seeing Kyle find ways to dive back into a job that had him relying on his eyesight was inspiring even as he realizes more and more that his true love of voice over work for animation was likely to be over for good. Seeing him navigate the Cons he once loved and hearing the clamoring of the fans that still adore him was bittersweet, but there is a fantastic HEA in this story that had me smiling.

Although I wasn’t knocked off my feet with the romance, I think others will be. Despite that, I did find the story to be enjoyable and uplifting (and in my case educational) and was glad to have read it.

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The Assistants

The Assistants - Camille Perri I guess I wasn't in the target millennial audience but there was not much to like here. Thin plot, simplistic writing, unlikable characters (other than the poor sap of a bf the MC had), no tension, drama, originality or substance.

Maybe it was supposed to be satire but it wasn't entertaining or funny and I couldn't find anything redeeming about anyone here. Knowingly steal money, call it accidental or blame everyone else, go to a school you know you can't afford then whine about all the loans as you sit back on your privilege waiting for the world to give you what you think you are owed in a dead end job and do nothing to further yourself or your career. Hate your boss for working his ass off and maybe doing things just as illegal as you did even though he treats you fine and would probably have helped you out if you showed any initiative. I guess I just spent my college and work years working too hard to get where I wanted to be to feel any sympathy for these whiners who basically got away with everything.

Each stereotypical character was worse than the one before. I assume comparisons to a Robin Hood character are supposed to make it seem like they were doing good, but stealing from the rich to give the privileged but lazy is not what I'd call a charitable motive.

Arctic Fire

Arctic Fire - Keira Andrews Review originally posted at Sinfully.

This is a short one, but Keira Andrews gets the job done with sexual tension, a beautiful but dangerous landscape, and two hurting men who suit each other better than they expected.

Things don’t get off to a great start between Canadian Ranger Kin Carsen and Captain Jack Turner. Jack basically lets Kin know that he thinks he’s wasting his time on this trip. He’s disgruntled about his job and it shows. Things have not gone well since his return from Afghanistan and his superiors don’t know what to do with him, but deep down he realizes he is there to do a job and he needs to do it well and regrets his initial dismissive treatment of Kin.

Kin is proud of the work he does and of his home and expects Jack to be a military professional, not the arrogant ass he meets that first day. Kin left his home in Nunavut to attend school, but the place is in his blood and he couldn’t imagine living elsewhere so he returned to work as a teacher and a Ranger. Being gay isn’t something that would be easily accepted in his community, but even that isn’t enough to make him leave although it means a life of loneliness and fending off neighbors’ attempts to set him up with a nice girl. That’s just part of the pain he hides every day.

Jack is suffering from nightmares and probably PTSD after what he went through in the desert and Kin is harboring some guilt and regrets of his own that still haunt him. As their journey to scout the potential for a new base begins, tensions start to ease. Once alone out on the tundra the beauty of their stark surroundings helps to quiet their minds and they let their guard down around each other. They manage to start opening up over a shared love of astronomy and Star Wars. Their simmering attraction doesn’t hurt things either.

A blizzard confines them to their tent and makes their journey even more dangerous and that’s when their lust flares. They can’t deny their attraction and the need for comfort and a connection that they have both been hiding for so long. As they give in to what they both want, uncertainties are pushed to the backs of their minds, but scars don’t remain hidden for long and their lust quickly turns into something deeper as they share some of their pain.

Keira Andrews’ writing is, again, wonderful here. The descriptions of the town, the Rangers and the landscapes set the scene and had me running for Google maps to check out this area of Canada that I knew so little about. The story is short but she managed to pen a well-rounded tale of not quite enemies to lovers, mixed in with some danger, some heat amongst the frozen landscape and two men who both deserve the comfort and companionship they found in their short time together. With a HFN ending, I’d be more than happy to read more about Kin and Jack who won’t have an easy road ahead of them of trying to make things work.

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David, Renewed

David, Renewed - Diana Copland Review originally posted at Sinfully.

This is a sweet romance about two men trying to make a fresh start and stumbling into love.

David has just left his cheating, abusive, long-term partner and has recently lost his farther, while Jackson has moved back home to be the caregiver for his mother who has been diagnosed with MS. David buys a house in his mother’s neighborhood and hires Jackson to do some repair and renovation work.

The two men get to know each other, easily finding conversation. David is an interior designer and Jackson has an appreciation for the historic architecture of the house so they find some common ground right away. David’s attraction grows with every interaction and Jackson appreciates David for who he is as he becomes his old self again. In hindsight David sees just how he changed to make his ex happy, always insecure about what Trevor ever saw in him.

The relationship moves at a believable pace. Each man is there for the other when they need support and the friendship is becoming solid as their attraction simmers. There is plenty of tension in the build-up to that first kiss. With everything going on in their lives it’s tough to find time alone, but their families and friends are willing to give them a helping hand. David’s assistant Michael is a sweetheart and the two have some great banter. Jackson and David’s mothers are sweet, but the rest of Jackson’s family leaves much to be desired.

There is some drama courtesy of David’s horrible ex and there is also an underlying sense of pervasive homophobia in the town that is highlighted by some acts of vandalism and the refusal of contractors and homeowners to work with gay men on renovation and construction jobs. We get to know these lovely men as David hires them to work at his house (I see a future story in Michael and Gil, a big bear of a painter).

While there is nothing here that I haven’t seen before, the story works so well that it was a delight to read. Nothing goes over the top and all the interactions between the characters were very down to earth and believable. The romance builds slowly and it’s a real treat when David and Jackson are finally able to spend some time alone. Seeing David get back the things he changed for Trevor from his wardrobe to his choice of food and furniture was very satisfying.

This is the first book I’ve read by Diana Copland and I found it well written and paced. The MC’s had good chemistry and the secondary characters all added to the story. Although I don’t see it mentioned, it appears that this story sets up the start of a series. There is a full love story here, but there are other minor plotlines that were unresolved and a cast of characters that seem primed to be with each other or find their happiness as well. I recommend this to anyone looking for a feel-good love story.

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Enemies of the State: The Executive Office

Enemies of the State: The Executive Office - Tal Bauer It took me a while to read this, it had its ups and downs, but overall I did enjoy it. There's a lot going on, some of it stretching belief, but I'm a big fan of the action movie genre so I have no problem allowing the plot to bend reality a bit if it leads to some good explosions, betrayals and action scenes. Plenty of politics, a treasonous military maniac bent on running the world and trying to figure out who was with him and who was against him in the President's inner circle kept the story moving.

I enjoyed the love story too. President Jack having been married to his wife who was killed in the service 15 years prior, has never had any one else he really felt attracted to until things move forward with Ethan the secret service agent in charge of his detail - I'm not sure if Jack is demisexual or bisexual, it's never discussed, but his attraction to Ethan really only flares after Ethan lays it all out for him. I did notice that Ethan cries an awful lot (not that big boys can't cry) and I did wonder if he was headed for an emotional breakdown, but outside of that he's a pretty badass agent and gets to put his Army and Secret Service training to the test. All of that is fine, but when these two get together it's sometimes like two teenagers in love, but they are very sweet together.

Outside of the above and a few editing issues that jumped out at me, it was really a well researched, detailed story and I'm looking forward to the next book.

Full Circle

Full Circle - T.A. Webb Review originally posted at Sinfully.

4.5 stars


If you haven’t read [b:Second Chances|16045520|Second Chances (Second Chances #1)|T.A. Webb|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1348518100s/16045520.jpg|21823872], stop what you’re doing and go read it right now. Seriously. I’ll be here…

While this technically could be read as a standalone story, it would work much better if it’s read after Second Chances as the whole cast is back and because Second Chances is just so good. Full Circle takes place during the approximately year-long gap between the last chapter and Epilogue of Second Chances and is Robbie’s story. If you don’t remember, Robbie is the teen that was fostered and subsequently adopted by Mark’s father. While the focus is on Robbie’s story the entire boisterous Jennings clan is back as are Antonio and his son Jason.

Second Chances is a favorite of mine. I’ve re-read it and it never fails to bring me to tears. Full Circle has more of a New Adult feel to it as Robbie and Jason are the main couple. It’s a bit darker as the majority of the story is told from Robbie’s POV. Robbie’s life before Hope House and meeting Mark was truly horrible and the details of that past are presented here for the first time when Robbie receives a letter from his father. Robbie is struggling with revealing that part of his life and his father’s current demands to his family, fearing that doing so will make them see him in a different, lesser light. He is also settling into his relationship with Jason and fears what his past would do to any possible future for them as a couple. When things go from bad to worse Robbie also has to deal with the aftermath of his present day impulsive decisions and the new scars they leave.

I knew from the first book that Robbie’s life was traumatic, but the true horror of what he went through is brought front and center here. Just when everything seemed to be going good with him and Jason and with life in general, his past comes back in the form of contact from his imprisoned father and his decision to visit the man. Robbie has his ups and downs after that, trying to remember that the family he has now will help him if he is honest with them and that Jason loves him. When he is finally honest with his family, they rally and things seem to be handled until one more day of even more bad news. Three strikes on one day break the fragile balance and make it impossible for him to cope and Robbie succumbs to old behaviors throwing the Jennings and Roberto clans into turmoil.

Robbie’s relationship with Jason is another cause of stress. Robbie has loved Jason since they met. Their relationship has evolved as they’ve grown and while Robbie knows he is gay and is in love with Jason, it’s not as cut and dried for Jason. Jason isn’t gay and has had an on and off relationship with Amy for years. While he is honest with Robbie that he has feelings towards both of them, he isn’t willing to commit to either of them until he is certain of his feelings. This is a source of stress for Robbie even after it seems Jason has come to a decision and chosen him. Jason is young, in his first year of college, and doesn’t always make good decisions. When that happens Robbie’s first instinct is that Jason is rejecting him and he tends to act first and ask questions later. There is always love there, but just like any other young couple, these two have to learn how to communicate.

The story isn’t all dark. How could it be with the foul mouthed, wise cracking, sex obsessed Jennings family playing a huge part in it. The story is broken into two parts and in between there is an “Interlude” where we get into the minds of not only Mark, but some of his siblings and his father. I loved the way Tom Webb used this part of the story to shed some new light on the least likable Jennings siblings. Knowing that Mark, Antonio, Jason, Patty and Dad always will be there is one thing, but Robbie finds an unexpected ally in the family who is a catalyst in Robbie learning to love himself and truly start healing from all the abuse that was inflicted upon him. There is also the growth of the relationship between Robbie and Jason from friends, to friends with a little more, to lovers who were meant to be.

Tom Webb’s stories always bring out strong emotions and mange to jerk the tears and this is another one where you’ll really feel right there in the midst of it all with the characters. Whether it’s Robbie and Jason’s coming of age tale, Antonio and Mark’s continued devotion to each other or the overall love of this great big family, you will relate to something in this story. There is plenty of angst and drama, but there is also so much unconditional love and acceptance and a feeling of family that shines the strongest in those quiet moments between Robbie and Dad or in the back and forth snarking and loving bickering between Robbie, Mark and Patty. This was a follow-up that was definitely worth the wait.

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Suddenly Yours (Dreamspun Desires Book 20)

Suddenly Yours (Dreamspun Desires Book 20) - Jacob Z. Flores Review originally posted at Sinfully.

This is another mostly light, sweet story from the Dreamspun Desires line. This one highlighting the “accidentally married” trope, drunken Las Vegas nuptials and all.

Senator Julian Canales lives a strictly ordered life. As an out US Senator for the State of California, he can’t afford any mistakes, so his rules serve him well. While Julian has no intention of ever falling in love or getting married after growing up watching his parents’ disastrous relationship, he is all for family and marriage equality. He almost got married once, but things didn’t quite work out and he has never looked back.

Cody Hayes is in Vegas for the wedding of one of his college frat buddies. They’re all settling down and think he needs to do the same. Cody disagrees. Seeing his mother go through the pain of falling in love with, getting married to and then losing man after man has soured Cody on love. Love is not for him. His free spirit lifestyle is working great and there’s no shortage of willing men for a one off when he wants it. Besides, he’s been in love once before and it will never happen again.

Cody and Julian seemingly have nothing in common, but a night of alcohol-fueled truth or dare uncovers that they just might be perfect together. Neither is looking for love, but both would like some of what marriage entails: a partnership based on affection, mutual respect and support and, of course, the sex. The ultimate dare leads to a morning of panic when they wake up married. After initial thoughts of divorce and screaming from Julian’s campaign adviser, they realize that their marriage could work out perfectly for both of them, giving them each just what they want… as long as they don't fall in love.

Although this is the second One Fine Day novel from Jacob Z. Flores, the two storylines are standalones with no connections other than a marriage theme. Like [b:Undercover Boyfriend|30094338|Undercover Boyfriend (One Fine Day, #1)|Jacob Z. Flores|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1462301822s/30094338.jpg|50517179] this is another opposites making unlikely bedfellows while falling in love during a stressful situation and I enjoyed this one just as much, maybe even a bit more as I felt more of an emotional investment with Cody and what he goes through. The story isn’t just a matter of them seeing the love between them that everyone else can, but it’s what will happen once they do and realize that the cardinal rule of their marriage plan has been broken.

After the two come to an agreement that divorce won’t be necessary, Cody proposes a six month, sex-free trial period (PG-13) so they can logically decide whether to stay married without the hot monkey sex clouding their judgment. Julian reluctantly agrees and Cody moves into Julian’s home. The two spend time getting to know each other, fighting the sexual tension and Cody provides some of the more humorous moments in the story as he tries to get Julian to open up like he did in Vegas. Cody’s Days of Our Lives obsession (I had one of those once as well so I enjoyed the little throwbacks) seemed a bit of a wink to the soap opera stylings of the plot, though it never gets that over-the-top.

Julian and Cody are possibly the two most oblivious characters I’ve read when it comes to their feelings for each other. Both are so anti-love they can’t see it when it happens to them even when everyone around them is pointing it out. When things ultimately come to a head Cody goes into self-preservation mode and Julian goes back to all-business. This was actually painful to read as Julian fights his feelings tooth and nail leaving Cody hurt and shouldering the blame.

Even with the heavier feelings here, Jacob Z. Flores has a light touch with his writing, injecting humor where necessary yet not trivializing Cody’s pain. Julian verged on the edge of frustrating at times but managed to fall short of driving me mad. The story is light on the sex scenes but full of sexual tension as Julian and Cody try to keep things platonic. I enjoyed the ups and downs of this unlikely romance and hope that we get more in this completely entertaining marriage series.

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Blueprint

Blueprint - R.J. Jones Release day review posted at Sinfully.

Jet is 29 years old, a drama teacher by day, bartender by night and is living with his twin brother Gray and Gray’s boyfriend Kris. If you’ve read [b:Black & Bluhe|25669472|Black & Bluhe (Out of the Blue, #2)|R.J. Jones|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1433503920s/25669472.jpg|45493125] you know all about these three. If not, you need to know that the twins have a very co-dependent relationship stemming from Gray’s guilt over Jet having nearly been beaten to death when they were teenagers. The two know that the relationship is unhealthy and Gray is in counselling, but they also know that they will always be more emotionally dependent on each other than others may understand. Luckily, Kris loves and understands Jet and Gray’s need to be close and he will do anything for them.

As much as Jet loves them, he is finding it more and more uncomfortable living with Gray and Kris, feeling like a third wheel and a bit sad seeing them have a relationship he doesn’t think he ever will. He is ready to move out but knows how Gray will react and realistically he doesn’t think he could live on his own or far from Gray. For now he’s settling for a few nights out at work at the club, picking up someone for a back room quickie when he feels the need, without Gray there to scare the men off. Jet’s never been on a date and doesn’t see a relationship in his future.

Ethan returns home to bury his father, having spent the last three years working as an architect in Australia. Kris and Ethan are old friends as were their fathers and the two reconnect after his father’s funeral. Ethan is ready to stay in California, getting his old job back and looking for a place to live. He’s also ready to get out and doesn’t hesitate when the opportunity for a quick, anonymous hook up with the gorgeous bartender presents itself.

When the apartment Ethan buys turns out to be across the hall from Kris, Ethan gets the shock of his life when he discovers his gorgeous bartender lives there too. It’s too bad that Gray seems to hate him on sight. Ethan wants more with Jet, but Jet doesn’t know how to be with anyone outside of a hookup. These conflicting outlooks lead to nerves, apprehension, confusion and hurt feelings. Ethan is determined to teach Jet how to slow things down and find joy in the intimacy of sharing himself with another both in and out of bed and he can be pretty patient.

I have been wanting to read Jet’s story since I finished Black & Bluhe. Jet is sweet and sexy, with an obvious joy for life (and lacy underwear), but he has a vulnerability about him as well. The ordeal he went through as a teen will always be there between him and his brother and necessarily colors his outlook on things. Ethan is loving and patient and determined to win Jet over. Winning Jet over may be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as winning over Gray will be.

The story is relatively angst-free and I loved seeing Jet learn how to be with someone. The chemistry between him and Ethan is immediate so that’s not the problem. Jet has to learn how to just be with someone, what to do after sex, what to do on a date and how to deal with opening himself up and trusting Ethan enough to share his past. He yearns for the contentment he sees between his brother and Kris, he just doesn’t know how to get there.

The story focuses on Jet and Ethan’s romance, but just as important is the story of Jet and Gray. The brothers have spent all their time together since they were 18 years old, with Gray placing himself in the role of Jet’s protector. Even when Kris became a part of their lives the two were never separated. For Jet to even spend a night across the hall causes Gray extreme duress. Just like in Black & Bluhe, the brothers are a package deal and Ethan has to be able to handle that, but unlike the easy relationship Kris and Jet have, Gray and Ethan do nothing but clash until things literally come to blows.

The story is told in alternating points of view and moves at a good pace. There are appearances from all the couples in the series. This book can stand alone but it is also a continuation of Black & Bluhe and I think reading that first will give the reader a deeper understanding of Grey’s near obsession over his brother and Kris’ role in their lives. Know that either way you’re in for a sweet romance, hot sex, and touching hurt-comfort story with a happy ending for not just Ethan and Jet, but for all the couples in the series.

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