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!

Deal Maker

Deal Maker - Lily Morton 4.5 stars!

I liked it almost as much as Rule Breaker. Two great reads!

Silent Strength: M/m Age Play Romance

Silent Strength: M/m Age Play Romance - Michael Innes Free on Amazon 1/31/18
http://bit.ly/2EoezXT

Two Man Station

Two Man Station - Lisa Henry Originally reviewed at Sinfully.

3.5 stars


This is a story about two men trying to find their way, both on their own and as partners. Jason doesn't know all the details of what brought Gio to Richmond, but he thinks he knows enough to not trust the man. Gio's arrival is shrouded in a bit of mystery, but we know his transfer wasn't voluntary and that something went very wrong at his prior job in the city.

Much of the story is focused on Gio finding his place and settling into the day-to-day life of a rural cop. Gio's new life is worlds away from his last one in every way possible, and I did enjoy his acclimating to a new way of policing. He's become a pariah amongst those he worked with and he's left his family behind and hasn't been honest with them about the reason. Jason also has adjustments to make. He's now got a new partner that he can't trust and who doesn't know how to be a small-town cop. Jason's previous partner had not only been a friend, but he and his wife had also offered him reliable backup child care when he had to go out on a call. Jason knows he needs to fix the situation, at 10 years old Taylor (who is an absolutely delightful character) isn't ready to be left home alone and Jason on thin ice with his co-worker who has been helping him out.

As the two feel out their new partnership, there is also a growing attraction between them. It's a slow build, but what is first a convenient hook-up becomes a regular arrangement, with an agreement that they will keep their professional and sex lives separate. Unfortunately, Gio isn't able to compartmentalize that way. He never has been. It's a big part of why he's doing this two-year stint in Richmond.

I'm a bit torn about this book. It was well-written, I liked the characters, and the remote setting, along with its unique challenges, came alive with Lisa Henry's descriptions, but I also felt like there were things that were set up and not fully realized. Even with the dual POV I didn't really feel I knew Gio and Jason as a couple and they didn't really seem to get to know each other that way either. I learned a lot about them as individuals and as partners on the job but other than convenience, I wasn’t sure what they had together. We get a glimpse of their feelings at the end and they do have sexual chemistry, but the romance didn't grab me. I also became frustrated with Jason and his approach to his childcare issue. The story really revs up with plenty of action in the final chapters, the type that forces the men to face their issues and get their acts together, but even then, I felt like they were completely starting over and I still wanted more of them working together and building a life as a couple.

To me, this was a satisfying start to a relationship. It ends HFN, but I'm not sure if the next book will continue their story or move on. While I was left wanting a little more, I'll be looking forward to more in this series and hoping that we revisit Gio and Jason (and Taylor) and see how their relationship is progressing.

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Untitled - Santino Hassell Review originally posted at Sinfully.

There is no question that Santino Hassell has another hit series on his hands with The Barons. Once again a Barons player, the out and proud Simeon Boudreaux, who we met in [b:Illegal Contact|34346381|Illegal Contact (The Barons, #1)|Santino Hassell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1493270535s/34346381.jpg|54486205], finds himself with time on his hands after being suspended and injured as well. Too bad he’s being forced to spend it with the man who used to be a teammate, but now is nothing but a homophobic trouble maker, and who started the whole fracas, Adrián Bravo. These two have a history, but each of them have a different take on it. Adrián hates Simeon and Simeon isn’t sure why. A lot of times that hate comes out as homophobic comments and macho posturing as the two, and their teammates, trade barbs on social media.

Although this one lacked the emotional punch for me that I got out from Illegal Contact, I thoroughly enjoyed Simeon and Adrián’s relationship whether it was antagonistic or hot and heavy. I loved Simeon in the first book and he’s just as wonderful as we get to know him a bit more here. He has a great support system in his friends and his mother, a heart of gold and a love of life, and he’s not afraid to put Adrián in his place.

I wasn’t so sure how I felt about the game of “gay chicken” they were playing at the start, but Simeon had his reasons and Adrián was a willing player. Things are bumpy still, but the two forge sort of truce and start to get along more than not as they work off their time at a community center. After they eventually drop the façade that it was all a game, when it came down to it, Adrián proved himself as more interested in Simeon than in fighting or labeling his feelings as anything but what they were. Underneath all the BS, it turns out that Adrián is a smart and delightful counterpart to Simeon.

Adrián is really surprised by the realization that his hurt feelings over Simeon’s leaving the Predators and all the bitterness that followed were more than just professional or platonic anger. While his bisexuality comes as a revelation (Simeon's the only man he's been attracted to) he’s not all that put off. He knows what he feels for Simeon is real and he is ready to be all in, though I wish we had a little bit more of his thoughts and reasoning on leading up to it. Adrián goes from really unlikable to being an incredible, supportive and sympathetic character. Brought up to be a manly man and a winner by his ballplayer father, he knows that any coming out is not going to be easy personally or professionally, but I loved that he didn’t use that as an excuse.

The story was surprisingly light after the first chapters where the two men were at each other's throats. When they’re together, they are a fun and playful couple complete with good banter and sizzling chemistry, who can be just as tender as they can rough. They don’t shy away from serious conversation either, communicating pretty well with a few small hiccups.

I don’t need to sing the praises of Santino’s writing more than I have in the past. I love his simple, straight-forward style even when some of the slang sends me to Google. There were some good secondary characters, including the kids from the community center, the men’s parents and Simeon’s Barons family from the first book. This story will work as a standalone, but I don’t suggest missing out on Illegal Contact. Also, if sports aren’t your thing, most of the action takes place off the field. I’m glad to see that there appears to be at least one more story to come and I’ll be ready and waiting for it.

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The Preacher's Son

The Preacher's Son - Lisa Henry, J.A. Rock The blurb does a good job of laying out what this story is and yes, religion plays a large part in the story. This book won’t be for everyone based upon that (and I should also warn that there are references to and on page scenes of suicide attempts) but those who enjoy getting into the heads of characters and being fully engaged in the struggle within them that will lead to the ultimate payoff will be pleased.

What Jason did to Nate, how he used him, was horrible. Being in Jason’s head during the act, we know he is aware that what he is doing was wrong on so many levels and feels guilty while he’s doing it. Jason is just one of the people in the story who misguidedly believes they are doing something right. Something good that will help people. Meanwhile, 18 year old Nate, a virgin who is spending the weekend looking at a college, on his own for the first time, thinks he has found a friend, a lover and a person who understands. Even though the reader doesn’t hear about the fallout until years afterwards, it is no less gut-wrenching.

Picking up four years later, the story is focused on the characters trying to make things right as much as possible for themselves and those they have hurt. Nate has it especially hard, trying to reconcile his homosexuality, his faith and his place in his family. Working at his father’s conversion camp while knowing he is lying to the teenage children who heard his story and may believe it on some level. Struggling to change, but not sure which way is best and who he will hurt more with every decision.

Jason is struggling too. A pariah in the town he hated as a teenager and hates now that he is forced back he wants to make amends to Nate, but doesn’t expect Nate to forgive. The two start to see each other and a relationship develops. Jason wants Nate to help change him. Nate needs to learn to think and live for himself and not for his father or anyone else. Even since the incident, Nate has always felt something for Jason even though he question having feelings for his abuser.

All the relationships in this story are complex – Nate and his family especially. Nate’s mom understands him more than he knows, but their relationship has also been fractured, not as much by the scandal but by the differing beliefs they all hold. The family is functioning in dysfunction and once Nate starts accepting himself and seeing his father’s flaws, he begins to see his mother in a new light as well. Nate loves his father, but is afraid that his father’s love for him will only go so far when he learns the truth.

What works very well here is the characters have good intentions, but they have flaws and they sometimes do things that are wrong. They are living in the gray areas that all people do and struggling with how to deal with it. Questioning motives, feelings and long-held beliefs, questioning their worth to the people around them and society in general and trying to find the balance of what they owe themselves and what they owe others. Jason struggles with what he did to Nathan while still wanting to see Moving Forward burn to the ground. He struggles with whether he is deserving of Nate’s forgiveness even when all he wants is to love Nate and make him happy. Nate struggles with his hypocrisy, his lies and how he can help the kids at the camp when he is really struggling with what is going on there. His belief that what his father is doing can help the kids is repeatedly and tragically tested with the new group of campers that arrive at the same time Jason does.

Yes, there is a romance storyline but the meat of the story is more each character’s journey of self-discovery and forgiveness – of others and themselves - and of learning how to live their truth and reconciling that with their faith, family and long held beliefs.

I found myself interested and invested in all the characters. There were a few times where the characters’ thoughts felt a bit repetitive, but overall I could understand the struggle each was going through and empathize with them. I’ve always enjoyed the writing team of Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock and while this story was different than I’ve read from them in the past, I enjoyed the departure.

Mistletoe Omega

Mistletoe Omega - S.C. Wynne 3.5 stars

Through no one's fault but my own, based on the cover I spent a good third of the book thinking it was the same series/world as the Bodyguards and Babies stories and wondering why everything seemed off.

After correcting my mistake, this turned out to be a sweet, holiday themed hurt-comfort alpha/omega romance with an age gap, an evil ex and a pregnancy kept secret storyline.

Mending Noel

Mending Noel - Charlie Cochet
It took me a little while to get into the swing of things, but this turned out to be a sweet and different holiday read. I like the set-up and look forward to continuing with the series during my next holiday reading binge.

Southernmost Murder

Southernmost Murder - C.S. Poe Originally reviewed at Sinfully.

A literal skeleton in the closet of the supposedly haunted Smith Family Historical Home in Old Town, Key West starts this tale of mystery and romance. Not that the house manager Aubrey Grant believes in ghosts. As things get weirder and deadlier, the possibility that the ghost of Captain Smith may be haunting the place seems the least of Aubrey's problems. Being drawn into a murder mystery isn't the way he expected to spend the 10 days he has with FBI Agent Jun Tanaka, the man he is hoping to claim as his boyfriend after reconnecting last year with the help of his friend Sebastian Snow.

Aubrey is not so much into amateur sleuthing, but the historian can’t resist looking into the possibility that there may be more to the story of Captain Smith than he ever expected. Add in a treasure hunt with pirates, maps and X marking the spot, and it's soon clear that the danger is very real. With the Smith home and legend at the center of it all, it's hard for Aubrey not to be involved. With Jun at his side and having his back, Aubrey just may survive the man or myth that seems out to get him. Infused with historical fact and fiction, the mystery kept me interested. As Aubrey starts collecting clues we are treated to a number of local characters, any of whom may be involved in the murder and mayhem at the Smith house.

Of course, in along with the mystery is the evolving relationship between Aubrey and Jun. What is supposed to be a vacation for Jun and time for the men to reconnect becomes almost another day at the FBI office for Jun. They've known each other for a few years but over the past year have been flirting online. This is the first time they will physically be together in two years and Aubrey is ready to officially make Jun his boyfriend. They had an interesting backstory and it's not just Aubrey who has been doing some wishful/lustful thinking. They are very different physically and personality-wise, but they are perfect for each other.

Jun is a sweetheart, soft-spoken and romantic, a bit passive for a big, bad-ass FBI agent, just rolling with Aubrey's flightiness and his unorthodox schedule and habits that are a part of living with his narcolepsy. Aubrey is snarky and sweet and determined to lay things on the line with Jun, who seems to be everything he ever wanted (and some things he didn't know he wanted) in a partner. At times they seem like they've been together forever while other times, everything is new and many things surprising. While they are happy together in the end, I would love to see where the future takes them.

I’ve really come to enjoy C.S. Poe’s writing style. The mystery is well built, the dialogue is snappy, the characters interesting and the sex scenes are hot. Told from Aubrey's POV, the action starts on page one and I liked him from the start. Through his eyes I also came to quickly adore Jun as well. This is the first time I've read a story where a character had narcolepsy and I definitely learned a few things.

I loved the Key West setting, and not just because I'm looking at 12 inches of snow as I type this. The details of island life and the locales captured the feel and spirit of that unique island paradise. Similar in style to her Snow & Winter books (and with a cameo by Sebastian Snow), fans of those stories will enjoy this one as well, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a nice dose of romance.


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The Consumption of Magic

The Consumption of Magic - T.J. Klune
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Another amazing installment. Even knowing something was coming didn't prepare me for how things eventually played out.

There is a darker tone to this book and Sam has to start to take a hard look at what is going on the choices he's going to need to be making whether he wants to or not. There are more layers revealed about the choices Randall and Morgan had to make when it came to Myrin. There are betrayals and truths revealed, sacrifices and losses to contend with and the heavy weight of the d-word that Sam can't hide from

That's not to say there isn't non-stop fun and hilarity because the gang's all here and they are everything you expect them to be. I adore the themes of friendship, family and the unbreakable bonds between Sam & Ryan, Sam, Tiggy & Gary and dare I say it Sam and his BF5eva. There is even a new depth in the relationship between Sam and Kevin - no not that kind of level you sick bastards eww.

It's a wild ride of emotions once again and damn that ending! So glad there won't be a long wait for the next.

Color of You

Color of You - C.S. Poe Reviewed for Sinfully.

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This story brought me so much joy and happiness. If I told you everything I loved about this book I’d basically just be retelling the whole story. I was immediately drawn in and practically read it straight through with a smile on my face most of the time.

Red-headed, bow tie wearing Bowen Merlin is the new music teacher in the small town of Lancaster, NH (which may be familiar if you read the author’s novella Joy). Bowen has sound-to-color synesthesia, which allows him to see the color of music and voices. Spilling hot cider on the gorgeous Felix Hansen isn’t the best way to make a first impression. He’s immediately drawn the beauty of Felix’s voice and its amber color, not to mention the man himself. Bowen’s insta-crush is strong and he’s pretty dejected when Felix rejects his offer to go for a drink.

Felix comes off a bit shy but he quickly recovers and finds a way to let Bo know he’s interested. This is just about the time Bo finds out one of his new students is Felix’s son and that there is something in Felix’s past that has left him scarred and unsure, so much so he hasn’t dated in years. Bo is shocked to realize that with this man, none of it is a deal breaker. Bo has always been looking for a more submissive man, the kind he’s usually stereotyped as, but someone who can be an equal in all other ways and it quickly becomes clear that Felix fits the bill perfectly.

As the days to Christmas countdown, the men juggle their jobs and their budding romance. I enjoyed every moment these men spent together, even when they weren’t in the same room – cute texting and some smoking phone sex included. They communicate well, they have fun and they have crazy hot chemistry. There’s dirty talk and just a touch of kink and it sizzled, but there was also plenty of romance and sweetness. Neither of those two is lacking when it comes to romancing each other and though the relationship does move pretty quickly, it all played out naturally.

There is a good cast of secondary characters including Felix’s 15 year old son Alan, Bo’s best friend Scarlet, and his new coworker Stephen. There are also a few appearances by the men we met in Joy who join forces with the others to help out Felix and Bo. Although things got a bit “Scooby crew” when it came to figuring out who was out to get Felix and there was a villain who was almost too stupid to be a functioning adult when it came down to it, I mostly didn’t care because I was having so much fun laughing at their banter and enjoying the group pulling together and becoming a family of friends.

In the true holiday spirit, their friends and neighbors rally around Bo and Felix in their time of trouble to help save the day. With a sweet epilogue set a year later the book left me with a smile and possibly a happy tear or two.

C.S. Poe hit all the right notes in this story and it completely charmed me from the first page. Sweet, sexy, romantic, fun and tender, with a touch of holiday spirit. I would love to see more of Bo and Felix in the future. I know there’s at least one more man in the story who deserves his own happy ever after.

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Third Rail

Third Rail - Santino Hassell I adore Chris and have been intrigued by Jace and Aiden everytime they appear. This is a hot little short that sets up the rest of their story which is told in [b:Citywide|35495782|Citywide (Five Boroughs, #6)|Santino Hassell|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1498932304s/35495782.jpg|56898587] (this is not the full story and the ending is quite abrupt).

The three have amazing chemistry in and out of bed. There is some hot and dirty sex and you can see the tenderness underneath. The men really like each other but will it work out? I am definitely looking forward to seeing the conclusion of this story play out.

Don't Plan to Stay

Don't Plan to Stay - Kaje Harper Reviewed for Sinfully.

Donnie isn’t sure of the reaction he is going to get when he stops by his hometown in North Dakota after having done a six year prison term for a car accident that killed a man and injured his best friend and lover Adam, as well as Adam’s older brother. Donnie hasn’t kept in contact with anyone, ignoring all the family’s attempts at contact, and he has now been out of prison for six months. Donnie just needs to know that Adam is okay and then he can continue his journey to California to start his new life.

Reactions to Donnie’s return are mixed, but not necessarily for the reasons he thinks. The one thing that hasn’t changed is Adam’s effect on Donnie. When Adam asks him to stay for a while and help out at the family store, Donnie can’t refuse. Nate, who now runs the store isn’t happy at all about Donnie’s return and makes it very clear. Adam’s father isn’t as disapproving, but things are pretty uncomfortable. A lot has changed, but a lot has remained the same and even though Donnie doesn’t plan to stay, he knows it’s not going to be easy to leave again.

I wasn’t sure how this would go, so I prepared for some major angst. What I got instead was a quiet, but emotional homecoming story. It’s not just Donnie that has to deal with his past and reconcile the person he was with the person he is now. Everyone has gone through changes in the past six years and everyone has their own mistakes to acknowledge. The one thing that hasn’t fundamentally changed is the love between Donnie and Adam and the sense of family between Donnie and the Lindbergs.

Adam realizes that his love hasn’t changed, but that they aren’t the kids they used to be. He knows he needs to let Donnie decide whether he will stay or go and he wants to do his best not to pressure him. I enjoyed Adam and Donnie becoming friends again, getting used to being around each other and sharing some of what the last six years were like. It’s obvious Donnie’s time in prison wasn’t easy and has changed the way he sees himself, but it has only made Adam see him as a stronger person than ever before. As Donnie finds his place in the world again, Adam’s brother Nate and their father also have to do some of their own readjusting.

This holiday story struck a wonderful balance between the emotion of reconciliation (without getting heavily angsty) and the romance of Adam and Donnie finding their way together again. Whether as friends or lovers, their connection comes through beautifully. There were one or two characters that showed up early that I expected to play a bit more in the plot then disappeared, including the sheriff, but other than that, I really enjoyed this second-chance Christmas story and highly recommend it.

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The Christmas Fling

The Christmas Fling - Heidi Cullinan Review originally posted at Sinfully.

3.5 stars


This is a spin-off of the Minnesota Christmas books, where the idea of turning the small town of Logan into Christmas Town began. Here we meet two of the men involved in that undertaking, Evan and Terry. You can easily read this as a standalone though the characters from the prior series all appear here in support.

Both men have their own issues. It’s pretty clear from the start that Evan has Asperger syndrome or a similar condition. Commitment is a huge issue for Terry, but the exact reason isn’t really revealed until near the end of the story and that made it tough to completely warm up to him. He runs when things get intense, and things get very intense the first night he is with Evan, who thinks Terry is a construction worker named Kevin when he takes him home for a night of kinky sex. Regret hits Terry and he bails before Evan wakes up. Terry realizes that running won’t change things since he is set to work directly with Evan on the Christmas Town project. Meanwhile, Evan is devastated that Kevin disappeared so much so that, when he can’t find anything about him, he is unable to function for quite a time.

There was a lot I liked about the book, especially Evan, but let me get it out there right now, I was uncomfortable with how long everyone lied to Evan about Kevin and the more I read and the longer it went on, the angrier I became at the way his friends and coworkers “handling” Evan. I understand some of the reasoning, but it bordered on cruel, especially Dale’s involvement, knowing how Evan perceives things and seeing just how devastated and obsessed Evan became.

Now, that aside, Heidi Cullinan created another character I loved from the start. Evan is unique. He’s not your typical leading man. Blunt and socially awkward, he has gotten by, getting what he needs with the least possible complications. But Kevin/Terry gets under his skin quickly and intensely. I adored Evan and his relationship with employer and friend Dale in general. Dale gets him. Dale sees his genius and is more than willing to do what Evan needs in order for him to be comfortable. He also is protective of Evan, but I didn’t like the way Dale handled Evan with respect to Terry/Kevin. Really, the whole situation upset me enough that it greatly affected my enjoyment of the story.

I did like Evan and Terry together. They get along well, they have the same interests and they appreciate each other’s work. In fact they are perfect together, which they discover even as Evan still feels something for Kevin. The more time they spend together, the more Evan’s attraction and confusion grows. Unfortunately, Terry’s lame attempts to tell Evan who he is as they get to know each other and work and live together were weak and frustrating and I spent more time being aggravated at him then trying to get to know him. Eventually, after way too long, things come out in the open and Evan is pretty forgiving in the hopes of moving forward with Terry, but of course, that doesn’t go smoothly either.

The story starts off with a majorly kinky sex scene. If humiliation kink is not your thing, the sex scenes will make you uncomfortable, though there are only a couple. This plays into Terry’s issues and again, after the identity issue is resolved, causes him to bail on Evan for weeks. We finally get some insight into Terry towards the end of the story and he does regret what he did and proffer an apology, but it seemed a bit abrupt at the end. I think I would have liked Terry a bit better if we had more insight into his mental state a bit earlier in the story.

I was happy to be back in Logan and revisit all the men of the Minnesota Christmas series. I especially was happy to see Gabriel, who felt as I did about the whole situation. I loved the way they all supported Evan and made him a part of their family. I did love the characterization of Evan and the growth of his friendship with Terry. Although I wasn’t thrilled with the way the mistaken identity plot played out and would have liked more time with the two men together without this secret between them, it won’t stop me from continuing on with this series.


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The Remaking of Corbin Wale

The Remaking of Corbin Wale - Roan Parrish 4.5 stars

This unique story entranced me from the start. I wasn’t sure going in, magical realism doesn’t always work for me, but Roan Parrish did an amazing job of making me want to be able to experience the way Corbin saw the world around him.

Alex who has returned home after losing his reason to be in NYC, reopens his mother’s coffee shop into a bakery/cafe. When he sees Corbin there, working in his book something calls to him. Corbin is cast as the weirdo, the loner, the one who brings bad luck. Alex sees none of that. He sees the beauty, the talent, the amazing soul that is Corbin Wale and is pulled to try to befriend him.

The language paints a stunning picture and being in Corbin’s mind is magical. Raised by his aunts in an unconventional manner, Corbin is incredibly, almost (maybe actually) magically in tune with nature and the world around him. A lonely boy, now man, and a talented artist, he is often lost to his own musings. As much as Corbin would love to get closer to the beautiful man who has befriended him, there is something that holds him back. Not so much for fear of himself, but for fear of the damage he could do to Alex.

I don’t want to say much more as you need to let the story unfold. The relationship between Alex and Corbin is amazing as their tentative friendship slowly develops into so much more. Alex will do anything to help draw Corbin into his world at Corbin’s pace. As they work together in the bakery Corbin begins to wonder if there is something he can do to change his fate and make Alex his forever. Something he thought he would always be denied.

The emotions are intense and the pictures painted by the author’s words are beautiful. There were times I didn’t know if I wanted to smile or cry. Corbin is at times both heartbreaking and utterly amazing. Alex is patient and sweet as he controls his own innate need to “make things happen”. Even the secondary story about Alex’s best friend Gareth had me sucked in (I can only hope we’ll get his HEA in the future).

This story will easily become a yearly holiday read for me (for those of you looking for books that celebrate Hannukah you’ll get your fix here). An absolute feel-good story that you’ll want to take your time and savor.


ARC of The Remaking of Corbin Wale provided by the publisher, via NetGalley

Last Call

Last Call (Heartsville #1) - Christina Lee, Felice Stevens Reviewed for Sinfully.

I’m always on the lookout for a good ménage story and this surprise release co-written by one of my go-to authors worked very well for me. There is no sexual or romantic relationship between any of the three men when the story starts. At least not in reality. Quinn has had feelings for his best friend and business partner Gray for years but never would he ever speak of it. Same goes for Gray who thinks Quinn couldn’t possibly be interested in him that way. As close as the two men are, they are very different. Quinn is always looking for the good in people while Gray leads with suspicion. Enter Emery, a stranger who appears down on his luck and in a bit of trouble. Quinn is immediately attracted while Gray is immediately wary; Emery is both of these things. Three different personalities, with Emery being a perfect balance between Quinn and Gray.

When Quinn and Gray offer Emery some work at their bar to give him a couch to stay on and help him get him back on his feet then out of town, It’s only a matter of time before the sizzling and palpable connection between Quinn and Emery leads to something. The real question is what will Gray do? The attraction between Gray and Emery is slower to emerge and while Emery picks up on the tension between the two friends, they do nothing but deny it. Emery is not looking to settle in the small town and is definitely not looking to come between Quinn and Gray but that only lasts so long before he finds himself literally in that exact position.

This story is completely relationship focused as the men have plenty of their own doubts and insecurities to work through. Each of them has had difficulties that have shaped their lives and needs but Emery and Gray especially have similarities that allow them to come to an understanding of each other. There is a lot of discussion and worrying and while Emery notices the attraction between Gray and Quinn and has brought it up, Gray and Quinn talk around it for the longest time until one night when things get physical and they are all forced to rethink things.

There was a good build up to things getting physical. Nobody jumped in and Emery, especially, made sure to voice his concerns. These three men were super sexy in any combination, I never felt that there was any imbalance between the men in bed. Even with the long history between Gray and Quinn, I never felt that they thought of Emery as an interloper or outsider. Emery though succumbs to his self-doubt and his wariness of settling down and there is a moment of wondering whether he can ever accept his desire to stay. Luckily the bit of angst isn’t drawn out or unrealistic. Same goes for the few flares of jealousy each man feels. They were realistic, but nothing that got in the way of working out the relationship.

While I enjoyed the fact that the focus stayed on the relationship issues, there was a bit of a buildup with a troubling bar patron that threaded throughout the story. I was expecting a bit more to come of it, but it seemed to mostly just fizzle out at the end.

I’m a huge fan of ménage stories and of Felice Stevens, but I’ve never read a Christina Lee book before (gasp! I know). The collaboration definitely worked for me as the story flowed so seamlessly I couldn’t tell who wrote what parts. I’d recommend this to anyone who likes a light, relationship focused ménage with some sizzling sexy times and minimal angst.

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An Unlocked Mind

An Unlocked Mind  - Parker Williams, K.C. Wells Reviewed for Sinfully.

While this is Book 2 in the Secrets series, it also has its roots in [b:An Unlocked Heart|18076442|An Unlocked Heart (Collars and Cuffs, #1)|K.C. Wells|https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1371328887s/18076442.jpg|25381494] (Collars & Cuffs 1) and I think in order to have a good understanding of Rob Daniels, you need to read that first. If you’ve read An Unlocked Heart you probably already hate Rob, Alex’s, cold, calculating, manipulative, younger brother. The dedication of the book says it all:

"For all those who thought that Rob Daniels was an irredeemable little shit – We hope to change your minds."


When I found out the authors were writing a book about Rob, I knew they would have a tough time pulling me, and many other Alex and Leo fans, over to his side. He had no redeeming qualities and deserved to pay for the way he treated his brother. When you meet Rob here, it’s much of the same. He’s on his own, struggling to make ends meet, but is still a nasty piece of work.

Rob’s first meeting with Vic pretty much sums up the Rob we previously met, spewing gay slurs in a gay BDSM club and thinking he’s better than anyone there. Rob’s behavior initially puts Vic off, but Vic sees so much in Rob – anger, sadness and vulnerability. He also likes the strong will and determination he sees in the gorgeous boy who he can’t help being drawn to. When Rob continues to seek Vic out he decides that he knows just how to help the young man.

Rob is starved for affection and affirmation. He has a desire to belong somewhere, but he’s confused with emotions all over the place. He is also stuck in his own head, reliving the actions of his past even as he is trying to change and move forward. He passes the blame for his actions even as he admits to some of it, with his brother Alex a direct target of his anger. He also can’t believe that Vic would want to help someone like him who doesn’t deserve such kindness.

The story builds slowly. Rob is a mess and Vic needs to break him down and strip him of his old behaviors in order to build him up, but not break his spirit. Rob yearns for a fresh start and Vic is willing to offer that on his terms. Vic will take care of Rob, but Rob needs to learn to care for himself, working on his emotions and his mindset. These strangers must first become friends, and Rob needs to accept certain parts of himself he’s been working so hard to purge or deny, before anything more becomes of the relationship.

There are a lot of ups and downs for Rob. It’s hard to let go of feelings and beliefs he’s had for so long, but his desire to live up to what Vic sees in him eventually wins out. I admit it took me a while to feel good about Rob’s intentions and yes, I was eventually rooting for and won over by him. As for a showdown with Alex? I went into this book wanting to see Rob suffer, but by the time he’s ready to deal with what he did, I truly felt that he was ashamed and sorry for his actions. That doesn’t mean I didn’t smile a bit when Jarod initially reacts poorly to finding out who Rob is, but I think the reunion between the brothers played out nicely and realistically.

As far as the BDSM goes, it’s here but it’s not the main focus of the book. The authors in their prior books have covered many different aspects of BDSM and once again, Rob and Vic find something that works for them. As much as Rob settles though, he still has a mouthy way about him and Vic loves it as much as he loves punishing it. Vic reads Rob so well that he picks the perfect punishment and the perfect type of scenes, using sensory deprivation. It’s something very different from what I’ve read and while I don’t think personally it’s a favorite of mine, I did see exactly why it fit so well with Vic and Rob.

The story is really focused on Rob’s transformation and growth and him learning to trust Vic and trust his own nature. I loved seeing Jarod, and of course and Alex and Leo. I’d recommend this to anyone who loves a redemption story and a slow build romance between two opposites who are just what the other needs. The sexy times are there, the BDSM is there, but the focus is on the relationship building and, as much as I didn’t think it possible, turning Rob Daniels into a character I actually liked.

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