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review 2017-11-14 00:06
Nachos & Hash (Mary's Boys, #1) by Brandon Witt Review
Nachos & Hash - Brandon Witt

Darwin Michaels is living his dreams in the Mile High City. While Denver offers the perfect job, scrumptious dining, and whirlwind dating options, Darwin is losing hope he’ll find the right man to spark his interest for more than a one-night stand—until he sets eyes on Cody Russell.

Cody has just accomplished his life’s goal—get the hell out of Kansas. In one fell swoop, he lands a job at Hamburger Mary’s and gets a newfound family and the chance to be with other gay people! All that’s missing is someone special. But when Darwin shows his interest, Cody is sure it’s too good to be true. After all, what can Darwin possibly see in the high school dropout serving him nachos?

As Darwin falls in love, Cody struggles to realize his worth. When his past threatens the fragile life he is building, Cody spirals into a moment of dark desperation. But Darwin is determined to show Cody that love and family and home are there for him… will Cody accept what is offered?

 

Reviews

 adore Darwin and I adore Cody. The yearning in each of them is tender. 

Darwin wants to find an man to love and Cody doesn't think he can ask for more than what he has. 

The courtship of this book is great as is the circle of friends.

We are moving through a sweet and sexy romance when the plot takes a dark turn with some internal struggles for one of the heroes. 

And while this turn is realistic and the issue (not to give spoilers) one that deserves attention especially in a series that look critically at issues within the gay community, the turn is sharp and a more developed understanding of the character would have enrich the book.

The aftermath is better handled and we end in a very loving place.

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review 2017-11-06 23:54
Vodka and Handcuffs by Brandon Witt Review
Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary's Boys Book 2) - Brandon Witt

Vahin Arora, Hamburger Mary’s sexy bartender, plays the flirtatious role so well even his closest friends—his chosen family at Mary’s—don’t realize Vahin hasn’t had a hookup in months. Then Tall, Dark, and Handsome steps through the door, and Vahin’s libido races back to life.

Being a black cop on the Denver police force is no easy job—Marlon Barton can’t imagine adding being gay to the equation. And while Marlon loves his work as an officer, his life has taken a turn for the hellish because of his new partner, the nephew of a senator.

Fleeing his partner’s company one night, Marlon stumbles into Mary’s for the first time… and wakes up with a hangover in the bartender’s bed. The one-night stand heats up into a budding romance, but not without stress as Marlon’s partner’s actions threaten Vahin’s livelihood and Marlon’s future on the force. Can Vahin and Marlon face the challenges and hold on to the love, friendship, and family they’ve found?

 

Review 

Ultimately, the plot of this book pulled in to many direction so that I couldn't settle in and enjoy the story.

 

I like this circle of friends and Mary's and was happy to to see the cast but the heroes spent a great deal of time a part and the drama and angst meter was sky high from minute one.

 

I have some issues with consent with the drunk sex, then the subplot with the evil partner really runs the show. I like some scenes a great deal but I never get the love story I am hoping for with this two very compelling heroes.

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review 2017-10-03 23:31
ARC Review: Deeds & Confetti (Mary's Boys #4) by Brandon Witt
Deeds & Confetti (Mary's Boys Book 4) - Brandon Witt

This is the final book in the Mary's Boys series, and it rounded out the series quite nicely. 

Steven Conley, in his 40s, is the owner of the Hamburger Mary's restaurant where three couples so far have found love, but he's been mostly in the background, having created a safe place for lost souls and built a strong chosen family for his employees and friends. Before purchasing the Mary's franchise, Steven had a successful corporate career, but left it, much to his father's dismay. When we first meet Steven in this book, he's in the hospital at his father's deathbed, with his sister Pat. Cruel words from his father send Steven reeling and questioning the choices he's made.

Ryan Fuller is 27 and also made choices, leaving behind success as a painter to own a small party planning business, while working part-time at a funeral home to make a bit of extra income. His relationship with his family is strained as his parents don't understand why he would choose to leave wealth and success behind. 

The two meet at the funeral home after Steven's father dies. Yeah, I know that sounds weird and sort of eww, but hear me out - first you have to understand the headspace Steven is in at the time. For which you need to read this book, obviously. Secondly, you need to know that Ryan knows Steven even before they meet at the mortuary. 

Grief makes one do seemingly strange things. So does desire.

For most of the book, Steven grapples with the choices he's made. He's adrift and doesn't know which way to move forward. He also thinks that Ryan, being so much younger, doesn't really see the real him, but some ideal he's built up in his mind, and thus Ryan's feelings cannot be trusted.

This is a heavy story, and not one you can read quickly. There's a ton of emotional upheaval inside, and it would behoove the reader to proceed carefully through each chapter so as not to miss the poignant writing within. 

I'm partly sad that this is the last book, and partly happy with how the author has chosen to end this series. It's not that everything is wrapped up in neat little bows, and the way to Steven and Ryan's HEA is tumultuous and winded, but it ends on a really positive note, with all our previous couples still going strong, and Steven and Ryan embarking on their forever journey. 

It's a really good book. And while it could theoretically be read as a standalone, you don't want to miss the books that came before it. Read the whole series - it's worth your time.


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

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review 2017-07-19 02:23
ARC Review: Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys #3) by Brandon Witt
Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys Book 3) - Brandon Witt

This is the 3rd book in the Mary's Boys series, all set in and around a Hamburger Mary's in Denver, CO.

On his way home from Hamburger Mary's after a performance as his drag queen alter ego Ariel Merman, while still dressed as Ariel, Zachary Cooper becomes the victim of a gay bashing. 

I was already crying when he comes to in the hospital, in pain and worried that the homophobic assholes who attacked him messed up his face and that he won't be able to perform anymore. 

In walks Teegan Chau, his doctor, and things suddenly look up.

Teegan has only recently come out as gay, and while he's divorced from his wife, they share a little girl and have a great friendly, supportive relationship. Teegan has had some hook-ups with other men, but has never been on an actual date with a man. Instantly smitten with the younger, somewhat femme guy in the hospital bed, Teegan and Zachary agree on a date. 

While the story had the potential to be really angsty, it actually wasn't, and there's a lot of inner strength to Zachary. He has a steely interior, and while he struggles a little with the trauma from the attack, he doesn't allow it to destroy him. 

I loved that the author didn't rush the developing relationship. Teegan's adorkable awkwardness on their first date was super cute, but neither he nor Zachary jumped into a commitment - they took their time to test the waters and really build a foundation.

As Ariel, Zachary is free to be himself, instead of worrying about meeting expectations other men might have of him. I loved that the author wrote about a femme man and the misconceptions that come with that. 

This book is the most heart-breaking and also most heart-warming of the series so far, as Zachary and Teegan, and the whole Mary's chosen family, deal with societal expectations, homophobia, the bashing, immediate family issues, and how to forge their own way.

There isn't a lot of steam here, and I for one don't need that in a romance novel to believe the relationship. Zachary grows into himself here, and Teegan finds exactly what he never knew he always wanted. 

So well done. 


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

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review 2017-04-27 01:56
Release Day ARC Review: Vodka And Handcuffs by Brandon Witt
Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary's Boys Book 2) - Brandon Witt

The title of this book, much like the first one in this series, plays on the occupations of the two MCs - one a bartender, the other a cop.

Vahin, the bartender, is Muslim, and from India, and gay, and out, which has caused him to be shunned by his family. Marlon, the cop, is black, also gay, but deep in the closet. His partner on the beat is basically a Jeff Sessions wannabe - a racist, homophobic, xenophobic asshole first class, who thinks he can do what he wants because his daddy is a Senator. He's also universally hated by all, including the Chief, and only assigned to Marlon because the Chief figured it'd be best to pair the asshole with his best cop.

Marlon meets Vahin at Hamburger Mary's, they have a night of drunken fun, mostly off-page, and then shit hits the fan, what with the racist cop partner trying to frame Vahin and arrest him, and Marlon being involuntarily outed, and ... yeah... none of it is pretty. This is not a fluffy book. The blurb is a bit misleading. Okay, maybe a lot misleading. Don't expect a fluffy, easy read.

The only real fun on page is when ManDonna struts her stuff - I flove her! She takes no shit, and she will hand you your balls, and you'll thank her for it.

I didn't quite believe the romance in the time line used, and while we get a HFN, I wasn't sure that things were going to last - perhaps we'll see how that goes in a future installment for this series. I do want them to last, I do. I just have doubts that their still fresh relationship can survive the roadblocks that will continue to be in their way, despite marriage equality, and despite the tide slowly turning in their favor. I want to believe that Denver is a bit more enlightened when it comes to racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

I think this might have worked a little better for me if the book had been longer and had taken the time to really delve into the issues, and perhaps stretch out the time frame a little bit more. The issues raised here are definitely hot topics, and I was a little disappointed that Marlon's forced coming out, and that loathsome, filthy, evil, little cockroach partner's despicable actions weren't given adequate resolutions. Perhaps that is fitting after all - in today's political climate, what with the current administration in the White House, and the "values" for which they stand, it's certainly possible to look at this and realize that, yeah, there won't be any adequate resolutions to homophobia, xenophobia, and blatant racism, until we've gotten rid of the pestilence in orange that empowered this pond scum to strut around with their ignorant flags and "white power" bullshit.

Kudos to this author for making his main characters non-white. I wish there were more books that did that. There is a message within this book too - as a POC, you have to stand up for yourself every damn day, against hatred, against persecution, against blatant ignorance, and if you're POC and gay, your resilience will be tested time and again in triplicate. I commend the author for touching on these difficult subjects with honesty and sensitivity.

The author also sets up the next book toward the end, which will feature Zachary aka Ariel Merman. I had my heart in my throat while reading that bit, and I need the next book, like, now.

This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and that's primarily due to what it isn't - lighthearted fluff. I want to read books that deal with current affairs, and this one definitely does.


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

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