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review 2018-01-16 01:04
Release Day Review: The Hockey Player's Heart by Jeff Adams and Will Knauss
The Hockey Player's Heart (Dreamspun Desires Book 50) - Jeff Adams,Will Knauss

I liked this story about an out hockey player who in his teens nursed a crush on his older sister's best friend who was also his geometry tutor. Who's now a teacher at the same school where his sister is the principal. 

After an injury, hockey player Caleb Carter returns to his home town of Foster Grove to recuperate and hang out with his sister before going back to NYC to play for the Rangers. He doesn't realize that his one-time teenage crush Aaron Price now works as a teacher for his sister, but is shook when he finds out. That teenage crush he thought he was over - yeah, not so much. So Caleb pursues Aaron - inviting the slightly older man on a date and makes his interest clearly known. 

Aaron is a bit gun-shy to date another athlete after one broke his heart back in California, but Caleb is persistent, and every argument Aaron brings up that a relationship between them wouldn't work, Caleb counters. And obviously, there's a spark for Aaron too. 

The plot doesn't have any big misunderstandings nor any obvious miscommunications, and both men are open and honest about their interest, even if Aaron isn't convinced this thing between them will be anything more than a short-lived romance. 

We get a glimpse into Aaron's life as a teacher, and Caleb's life with his hockey team (gotta love Dimitri, what a great friend), and also the school's hockey team. The kids were an added bonus, and I enjoyed watching Caleb and Aaron interact.

The drama in this story comes primarily from Aaron, shy, cautious Aaron, who doesn't think he fits in with Caleb's life as a star hockey player, so he finds excuse after stupid excuse to not fully give the relationship a real chance. 

I liked Caleb a lot. He was so honest and straight-forward, and so open about how he felt and what he wanted, but also not pushy - he gave Aaron time to come around to his way of thinking. And really, three hours drive isn't a deal-breaker for most people, especially since there's an off-season to consider. Aaron is just gun-shy, which I could understand, but I also didn't think it was fair of him to think that all athletes are alike. Aaron had some self-esteem issues too - again, understandable, after being treated like so badly by the California jerk. 

There is definitely chemistry between the two men, and we are treated to some steamy yet emotional scenes between them. This being a Dreamspun Desires title, I expected a grand gesture toward the end - and yeah, I got that. Lovely scene, that.

The entire story and relationship development takes place in just a few weeks' time, which might be too fast for some, but in this case, I believed the timeline from meet-cute to HEA, because the two men knew each other from high school, and both had a bit of a crush on each other - it was easy to see how that spark might be kindled to burst into flame. 

This was my first read by this author team, even though I own the Hat Trick series by Jeff Adams in paperback, which obviously I need to read. Apparently, there will be another book which will be about Dimitri, Caleb's friend and teammate. And judging by how Dimitri feels about romance and long-term relationships in general, I cannot wait to read that one!

Give this a try. While there's a lot of hockey in the book, the romance and relationship take center stage.


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

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review 2018-01-09 18:24
Schatten und Licht - Vergangemheit und Zukunft
Aus dem Nichts - Roan Parrish

Inhalt: Die einzige Sache, die Colin Mulligans Leben Sinn gibt, ist das Auseinandernehmen und wieder Zusammensetzen von Autos. In der Werkstatt, in der er zusammen mit seinem Vater und seinen Brüdern arbeitet, versucht er ohne Panikattacke und Wutausbruch durch den Tag zu kommen. Trinken hilft. Ebenso wie Laufen und Gewichtheben, bis er sich kaum noch auf den Beinen halten kann. Nichts davon kann jedoch die Tatsache, dass er schwul ist, ändern – ein Geheimnis, das er vor allen verheimlicht. Rafael Guerra hat einen Weg gefunden, mit seiner Vergangenheit, für die er sich schämt, zu leben. Sein Leben hat er der Sozialarbeit und der Hilfe von Jugendlichen, die wie er aus ärmlichen Verhältnissen stammen, gewidmet. Für Liebe hat er keine Zeit. Verflucht, er hat kaum Zeit für sich selbst. Irgendwie zieht ihn alles an dem unglücklichen, selbstzerstörerischen Colin an. Der Weg dorthin ist jedoch mit den Schwierigkeiten gepflastert, die Rafe mit so viel Anstrengung hinter sich gelassen hat. Als ihre Beziehung tiefer wird, sind Rafe und Colin gezwungen, Geheimnisse ans Licht zu bringen, die jeder von ihnen gerne weiterhin im Dunkeln gelassen hätte.

(Quelle: Dreamspinner Press)

 

Meine Meinung: Mitten im Irgendwo hat mich vor einigen Wochen komplett begeistert und tut es immer noch. In der Geschichte gab es mich genau einen Menschen, den ich "gehasst" habe. Und ausgerechnet diesen Menschen hat sich Roan Parrish für ihr 2. Buch der Reihe ausgesucht! Warum nicht Leo und Will? Warum nicht Daniels Kollegen - nein ausgerechnet mein Must Hate musste es sein. Vielleicht ist das auch der Grund, das ich dem Buch nur 4 Sternchen geben konnte. Denn so sehr sich die Autorin auch bemüht hat, ich konnte mit Colin nicht so warm werden, wie ich es vielleicht ohne das 1. Buch geworden wäre.

 

Zeitlich spielt Aus dem Nichts neben Mitten im Irgendwo. Auf diese Weise bekam man einen guten Einblick, wie Daniels und Colins Leben in Philly. Doch hat die Autorin den 2 Brüdern, eine gänzlich andere Richtung im Leben gegeben. Während einer irgendwann eingesehen hat, das seine Familie nicht zu Anerkennung neigt, ist ein anderer Bruder sein Leben lang auf der Suche nach genau dieser Anerkennung seiner Familie. Dabei verleugnet er sich, bis er sich selbst nicht mehr kennt. Doch wenn man immer nur auf dem eis balanciert, wird man irgendwann einbrechen.

 

Als das Eis für Colin bricht, wird er von Rafe gehalten. Doch ein Loch in der Eisfläche ist meist nur der Anfang und am Ende besteht das Risiko, das beide in der Dunkelheit ihrer Vergangenheit versinken. Natürlich lässt die Autorin, das nicht zu. Doch sie macht es Colin definitiv nicht leicht und sorry, aber das hat er verdient. Na ja vielleicht hat es die Autorin auch geschafft, das ich ein wenig Mitleid mit ihm habe, aber mein Lieblingscharakter wird er nie werden.

 

Zum Glück gibt es da noch Rafael. Er ist ein Engel - mit Vergangenheit. Doch er versucht die Dummheiten seiner Vergangenheit hinter sich zu lassen und andere davor zu beschützen. Er rettet Colin und das nicht nur einmal. Gerade als alle Zeichen auf Zukunft stehen, gerät alles durch seine Vergangenheit in Gefahr und Rafe gerät aus der Bahn.

 

Aus dem Nichts ist deutlich düsterer als sein Vorgänger Mitten im Irgendwo. Ihm fehlt auch fast gänzlich die humorvollen Auflockerungen, die seinen großen Bruder ausmachten. Gerade einmal die Nebenfiguren schaffen dem Leser das ein oder andere Schmunzeln zu entlocken. Allerdings schadet dieses dunkle Image der Geschichte nicht wirklich, wenn man sich erst einmal darauf eingelassen hat. Allerdings muss man Band 1 gelesen haben, da einem sonst, wohl die ein oder andere Szene nicht einleuchtet.

 

Fazit: Aus dem Nichts ist ein würdiger Nachfolger von Mitten im Irgendwo, auch wenn nicht wirklich vergleichbar. Colins Geschichte ist der Schatten zu Daniels Licht. Beides ist wichtig und braucht den anderen.

Source: schnuffelchensbuecher.blogspot.de/2018/01/roan-parrish-aus-dem-nichts.html
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review 2018-01-09 02:37
ARC Review: An Unlocked Mind by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams
An Unlocked Mind (Secrets Book 2) - K.C. Wells,Parker Williams

This 2nd book in the spin-off series deals with Rob Daniels, Alex's brother, who had a hand in Alex and Leo almost not having a happy ever after, and whose actions, to some extent, caused Alex to remove himself from his judgmental family.

Rob is such a lost boy. He blames himself for Alex's leaving, and yet he's determined to prove that Alex has it all wrong - BDSM is not love. Therefore, Rob goes to Secrets to once again prove that point, sneering and judging everyone he sees in the club. Rob has issues. Massive issues.

Then he meets a brick wall named Vic Prentiss, a Dom who used to be a member at the club prior to it becoming Secrets and who might be looking for a new sub. Vic takes one look at Rob and realizes that the young man has built up massive walls and locked away his heart. He offers the young man a night on the couch, with a promise not to touch him but take him to the train station in the morning. After some fussing and insults, Rob agrees. 

Rob returns to his shitty job and his shitty apartment in Manchester, only to blow money on a train ticket back to London to show up at Vic's house, time and again. And slowly, oh so slowly, Rob starts to open up. 

This story really tugged on my heart strings. Rob is so lost, so lonely, and so scared. He's afraid of his mother, and he's regretful of the events he set in motion that resulted in Alex leaving and hating Rob for what he did. He wants nothing more than a chance to make things right with his brother, but is afraid to take that first step, and too stubborn to entertain the possibility that Alex found exactly what he needed in Leo, and that their relationship is built on love, even if there's kinky stuff going on. He doesn't understand how anyone could want to be "smacked around", as if BDSM only consists of whippings, and he doesn't understand why anyone would choose to submit to the will of another. He doesn't understand that the sub holds all the power in a BDSM relationship, and that everything stops with a safe word. He doesn't understand the draw, and the release, and the trust that has to be established. He doesn't understand much at all.

And then Vic starts to show him. And Rob opens his eyes, and I cried. Because once Rob lets go, once Rob tears down those walls - the lost boy grows up and becomes a man. Rob finally lets go of pretending to be straight, lets go of lashing out whenever someone suggests he might be gay, lets go of the guilt and the anger and the pain. I cried and cried. As Rob unshackles himself from his past, as Rob reaches out and claims a bit of happiness, as Rob finds what he's been seeking, in Vic's arms, in his brother's embrace, in his father's support - Rob becomes a man. And I cried.

I adored Vic. He was so patient, so careful, and so intent on finding the key to unlock what Rob kept hidden in his mind, so strong and calm to soothe away the pain and grief and to make Rob see that love and trust are at the root of true BDSM relationships. 

And Rob, the lost boy, becomes a man.

With gorgeous writing and a ton of emotion, this was a fitting continuation of the brilliant collaboration between these two authors. 


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

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review 2018-01-09 02:12
ARC Review: Before You Break by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams
Before You Break - Parker Williams,K.C. Wells

I'm ridiculously overdue with this review - my apologies to the authors. 

This book is the first in the series called Secrets, which is a spin-off from Collars & Cuffs, which I loved. At the end of book 8 of C&C, Eli and Jarod (from book 7) have decided to move to London to purchase and revamp an existing BDSM club, which they rename Secrets. 

I was excited to see Eli and Jarod again, and how the authors would set this new series apart from their first one. 

Wayne and Ellis are both members of London's Specialist Firearms unit and best friends. In recent months, Wayne has noticed Ellis behaving erratically, angering quickly, and being generally sleep-deprived. So far, Wayne has covered for Ellis and prevented any fuck-ups, but he realizes that this cannot go on. Thus, Wayne, a member of the club Eli and Jarod bought, invites Ellis to the Grand Reopening, in hopes that Ellis will see what goes on in Wayne's world for himself, and perhaps be more agreeable to a proposition Wayne has for him.

As I expected, Ellis has a freak-out. 

I had a difficult time understanding how Wayne thought that his straight best friend would be amenable to what Wayne was proposing, and that he thought this would be best for Ellis. At no time had Ellis ever given Wayne any kind of indication that he was a) not straight, and b) interested at all in the lifestyle. That whole situation felt forced to me early on, even if Ellis eventually agrees. I also was a little exasperated with Wayne's constant BDSM lectures, even though they made sense within the plot, since Ellis has zero experience in the lifestyle and possibly some preconceived false notions. 

The angst in this book comes mainly from Ellis and the messy relationships he has with his family, primarily his sister. It was clear to me that she was emotionally manipulating Ellis at all times, and that he bent over backwards to keep her happy. For someone in such a high stress job, I was wondering if there weren't psychological evaluations required at certain intervals, and whether an experienced therapist wouldn't have figured out that Ellis was at breaking point. Not even Wayne, his supposed best friend, really had any idea what Ellis was dealing with.

Once Wayne and Ellis set off on their BDSM journey though, I could see the relationship flourish, and there were many emotionally charged moments between them as Ellis learns more about Wayne's proclivities, and opens himself to being not so straight after all. These emotional moments are what keeps me coming back to these authors - they really have a knack for writing hardcore explicit kink with hardcore emotional impact. 

The ending was well done, even though there are some edge-of-your-seat moments that had me with my heart in my throat. Still, all's well that ends well, and this was a good start to this new series. I can't wait to see what else they have in store. 


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

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review 2018-01-05 01:34
ARC Review: Prelude To Love by Anne Barwell
Prelude to Love (Dreamspun Desires Book 49) - Anne Barwell

This was a sweet hurt/comfort romance set in Wellington, New Zealand. Joel is a music teacher at a local school and is still not quite over his ex-boyfriend, and Marcus is a landscaper who is moving to Wellington after a break-up. Marcus' sister is married to Joel's college roommate and best friend. 

Neither is looking for a relationship, but with family/friends in common, they meet early on. There's interest on both sides, and as the book progresses, we see a sweet romance develop. 

The book has little relationship angst, other than both men being concerned about possible consequences with their shared family/friends if things don't work out. Marcus' ex shows up too to wreak havoc but doesn't get very far. Both men had some hang-ups they needed to work on, but once they made the decision to try, it worked out quite nicely.

I liked both characters, though I connected a bit more with Joel, as Marcus felt detached on occasion, and they were both drawn realistically and felt relatable. The supporting cast in Marcus' sister, Joel's best friend, and their daughter was also well done, and they played a huge role in getting Joel and Marcus to push past their fears and give their budding relationship a real shot. The pushy woman who tries to win Joel for herself (lol, he's gay) was a bit annoying on occasion, and I wasn't quite clear on her purpose, to be honest. I don't think she brought anything to the table, and I wouldn't have missed her, had she been removed from the book.

This is a feel-good book, one you'd read on a cold winter's day, curled up with a hot beverage, in your favorite chair. I enjoyed reading it, and I think you will too. Give it a try.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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