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review 2017-09-01 03:11
ARC Review: The Veranda by Rosalind Abel
The Veranda (Lavender Shores Book 3) - Rosalind Abel

Donovan Carlisle, descendant of one of the founding families of Lavender Shores, is the town therapist and knows everyone's secrets. Well, at least everyone who's come to his practice and unburdened themselves. He's had a few unsuccessful relationships and has for many years denied his attraction to his sister's husband, burying that deep inside, knowing that it can never be more. 

Spencer Epstein is the ex-husband of Erica Epstein, Donovan's sister (there are families trees available on the author's website that explain all this, and Spencer actually took Erica's name upon marriage). Spencer is a high-powered, successful attorney. He's known he's gay but his religious preacher parents sent him to "pray-the-gay-away" therapy for years, and he still struggles with the guilt his formative years have instilled in him. He initially came to Lavender Shores to be himself, but then met Erica, and for some reason that isn't clear to me decided to marry her. Meeting Donovan at the engagement party and falling in love at first sight wasn't in his plans, but Spencer denied and buried the attraction and desire for an entire decade, during which he was faithful to his wife and produced two children.

The book starts at a masquerade party being held by one of Donovan's friends in San Fran, which Spencer also attends. Spencer recognizes Donovan immediately and grabs the chance to take what he's wanted for so long, thinking that Donovan will not know who he is, since the mask and costume hides his identity. 

But Donovan does, right after the end of the impromptu blow-job. 

It takes a little while but they come clean about a lot of things, and carefully start dating. Donovan has concerns that being with Spencer will be seen as a betrayal of the family, and the ugly voices inside Spencer from years of reparative therapy rear up at inopportune moments. They struggle, not with each other so much, because there is little internal angst in the relationship, but with how to best move their love into the open. There are kids involved, obviously, and some hard conversation need to be had. 

I really like this series. Each book is very different from its predecessor, and we get unique couples with unique situations. In this book, considering that the two men have secretly lusted for each other for a decade, their relationship evolved rather quickly but still felt realistic under the circumstances. The ILYs come early, but not unexpectedly - again, it felt plausible, considering the circumstances. Their easy banter was fun, and I loved how eager Spencer was to explore all the things he's missed out on, once they jump feet first into the relationship. Their bedroom exploits were part fun and part super hawt, and I loved how easy this part was for them. The relationship overall had a more relaxed tone, which also felt realistic, considering they've known each other as brothers-in-law and family/friends for years. 

I had a couple of niggles. While Erica isn't the only female in this series, her initial portrayal was one-dimensional and flat. She was basically (and has been from the start of the series, really) the designated villain in this book, rude to and full of contempt for pretty much anyone she deems beneath her, and her behavior, through Donovan's and Spencer's eyes both, was cruel and mean and unexplained. It was only later in the book that she became a real human, a real person, when she is honest with Spencer for what is possibly the first time in their entire relationship. We see her struggle with Spencer's new relationship, with the fact that her brother took her place, and that made her real. There was a moment when she let loose a horrible slur, which, I think, shook her up quite a bit once she realized what she said, and then she actually apologized. 

My other niggle is that Donovan and Spencer sounded rather alike on occasion, so much so that it was a little difficult to tell who was talking at a given time. This wasn't something that happened throughout the book, but often enough that I noticed it. Their thought processes seemed very similar during those instances. 

While this wasn't my favorite of the three books so far published, it's still a solid 4 star read for me, a book about second chances and being true to yourself and finally going after what you really wanted all along, and I would definitely recommend it. 

Lamont's story is next. I can hardly wait! 


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

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review 2017-08-06 15:06
3 GOOD solid stars
The Palisade (Lavender Shores) - Rosalind Abel
Independent reviewer for Archaeolibrarian, I was gifted my copy of this book. Heir to a coffee shop empire, Joel is in Lavender Shores to secure a property for their flagship store. Andrew was only supposed to be a bit of fun while in town. But then the overnight stay turns into a weekend, and Joel finds himself in far deeper with Andrew than he ever imagined could be; Joel knows when he leaves, and he HAS to leave, it won't only break Andrew's heart, Joel's will be shattered too. First person, multi point of view is not my most favourite way for a book to be written but I quite liked it here. Didn't love it, but I liked it. It got me a little more into both man's mind. While It's very clear that Joel is hiding something from Andrew, it's not immediately clear what that is. I liked being kept waiting. I'm not one for declarations of love so early on, and it happens here. Put me off a little bit, to be honest. BUT! major points for not shortened Andrew, not at all! A really easy read, one of those you can fall into, and lose the world around you, and before you know it, you've finished the book and it did not seem like the 200 odd pages listed on Goodreads. A touch long for a usual hangover cure book, but it landed in my queue just at the right time to be classed as one. I've filed it as such. I have book two to read shortly. I am looking forward to that because there are hints here to what happened to Gilbert, Andrew's best friend. And I want to know more. I'm thinking, from those hints, that book might have a little more bite. 3 GOOD solid stars. **same worded review will appear elsewhere**

 

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review 2017-07-24 03:04
ARC Review: The Garden (Lavender Shores #2) by Rosalind Abel
The Garden - Rosalind Abel

I may have asked the author for an early copy. Possibly.

Oh, who am I kidding - I shamelessly begged as soon as I saw CrabbyPatty reading it. 

And I would beg again, if given the choice, because this book was fabulous. Gorgeous. Rapturous. Captivating. Brilliant. If my 15 status updates didn't convince you to pick up a copy of this as soon as you can, hopefully my review will.

Where book 1 was a mostly easy love story between Andrew and Joel, book 2 isn't like that at all. In this 2nd book, the author created a much more emotional and pain-filled plot, giving both of the MCs past hurts and some big issues they must overcome.

Gilbert Bryant (Andrew's cousin who sold him the cabin), a member of one of the founding families of Lavender Shores, has escaped his hometown as soon as he could. He designs one of a kind jewelry for the rich and famous, and he's perfectly happy in his cabin above Lake Tahoe, having no illusions that he'll ever be as happy as his cousin. Not that he thinks he deserves to be. Except he's having to go back for family get-togethers every so often, one of which is Andrew and Joel's engagement party.

Walden Thompson has recently moved to Lavender Shores, a place he visited once as a kid and dreamed of making his home ever since. He's a teacher and running from a past he's not proud of. It's clear early on that Walden keeps mostly to himself, and also doesn't have any aspirations of finding someone to love. 

The two meet at the gym, where Gilbert is on a treadmill behind Walden on a Stairmaster. Lusting for the well-formed ass in front of him, Gilbert thinks Walden is a tourist. Attraction is immediate, and after some steamy times in the steam room, they spend a hot night together. Their specific kinks line up pretty well, and that first bedroom scene was .... uh, well... let's call it rough and rowdy. I don't think I've ever read a scene like that in an M/M romance novel... not even in one that I knew would be kinky. 

I might have fanned myself.

Moving on.

Then Gilbert and Walden meet again at the engagement party, and Gilbert finds out Walden is a teacher. Immediate recoil by Gilbert makes things a bit awkward for Walden. I was scratching my head as to why that would be an issue for Gilbert, since no reason is given at that time.

Still licking his wounds, Walden ends up in a resort kind of place on a short vacation near Lake Tahoe, unaware that Gilbert lives in the area. While being propositioned by a Gilbert-lookalike, the real deal shows up, and the attraction still burns brightly. Also, Gilbert might be a little jealous. Possibly. Even if he tells himself that he shouldn't be, because he's no good for Walden.

And Walden fears being hurt again, and possibly falling down that rabbit hole of pain and shame once more if he lets himself get close to Gilbert. Sex is easy (and super hawt) - feelings are not welcome here. 

I really liked that the author didn't make things easy for them. There's a lot of angst here, and both men have pasts that still haunt them. No, I'm not going to tell you what those pasts are, but let it suffice that they both struggle, in their own ways. They're both still hurting, and while they don't immediately share their deepest and darkest secrets, they are both honest about being troubled, and how those troubles are impacting their views and actions. 

Of course, true love will not be thwarted, no matter how hard they both fight it. This is a romance, after all. 

What I really loved is how Gilbert and Walden help each other come to terms with their pasts. Even as Gilbert believes he doesn't deserve Walden, believes the things hateful people have told him in the past, even as he confesses his fears, his depression, his attempts at ending things when the pain got too much, all of his darkness, it is clear that Walden doesn't judge Gilbert for his past. And when Walden comes clean about his own past, he realizes that Gilbert isn't judging him either. 

The author created two complex, flawed, and yet strong characters, with histories that still shape their actions, but also allowed them to grow, to realize things, and to forge a new path - together. Their story isn't without pitfalls, and for some time, it's two steps forward, one step back, but as the plot progresses, their relationship goes from hot animalistic sexy times to real intimacy. Their fears don't disappear overnight, there's no magical healing here, but they face their fears, they move forward, they learn, they grow. 

This is hurt/comfort/healing at its finest, and I didn't want to put this book down until I had finished their story, only stopping for such pesky reasons as work and sleep. Absolutely heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. A fantastic supporting cast rounded out this novel, with many of the characters making repeat appearances in this book and its predecessor. 

While this book could easily be read as a standalone, I would personally recommend you read the first one too, because a lot of the history of the town, as well as the intermingled family history, is explained in that first one.

 

What I also want to mention are the titles. The Palisade and The Garden are both places that are important to the stories and to the characters. I thought that this was rather clever on the author's part, since both places play a huge role in the plot lines of their respective stories. I imagine that a veranda will be prominent in the third book, which is Donovan's story.

That's next. I'll be begging for a copy, for sure. 

This is one series you do not want to miss. Read it!


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

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review 2017-06-17 02:50
ARC Review: The Palisade by Rosalind Abel
The Palisade (Lavender Shores) - Rosalind Abel

Lavender Shores is a new series by Rosalind Abel (aka Brandon Witt), and it's certainly off to a great start.

In this first book, we meet Andrew Kelly, whose family was one of the founders of Lavender Shores, a small tourist town/LGBTQ haven north of San Francisco, bordered by the Point Reyes National Seaboard. I've never been in that area, but the descriptions of the landscape in the book paint a gorgeous picture.

Joel Rhodes has come to Lavender Shores at the behest of his father and boss to scope out the town for a new flagship store for his father's coffee empire, and close a deal for the store. He knows this is likely a test, one he's willing to take, but also realizes that he likely will never please his father despite his best efforts. It was fairly easy to feel kind of sorry for Joel from the start.

They first meet at a local restaurant where Andrew's family is celebrating his older brother's birthday and Joel just happens to be in the same restaurant the evening he arrives in town. Attraction is immediate and fiery, and Joel and Andrew spend a hot night together.

The very next day Joel is both delighted and dismayed to discover that Andrew is a real estate agent, handling the commercial properties. As they thus meet again, and as their night of passion still lingers, the two men spend more time getting to know each other. An extra day leads to a week, and falling in love happens quicker than either of them thought.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Like I said in my final update, there's hot sex, a ton of emotion, a tight narrative, and a well-chosen location, with excellent use of romance tropes - what's not to love?

There's a bit of angst, of course, because there has to be. Falling in love in a week, developing such a strong bond in such a short amount of time - there's got to be some angst to level out that playing field. Joel's in a terrible position, what with his father's expectations and his own desires at complete opposites, and Andrew is unable and unwilling to leave Lavender Shores behind, happy and content to stay in the small town he calls home - thus theirs is not a smooth ride to everlasting happiness.

But love will find a way, and there's the most amazing and teary-eye-causing happy ending, and I was overjoyed to see them so in love. Joel finds in Andrew what he's been missing most his life. And Andrew gets exactly what he's dreamed of for so long.

A sweeping romance, excellent pacing, and a cast of fantastic characters (Andrew's dad is a hoot), except perhaps Joel's father, who was a bit of a caricature horrible man, made this book a fabulous read and a real page-turner. There are quite a few sexy times inside but none of them felt superfluous and all of them helped move the relationship and thus the plot forward. I also want to point out that this being the first in a series, the author did a fantastic job introducing the town and its people without it distracting from the main couple's romance.

Highly recommended. I can hardly wait for the next installment.


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

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review 2017-03-28 14:09
Wild Lavender
Wild Lavender - Lynne Connolly

'Wild Lavender' by Lynne Connolly is book Seven in the "The Emperors of London" series.  This is the story of Helena and Tom.  This book is broken down in two different parts in their lives.  One being where Helena and Tom meet before they know who the other one is which this first part coincides with the previous book "Veiled In Blue" which has Helena brother Julius as the main character in that book.  Tom and Helena try to secretly keep meeting but then Tom ends things without explaining.   The next part of the book has Helena settling into being a spinster and wanting her own home but her mother still wanting to marry her off.  Tom is there to help her when a suitor takes to make her marry him.  This opens up old wounds and Helena wants to know why Tom ended their relationship.  
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