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review 2017-05-16 02:25
Release Day ARC Review: Two For Trust by Elle Brownlee
Two for Trust (Dreamspun Desires Book 34) - Elle Brownlee

Well, that was mostly lovely. No steam but a few hot kisses and a lot of longing, and a super slow burn romance between an American nurse/tourist in England and the well-off owner of a manor. Finch is utterly adorable and exactly what the somewhat stuffy Benedict needed in his life.

Finch Mason, young, single, and a nurse, is on the trip of a lifetime - two weeks in jolly olde England, armed with a National Trust pass, that turns out to be a pass for two for one week, instead of a pass for one for two weeks. No matter, because why not offer the 2nd entry to the old mill he's visiting to the handsome Brit who shows up ever so fortuitously. And then Finch and Benedict meet time and again, and share a week of visiting historical sites in that particular area of Britain.

Over the course of the week, Finch rescues a puppy from a hole in the ground, has tea and crumpets with Benedict, and starts to have feelings for the handsome older man. He's quit his job in the States because they wouldn't grant him the vacation time, and he is not looking forward to returning stateside because of that pesky job search he'll have to undertake.

His funds are limited, but he's optimistic and a bit of a history geek, and admires Benedict and his charms.

I could see how Finch would look to the older Benedict as someone to admire, but I just didn't really buy the developing relationship. More often than not, Benedict comes across as a cold fish - I'm not sure whether that was his personality or if he acted this way because he thought it was expected.

After the first week, Benedict plans to move on to the next hostel, but his plans are dashed when he returns to his room and discovers someone has ransacked it and stolen nearly everything. And Benedict rushes to the rescue.

I had already figured at their first meeting that Benedict wasn't quite who Finch assumed him to be, so the reveal wasn't a big surprise to me. I also at that point became a little bit uncomfortable with the manner in which Benedict takes over control, and starts telling Finch what to do. It could be said that he was doing this only because he too had started to look at the young man with something like desire and longing, and possibly even love, but it wasn't well explained and not really shown.

At about 2/3 in, Benedict asks Finch to take his grandmother across the Channel to visit her sister in The Netherlands, for payment, and Finch agrees to play nursemaid for the trip across and a few days in the Dutch countryside, and then catching a flight to London and get there in time for his return to the US. There's an unexpected kiss at the dock. Except things don't exactly go as planned once they've made it across, and Grandma gets herself into a spot of trouble, and then Finch... well, you read this for yourself.

Finch ends up staying longer than initially planned - not that he has a job to go home to - and then there's a bit of a misunderstanding, and an impetuous Finch runs off, thinking he's unwanted.

As this is a romance, we get a happy ending, of course.

I quite adored Finch. He had a really bad relationship experience prior to getting to England, and I don't think he saw himself as someone who was worthy of Benedict, or anyone else, for that matter. He's unfailingly polite, gracious, and always very grateful to everyone who helps him, but also not a complete doormat. He loves animals, he's kind and optimistic, and he doesn't let life get him down. I do believe he was good for Benedict, and helped to loosen the chap up a bit, and maybe pull the stick out of his arse.

Benedict - well, I guess he grew on me by the end, but I didn't like it when he said things that sounded a bit too much like scolding Finch for my taste, or giving me the impression that he was bothered by the young man's presence in his home. Sure, we're told that he doesn't feel that way at all, but it doesn't really come across that way in his actions. I guess I was missing the chemistry here - there just didn't seem to be much passion at all - and while I don't need steam in my romance books, I found it strange that the two men would share nothing but a few hot kisses before the grandiose ending, not even off-page.

YMMV.


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

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review 2017-05-11 02:59
ARC Review: To Touch You (Mates #4) by Cardeno C.
To Touch You: A Vampire Shifter Gay Romance (Mates Collection Book 4) - Cardeno C.

Dear Salvatore Rossi - you're a jerk. A stubborn, selfish, snobbish jerk.

Having said that, you redeemed yourself in the end but only by a hair.

Not much love,

Me

****

This is the fourth, and probably last book, in the Mates series, which I loved. LOVED.

Here we have Yoram Smith, great-nephew of Ethan Abbatt (of Until Forever Comes), who at 7 years old gets a whiff of one Salvatore Rossi, abovementioned jerk, and knows, just knows, he's found his one true mate.

Salvatore, or Sal as Yoram calls him, is a business man, visiting the town near the Miancarem pack to entice Miguel Rodriguez, mate of Ethan, to sell him some land. Miguel has no interest in doing so, and if it weren't for Yoram proclaiming Sal his friend, Miguel might have simply chased him out of town. Except Sal is sick, sicker than he knows, and when his illness becomes terminal, and Yoram finds out, he implores Miguel to save his friend Sal.

So Sal becomes a vampire, and promptly returns to his business, caring not one iota about Yoram.

At 14, Yoram visits Sal in Las Vegas and is told to go home. Go home. By his mate!!

Yeah... I didn't like Sal at all, though I could appreciate that a 30-odd year old man/vampire would be slightly freaked out that a 14 year old boy tells him he's his mate.

So Yoram goes home, suffers alone, but he doesn't give up. He experiences similar symptoms as Ethan had before meeting Miguel, and some pointed questions later, Sal begins to get blood deliveries. Because Yoram is a saint, and just because Sal is a jerkface doesn't mean that Yoram needs to let his mate suffer.

There's some crossover here with book three, In Your Eyes. If you've read that book, you'll remember Korban Keller, who's the Alpha's son, and heir apparent, but whose mate Samuel is the Alpha of the Yafenack pack, and you'll remember what happened there, and what leads to Miancarem needing a new Alpha.

Yoram again steps up to the plate, because he's a fucking saint! He loves his pack, he loves the other wolves, and he wants to do what's best for them. Except that doesn't leave him any time for traveling to Vegas every month to deliver blood.

And then Salvatore Rossi wonders for possibly the first time who might have been bringing him blood, and what might have caused the deliveries to stop, and he travels to Miancarem to investigate. Still super selfish, amirite?

Character flaws of a particular vampire notwithstanding, I loved this book just as much as I loved the other three, though In Your Eyes will likely always be my favorite of the four. A lot of my enjoyment was because of Yoram, who is a FUCKING saint, and also because of Toby, a wolf from Yoram's pack and his brother-in-law, who provides the snark and attitude and humor in this book. He took no crap at all from Sal, he wasn't afraid of the big, bad vampire, and he took zero prisoners when it came to telling Sal what a jerk he'd been all these many years. He had some fantastic zingers, and I giggled a lot when he was on page.

This being a book by Cardeno C., there are also some super hot sexy times (when they then finally happen, OMG), and knotting. Knotting, people, which just gives the sexy times that extra oomph. Mating bites. Bloodsucking while making love. Gah. There is always such emotion within the sexy times, and I think that's one of the author's special gifts.

I was a little bit bothered by the rather abrupt transition from "where's the blood, dammit" to "OMG, I Love You, You're my everything" that Sal goes through, considering that his character was a stupid, selfish, snobbish jerk for most of the book, but I chalked that off to the mating pull doing its thing, and him finally being near Yoram for long enough to actually allow himself to feel it. The jerk.

This is definitely a fitting end to the series, and I loved that the couples from the previous book made an appearance. Well, all but Samuel. It can be read as a standalone, but why would you? Why would you not read all the books in this fantastic series? Exactly.

I will read any shifter book this author writes, ever, and I can hardly wait to get my grabby hands on the next one, even if it'll be a different series. Maybe we'll get another Syphon book next? Sign me right up.

I'm a CC addict, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Just keep feeding my addiction, would ya, CC?


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

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review 2017-05-05 02:46
ARC Review: Blue by B.G. Thomas
Blue - B.G. Thomas

I first encountered Blue McCoy in book 2 of the Seasons Of Love series by this author, when he was unwittingly and unwillingly involved in a terrible act committed by Howard, who was Wyatt's "husband" at the time.

I've been waiting for some time for Blue to tell me his own story and delighted when it was finally available.

There may be some slight spoilers below...
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review 2017-05-02 00:18
Release Day ARC Review: The Perils Of Intimacy by Rick R. Reed
The Perils of Intimacy - Rick R. Reed

"I'm Jimmy, and I'm an addict." 

Two years ago, Jimmy and Mark met for a night of sex. Jimmy was high on crystal meth and hoped to steal whatever he could find in Mark's home to feed his addiction, and Mark was feeding a different addiction, one he doesn't admit to himself until toward the end of this book.

That night changed both of them - it set Jimmy onto his path to beat his relationship with "Tina", and it destroyed Mark's trust in people.

They've both been alone since.

Now two years later, Jimmy works in a small restaurant, and Mark works a job he's good at but doesn't like. Both have a close friend, someone they can go to for advice or just to listen. In Jimmy's case, it's his roommate Kevin. For Mark, it's his co-worker Don.

And Jimmy also has Miriam, his sponsor for N.A. She's but a phone call away, whenever he needs her. There's a point in the book where... actually, no. I'm not going to tell. Read this for yourself.

Seriously, read this book. It's written in the first person present tense, switching between Jimmy's and Mark's POV, over the course of about a week, as the two men meet (again), and embark on a real relationship, with real intimacy. Which requires Jimmy to come clean to Mark about who he is and who he was two years prior. And you hope that he does before Mark figures it out himself. You hope, and you watch, and you sit there, all tense, because you know, you just know, that would be too easy, and OMG, Jimmy, tell him, TELL HIM, and then...

The writing is brilliant, and this may be the best book I've read by this author. It's not meaningless fluff. It's not just a romance - it's so much more. It touches on difficult subjects, and it makes very clear the point that once an addict, always an addict - recovery is an ongoing process, and you're never fully cured. It takes a hard look at the difference between intimacy and sex, and that neither is dependent on the other. Forgiveness is hard - merely saying the words doesn't make it so in your heart, and Mark has to struggle to get to the point where he can look at Jimmy and truly forgive him. And Jimmy has to forgive himself too.

Love will find you when you're ready - but first and foremost, you have to love yourself. And at the beginning of this book, and when they first met, neither Mark nor Jimmy were ready for this truth.

I'd like to quote Miriam here, because she really drives home the point:

 

Love yourself, Jimmy. With all your heart. That’s the only way you’ll ever find real happiness. We all make mistakes. [...] mistakes are the soil we grow from. Every mistake, every bad thing we did shouldn’t be a regret, because everything we do is simply one more step on our journey. Without the mistakes, we’d never grow.


There are quite a few poignant moments in this book (and one that shocked me), and the author takes an unflinching and very realistic look at what addictions will do to good people, and how many of them never get the chance to pull themselves out of the morass. But addictions come in various forms, and Mark has to learn that lesson too.

I LOVED this book. It made me think, it made me feel, and there were quite a few times when my heart was in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. It's a thing of beauty, this book, and I would highly recommend it.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the release tour. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-04-15 04:49
Connection Error (#gaymers #3)
Connection Error - Annabeth Albert,Sean Crisden

As with the previous two books in this series, traveling and getting to know each other while trapped together in a confined space plays an important part in the MCs' relationship. Unlike the previous two books, they weren't frenemies beforehand, and the traveling didn't force them to come to terms with their differences and learn to appreciate each other, with that appreciation quickly turning to love. 

 

I said in my review for the second book - Status Update? Or was it Beta Test? I don't really remember which one came first or second. - that they were too similar to each other and I probably would've done better to wait to listen to the second book so I could better appreciate it on its own merits. And that's why I waited so long to finally get around to this one. Well, that's one reason. The other would be Sean Crisden, who is at best a meh narrator for me, so he doesn't exactly inspire me to rush out and get his books. Yet somehow, despite his meh-ness, I still really enjoyed this book. 

 

I was really pleased to see that this book deviated a bit from the previous two. Ryan doesn't work for the video game developer that Josiah works for, so the first time they meet is on their flight, which they're both taking for different reasons. So there's none of that boring frenemy nonsense to bog through. They hit it off immediately and forge a really strong friendship while geeking out over the video game expansion packet Josiah is developing. 

 

And then they land - and Josiah realizes for the first time that Ryan, the super hunky Navy SEAL he's been sitting next to this whole time, is a double amputee, missing both his legs - and in true Josiah fashion he blurts out the most horrible insensitive thing you can say to an amputee. It doesn't matter that he doesn't mean it in a cruel way, that he's just stating the obvious in his shock. It's a bad thing and he knows it and immediately tries to apologize. Thankfully, Ryan's able to forgive him and their friendship continues.

 

A lot of this is told through their various texts and emails as they have a friends with benefits relationship long-distance while Ryan does his rehab in Texas Josiah works on his video expansion pack in Germany and California. We get to see them actually be friends and come to care for and like each other in that capacity. Yes, Ryan knows very early on that he wants more than just friendship, but there's no instalove here. I loved pretty much everything about their relationship and how it developed. Ryan takes longer to get to where Josiah is, but he's actually there a lot sooner than he realizes or admits. 

 

While I did like seeing them chit chat back and forth, these parts did kind of drag a wee bit. I'd have skimmed/skipped right over all those To:s and From:s and Subject:s if I were reading this myself so I could get to the actual messages faster. Crisden naturally had to read all those headers out in full. Also, Crisden does this weird thing with his voice when he's reading their texts and emails, like he's almost trying to make them sound a little robotic or automated. Or maybe he's just being typical Crisden. Hard to tell.

 

All the rehab stuff with Ryan and his goals and ambitions were very well done. I can tell the author did her research, and while I can't validate any of this as authentic, it did seem to be stuff that a double amputee would be reasonably expected to tackle during his recovery.

 

Josiah's issues at work though - I feel like Josiah got shortchanged in his own book. We get to meet Ryan's rehab team and see him doing his rehab and having his setbacks and successes and frustrations. Josiah's issues at work, leading a team for the first time and dealing with his ADHD and how that makes people undermine him, is mostly given lip service. We're told about it, but we don't actually see it. There's only one scene in the entire book at his job. One! Everything else we hear about secondhand, and not even from Josiah some of those times. And for all that we're told his ADHD can make reading social cues difficult, other than that first snafu on the airplane, we're also not really shown that either. There's so much focus on Ryan, that Josiah just got shifted to the side.

 

If there had been a better balance of scenes, I'd have given this four stars easily, but as it is, 3.5 is the best I can do.

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