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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 2017-07-23 12:13
50 by hellhoundsprey
50 - hellhoundsprey 50 - hellhoundsprey

Wow, read this non-stop. Sam Wesson is the abusive Dom in this relationship and Dean Smith is the damaged vulnerable sub. Unputdownable, still a WIP but it's mostly there.
Art by jklionheart
description
'"Give me that control over you, Dean. Let me be your self-control. Let me worry. Give yourself over to me."

Sounds like a good deal, actually. No worries. No responsibility. Sam is watching out for him. Sam knows what he is doing. Sam always knows what's good for Dean. '

Source: archiveofourown.org/works/5668567?view_full_work=true
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review 2017-07-21 22:09
Figuring out who you are
Roller Girl - Victoria Jamieson

The only exposure I've had to roller derby is through the film Whip It which admittedly is more than some people. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to read more about it especially when I saw the cover of today's book. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson follows a middle schooler named Astrid who (after going to a roller derby bout) decides that she will be an all-star roller derby girl. However, there are a few hiccups in this plan. (I was going to tell you what they are but I decided it would be better for you to discover them yourself especially since they make up the backbone of the book.) This is a story all about discovering what you're made of, adolescent friendship, and perseverance. It's pretty much middle school wrapped up in one volume + crazy rollerskating antics. I should also mention that it's a graphic novel with truly epic illustrations which were done by the author (I love when that's the case). Overall, I thought this was a fast paced, angsy book that captures what it's like to be a preteen girl who is obsessed with . It's a fun book, guys. If you have any middle grade readers in your life that love sports I think they'd really like this one. 8/10

 

And since I've done this with a few other author/illustrators I thought I'd include a blog post that Victoria Jamieson did with some sketches from the book. Here's a sample:

Source: Victoria Jamieson Illustration

 

And here's what you can expect from the finished product:

Source: books4yourkids

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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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 2017-07-19 01:35
Book Review: Not Safe For Work by L.A. Witt
Not Safe For Work - L.A. Witt
I snagged this when the author offered it for free a little while back, and devoured it as soon as I got a chance.

It exceeded my expectations!!

Now, I know LA Witt can write the sexy times, and I know that she will always, always, always make sure that her BDSM novels make it very clear indeed that while the Dom is in charge, the sub holds all the power. She takes the time to weave explanations about the lifestyle seamlessly into her books, and I cannot thank her enough for continuing to educate me and others what BDSM is really all about.

What pushed this book into 5 star territory though was the romance. Never mind the holy hot boysecks, what really impressed me here was the author's ability to convey how her characters felt, through their words and actions. She showed me their emotions, their fears, their joy - she didn't tell me. Told entirely from Jon's POV, we don't hear from Rick directly, but his character was well fleshed out just the same, and I felt a connection to him just as much as I connected with Jon.

Jon and Rick both have struggles to overcome, and Jon often carried a lot of weight on his shoulders (work issues, and paying for his kids' college education), but Rick was always supportive and understanding.

I loved every single minute I spend reading this book, cursing when work interfered, because I needed to keep reading, dammit, and follow Rick and Jon through their first realization that their kinks match up, through growing closer, through realizing that what they have is, while unexpected, exactly what they both need, and through the rough parts where they falter and stumble and nearly crash and burn.

This book is everything I could hope for in a romance novel. The conflict was exterior to the relationship, and I ranted out loud when Jon's employer did that thing they did, and I was enraged when Jon... no, you read this for yourself. 

Extra kudos for not having an evil ex-wife (Jon's ex-wife lives with him for financial reasons, and they are good friends, supportive of each other), and for having a wonderful supporting cast in Jon's co-workers that often made me laugh out loud. 

If you like your romance a bit on the kinky side (it's not overwhelmingly kinky, to be honest, and Rick is not a pain slut or a slave, and Jon isn't a sadist), then I would highly recommend you give this book a try. 

I loved it.
 
 

 

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