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review 2017-05-15 02:37
ARC Review: Summer Stock by Vanessa North
Summer Stock - Vanessa North

Vanessa North has gone and done it again. With Summer Stock, she's back with a lovely romance between a rumored bad boy Hollywood actor and a North Carolina low country handyman who meet each other during a summer of building stage sets and acting for a local Shakespeare company owned by the former's cousin and the latter's friend.

Ryan Hertzog, Hollywood star, has returned to North Caroline for the summer, told to lay low by his publicist and avoid any further scandals. His rumored relationship with his friend Ali and her boyfriend West has sent him fleeing for the opposite coast to hide from the glare of the Hollywood lights.

Trey Donovan, handyman and owner of a renovation business, has had his own reasons for laying low - an abusive ex has made him distrustful and scared to get into another relationship.

They meet, they get it on, and then Ryan runs into Trey's dog Ferdinand (Ferdy), a 200 lbs mastiff with a heart of gold and an affinity for chewing on underwear, and ends up butt naked outside of Trey's house, with the paparazzi all too ready to take his picture.

Clearly, the relationship isn't off to a good start, even if it's only meant to be a summer fling.

But Ryan and Trey meet time and again and just cannot keep their hands off each other - the flames burn brightly. But it's only for the summer, right?

The book is really all about the relationship between the two men, and how a summer fling develops into more. Of course, it's not smooth sailing, what with Ryan being bisexual and Trey being a bit bi-phobic and suffering from foot-in-mouth disease on occasion, but they talk, apologies are made and accepted, and sheets are burned up. Holy hot boysecks, Batman!

This author continues to impress me with her writing. She's not afraid to defy the tropes, she unflinchingly speaks her mind through her characters, she points out how assumptions tend to be wrong, and she doesn't use stereotypes. Her characters are fully fleshed out, complex and imperfect, which makes them more likable and relatable. Vanessa North makes you question your own prejudice, especially when it comes to expectations of the Hollywood actors in this book.

Trey has some demons to slay, and he still suffers on occasion from a need to sabotage the good things in his life, because he was made to feel worthless by his ex and doesn't believe that he deserves a good thing like Ryan.

Ryan is not perfect either, but he's not a stereotypical Hollywood star. He loves acting, and he is committed to the small theater where he's performing for the summer, happily giving acting advice to his fellow players and wanting to do what's best for his cousin Caro and her friend Mason (the owners). He is sometimes exasperated by Trey's stupid comments about bisexuality, and at times hides his hurt.

There was a moment around 80% or so when I thought this book was taking a direction not to my liking, but of course I should have trusted the author who didn't let me down. In the end, both men grow throughout this book, and they journey they took was, while not smooth, definitely worth taking.

Kudos to this author for writing bisexual characters, stereotype-defying characters, and complex, flawed characters, not only for the main pairing but also for the supporting cast. And extra kudos for Ferdy, the most lovable, slobbering, and loving beast there ever was.

There's a HEA, of course, and a lovely epilogue, and all's well that ends well, as The Bard himself would tell you.

Highly recommended.


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

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review 2016-11-27 03:46
ARC Review: Freckles by Amy Lane
Freckles - Amy Lane

Sweet and utterly adorable novel about a lonely nice guy attorney who hates his job and his unethical boss and the vet tech who convinces him that a Carter Embree, put-upon-attorney, deserves a Sandy Carrigan, vet tech and dog whisperer extraordinaire.

 

Seriously, this was super cute. Carter's dull life is thrown into disarray when a shopping trip to the corner store makes him the new owner of a tiny, flea-riddled dog. Carter is no dummy and immediately takes the tiny puppy to the next PetsMart where he encounters Sandy, the vet tech.

 

Initially, Sandy thinks Carter is a bit off his rocker, but he's intrigued nonetheless by the frazzled, unprepared-for-dog-ownership man, who doesn't seem to care that the tiny dog he's holding to his chest is full of fleas.

 

And thus the story unfolds as Carter and Sandy get closer, because Carter is a somewhat frequent visitor at the PetsMart, what with tiny dog, who's been christened Freckles, being allergic to soap, and because of walks in the park, and because Carter just might be the one who will be there for Sandy and believe in him. And, while doing so, become someone he himself can be proud of, including growing a backbone and tell off his miserable boss.

 

Amy Lane really does Christmas stories ever so well. There's almost zero angst here, and so much romance and sweetness, but without being cloying and marshmallowy. I so enjoyed reading this shortish tale (I say short because the pages just flew by), and while there's not a lot of action between the sheets, there is a lot of cuddling and romantic moments, and fun times with dog ownership.

 

Recommended.

 

 

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

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review 2016-08-23 02:00
ARC Review: Fool's Gold by Sarah Madison
Fool's Gold - Sarah Madison

In the beginning of this book, golden boy Jake appears to have it all - Olympic-caliber horses he trains with daily, a superb facility afforded him by his father's money, love with a hot boyfriend who works with him at the farm, and a shot at the Olympics with the help of his fantastic trainer, Tom.

Until it all comes to a crashing halt, when an accident on their way home from a cross-country training ride claims the life of three of his horses, and leaves him without a boyfriend, without the horse he planned to take to the Olympics, and almost losing his own life.

Unbeknownst to Jake, his father's machinations in the hospital achieve severing his relationship with Rich, who was also severely injured in the accident. Eight years later, Jake is lonely, focused entirely on training up for the Olympics in Rio, and hoping he'll get another shot at the gold, even if he has nobody to share it with.

This book was an easy read, though I must say that if I weren't a horsewoman myself, I would have found it difficult to understand some of the more horse-related terms. In some cases, I thought that it might have been boring for a non-horse-crazy reader to read about the proper wrapping of a horse's legs before loading it into a trailer, or possibly wondering which part of a saddle a pommel is.

Me, I appreciated immersing myself in the world of Eventing, where not only does a rider have to master a cross-county course, but also excel in Dressage and stadium jumping. It's a hard sport, hard on your body, and hard on the horse, to gallop across uneven terrain and clear Olympic-size jumps, including drops and water jumps. It requires a lot of trust between horse and rider, and an excellent feel for your horse. All too often, either rider or horse, or both, are injured due to the difficulty of the course. At the same time, Dressage requires a perfect seat, shifting your weight and legs minutely to get the horse to change gaits, to extend from a collected trot into a forward trot, or to change hands while cantering down the center line. And on the third day, you get to canter through a stadium course full of twists and turns, while trying to clear jumps taller than yourself.

So clearly, this book appealed to me with all the horse talk. What didn't appeal was Jake's father - even though he did redeem himself in the end. I disliked him not only for his homophobia, but also for his behind-the-scenes responsibility of nearly destroying his own child's happiness.

I liked Rich a lot, the younger version who came across as so carefree, and also the older man, who still carries the scars from the accident, inside and out. I appreciated that he stood up to Jake's father, and actually got the man to see reason, eventually.

The writing flowed easily, and there weren't any major lulls in the story. The writing is also descriptive, and it was easy to imagine the visuals the author described. I liked the relationship between the two men, even though their backgrounds were as different as they could be - they worked well together, and they did talk honestly for the most part.

An enjoyable read, but I wish the book had delved a bit deeper into the changes Jake's father undergoes, as well as allowed Rich to point out the inconsistencies in Jake's behavior. It felt almost too easy in some cases, but maybe that was intentional. This is a romance, after all.

I would recommend this for lovers of M/M romance who have a bit of background in the horse world, or are willing to look up some of the specific terms they will encounter in this book.


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

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review 2016-07-03 01:50
Book Review: Puppy Love by J.R. Barten
Puppy Love - J.R. Barten

Jack hasn't had much luck with relationships, so he's recently adopted a dog named Angus, whom he adores. He's a bit taken aback when someone at the dog park accuses Angus of getting her dog pregnant. Jack's a good guy and thus offers to help with any cost and such.

This brings him to Sean who's fostering the female dog that Angus impregnated.

Jack has some self-confidence issues, likely brought on by the ex-boyfriend, but Sean has no such trouble and starts pursuing Jack.

I liked the characters, and the plot, in this novella. The writing was fine for the most part, even though the dialogue felt a bit stilted on occasion. The romance happens rather quickly, which is expected for how short the story is, but what bothered me is that Jack threw out his convictions too quickly for my taste. The "when you know, you know" didn't really work for me here.

The dogs were fun, and seeing both Jack and Sean be good doggie parents was also a positive.

I didn't like Sean's sister (the one who accuses Angus). The other sister was nice enough, I suppose, though we don't find out much about them in the book due to its shortness.

Overall a sweet story that didn't take me long to read. Enjoyable, for sure.


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

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review 2015-11-17 17:35
Book Review: Deefur Dog by RJ Scott
Deefur Dog - R.J. Scott

Fluffy and sweet tale of a widower, his young daughter and massive dog, and the male nanny he hires, who becomes so much more. An enjoyable, if too short, read. 

 

Given to me by the author at GRL2014 (Thanks, RJ). 

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