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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 01:12
ARC Review: Satin by KC Wells
Satin (A Material World Book 2) - K.C. Wells,Meredith Russell

The 2nd in this fabulous series, Satin can be read as a standalone. 

Joel Hunter is a DC (Detective Constable) on a surveillance job with his partner Trish, in a bar/lounge, hoping that the owner comes by so he can be arrested.

The stakeout is going fine, but then Joel is rather distracted when Satin takes the stage - a beautiful singer whose sultry voice nearly puts Joel under a spell. 

Shortly thereafter, with the bar owner locked up and the stakeout over, but unable to get Satin out of his mind, the smitten DC goes back to the bar to listen to Satin again. 

And Satin makes her move.

Except, Satin is really Ross Dauntry, a female impersonator and aspiring ballet dancer. Joel gets over his shock pretty quickly and agrees to meet Ross for coffee, as friends. Joel has until now identified as straight, and any previous attraction to a man has never been acted upon. He is confused at the attraction but also doesn't feel any shame or massive angst. He is willing to explore this thing with Ross, even if they only end up as friends.

Obviously, Joel isn't as straight as he thinks he is. Things get steamy pretty quick, and there's very little angst in this book, other than Ross wondering if Joel is attracted to him or to Satin, and Joel taking a bit of time to make peace with his attraction to Ross. The sexy times are not only steamy but seriously sensuous, and I contemplated taking a cold shower after each scene. There's one in the ballet studio where Ross trains... holy hot boysecks, Batman!

Of course, there's a bit of a conflict there too, and Ross' roommate didn't do him any favors with her interrogation of Joel, but I understood where she was coming from. Joel struggles with how to be in a relationship and his feelings for Ross, while Ross falls quickly but also realizes that he might set himself up for heartbreak. 

Trish was a great character - supportive and not afraid to call Joel on his bullshit when he needed it.

There's a scene towards the end - gah! Nope, not gonna tell you what happens. You should read this for yourself and experience the same kind of swooning I did. 

KC Wells' personal brand of magic shines through in every word in this book. This was fabulous, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'm pretty damn sure you will too.

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-07-17 02:22
ARC Review: Smitty's Sheriff (Hope #3) by Cardeno C.
Smitty's Sheriff: A May December Contemporary Romance (Hope Collection) - Cardeno C.

It pains me to no end to have to give such a low rating to a CC novel, but I hated Richard in this book, and the romance here was not what I expected.

I quite liked Todd, and I really wanted him to fall for someone not Richard, someone who deserved him, but I guess the heart wants what the heart wants.

Todd is in his early 20s, and six months ago, Richard, the town's sheriff, broke off their three year hidden relationship for no apparent reason. Just no longer called or came by. Todd doesn't know why, and he's still carrying a torch for the sheriff, but doesn't know how to get him back. 

At 41, Richard is considerably older than Todd and a condescending, judgmental, stuck-up ass. He likes to be in charge, but he also looked down his nose at the younger man, his carefree, somewhat flighty personality, and didn't consider it appropriate to be known as "the grocery boy's booty call". Say what now? >.<

Both suffer from a serious lack of communication with each other, with Richard being averse to Todd sleeping with others, and Todd not knowing that Richard wants a committed relationship, when Richard never even hinted at it. When you're someone's secret booty call, the message they're sending is not one of commitment. 

But then Todd's sister needs a babysitter (how convenient), and since Todd couldn't possibly handle the baby by himself, he's expected to move into Richard's place to get help with his niece. I didn't like Todd's sister either. She older than Todd and closer in age to Richard, and they BOTH treated Todd like he's just a fuck-up.

But he's not. And I guess as Richard sees a more grown-up, responsible side of Todd, he has to reconsider his actions and maybe realize that he was wrong. Only he doesn't really think he was wrong, and it takes Todd telling him what he didn't consider for Richard to pull his head out of his ass.

The book makes it sound like Richard misses Todd as much as Todd missed Richard, but jealousy and distrust don't make a good foundation for a relationship, and for Todd to feel as if he has to justify himself all the damn time, and for him to offer Richard access to his phone so Richard can verify that Todd is not sneaking around with other men - UGH, NO!

CC's usual writing style of course shines through here, which is why I finished the book, because the fluff and hot sexy times are all there, but the romance was definitely lacking, and I don't have high hopes that these two will ride off into the sunset together. 

If you love CC's books, I hope you'll give this a try. You never know - it might work for you, even though it didn't for me. 

 



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

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review 2017-07-16 02:58
Release Day ARC Review: All In (Wild Cards #3) by Ava Drake
All In (Dreamspun Desires Book 38) - Ava Drake

On his way back to NYC to attend the meet-sees hoping for a job or three, Zane Stryker, fashion model, nearly 30, is detained at the airport because his suitcase was flagged for possible contraband. Inside the interrogation room, Zane meets Sebastian Gigoni, formerly British Special Forces, who asks that he opens the suitcase.

Inside are two metal tablets and a suit - none of which belong to Zane. 

From there, the story takes off as Sebastian and Zane try to work together, though their goals may be at odds, in foiling the plan of the international crime syndicate from the previous installment of this loosely connected series, with a little help from one of Zane's friends, Sebastian's brains, Zane's ability to think on his feet, and the super-sekrit British organization for which Sebastian now works. All while falling in love, because this is a romance, after all. 

The reader needs to suspend disbelief for most of the novel - realistic, this is not. However, it's definitely a fun ride, in and out of the bedroom. There's intrigue, mystery, an inside look at a fashion shoot, bad mob-like dudes with guns, good dudes with guns, a couple of major crime bosses, and a super hawt romance as well.

The attraction between Zane and Sebastian burns brightly from the start, and this book is probably one of the raunchier titles in the Dreamspun Desires series. I'm not complaining, hahaha. The sexy times were hawt! 

Seriously, I had a blast reading this, and I think you will too. This can be read as a standalone, no problem, but I think to get the full impact, you'll want to read the first two books as well. The writing is crisp and well-suited to the story, and there wasn't a dull moment to be found within. 

Nicely 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 2017-07-14 00:53
ARC Review: M4M by Rick R. Reed
M4M - Rick R. Reed

This book is told in three parts/novellas and span about 10 years of Ethan's life.

We start off with VGL Male Seeks Same, in which Ethan, in his early 40s, has lost hope of ever finding someone to build a life with. He's tired of the bar scene and his empty bed. When he overhears a younger colleague at his job talking about a website to meet other men, he's intrigued and signs up. At first, he doesn't get any bites, but when he changes his profile picture to that of a fabulous hunky silver fox, his profile gets a ton of responses. Including one from a hot guy named Brian. 

This story really drove home the point that looks can and do fade and what matters are the personalities and compatibility of two people in a relationship, as well as the fact that many people on dating sites will focus more on looks and less so on the actual person behind the profile. And that lies have a way of catching up with you. 

I quite liked this - 4 stars.

In NEGUB2, Ethan goes for a routine HIV test and is told that it came back positive. Knowing he hasn't had sex with anyone but Brian recently, Ethan is immediately convinced that Brian has to have infected him. He stops responding to emails and texts and avoids his boyfriend while he grapples with his new reality. Needing an outlet, Ethan starts a blog "Off To See The Wizard Of Poz", in which he shares his fears and muses on what the future will hold. I really liked the blogposts that were included for this, but I hated Ethan for jumping to conclusions and the utter lack of trust he displays in Brian. It frustrated me that he would immediately suspect Brian of infecting him, and it took the advice of a co-worker for Ethan to pull his head out of his ass and talk to Brian. Still, considering that this novella kept me glued to the pages, I give it 4 stars also.

In the third novella, Status Updates, we catch up with Ethan 8 years later. And the moment I found out what had to happen for this novella to take shape, I was mad. I understood why the author did what he did, but I hated it nonetheless. Sure, it brings Ethan's story full circle, and it was beautifully written and really brought out the author's ability to write realistic emotions, which is why it's getting the 5 stars it deserves, but I was so upset at Ethan being alone again that I actually cried. Ethan's grief was heartbreaking. 

I thought that the entire trilogy was very realistically written. The character of Ethan was beautifully done, and while I didn't always agree with his actions and reactions, he did feel real to me. He could be that guy I saw the other day at the grocery story, looking a little sad, while filling his basket with groceries for one. 

It's not a grand romance, but there is love inside, real love, and loss, too. And it begs the question - is it better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?


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

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