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review 2018-03-30 01:17
ARC Review: One Under by J.L. Merrow
One Under - J.L. Merrow

This book, while part of the overall Porthkennack series, is basically a continuation of the first one, Wake Up Call, which I also loved. It would probably be best to read that first, because while this one doesn't focus on the characters from the first book, they do make an appearance, and there isn't a whole lot of backstory shared here - it's assumed the reader knows who they are.

This book also had a bit of a darker, more melancholy undertone than the first one, and for good reason. 

Mal Thomas has come to Porthkennack to heal from a traumatic experience at work, that isn't fully explained early on. Believe me, though, it's horrid. While I don't have personal experience with this sort of thing, a long-time friend of mine does. He is still, after many years since that incident, struggling with the emotional and psychological aftermath. So once I found out what had happened to Mal, I fully understood where he was coming from.

Jory Roscarrock (yes, the much younger brother of Devan's mother) hasn't had an easy life so far. While he has a doctorate in English Lit from a prestigious university, he also has been living under a dark cloud for some time, partly because of his older siblings, and partly because of a youthful indiscretion that derailed much of his plans. 

Mal and Jory meet. There's attraction, when Mal, after getting a bit of bad news from home while at the town's museum, is in need of comforting and Jory, the museum curator, offers, with much social awkwardness, a cup of tea. Then Mal finds out who Jory is, and the romance nearly dies before it has a chance to blossom. 

As with all of this author's books, I definitely appreciate the very British writing style, the very British choice of words, and the very British setting. JL Merrow just manages to transport me to whatever place they write about, and I could easily visualize the stark cliffs, the dark tunnels, the grey skies, the imposing house Jory calls home, the pub, the town - everything is described in vivid details, and the reader is transported into this fictional place on the rugged coastal setting. 

Both Mal and Jory spend time worrying about the secrets they keep/kept from the other, and both wonder if a relationship between them is even worth pursuing, considering Mal lives in London and Jory cannot leave Porthkennack, for reasons. There is a lot of angst inside, and this isn't a romance that comes easily for either of them. In addition to their personal issues, there's also the issue of Mal being best friends with the aforementioned Devan - who is Jory's nephew, and who's been treated badly by Jory's siblings - which puts additional strain on the budding romance, obviously, as Mal is torn between the attraction to Jory and his loyalty to Dev. 

The plot progresses slowly, and it had to, in my opinion, because the roadblocks in their way are, while not insurmountable, definitely considerable, and this book wouldn't have worked as well for me if the author had rushed through their individual insecurities and issues they had to overcome. 

I think the lesson here is that if you want something badly enough, you have to find the will to fight for it. You have to forge the path that works for you, because ultimately the only person responsible for your own happiness is you. And if you want it, pursue it. 


** 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 2018-02-06 01:34
ARC Review: And The Next Thing You Know... by Chase Taylor Hackett
And the next Thing You Know . . . - Chase Taylor Hackett

This was freaking AWESOME!!!!

I didn't like Jeffrey (don't call him Jeff) in the first book in this series, because he came across as a pompous ass, and I don't usually have time for the arrogant, cocky, snobby, hot-shot attorney kind of person. 

But this book was delicious fun - I had a blast watching Jeffrey get cut to size by Theo. 

Let me set the stage, okay?

Jeffrey is best friends and co-workers with Rebecca who is Theo's older sister. This is important information. Theo is currently occupying his sister's fold-out couch, because his douchey sort of boyfriend has maybe found greener pastures. 

First scene, Jeffrey, still smarting from the break-up (how dare Roger leave him for Fletcher, the reformed cheater), is supposed to meet Rebecca in a restaurant for lunch and instead finds Theo at the table. Presuming that Rebecca is trying to set him up, Jeffrey informs Theo that, sadly, he's not interested in dating right now, because *sniffles* that break-up is still hurting him, but please don't take it personally, Theo, because surely you're fabulous, really. 

Theo, having no idea what Jeffrey is going on about, immediately makes mince-meat of the self-important prick who presumes to know anything about anything. 

And thus, their hate-ship is born.

The book is chockful of snark and sarcasm, and the witty back and forth between Jeffrey and Theo had me in stitches. And yet, even through my giggles, I could see a vulnerability in both of them, something they would categorically deny if asked, but simmering just beneath the surface. For all his pompousness, Jeffrey was really hurt by Roger choosing Fletcher, and for all his bravado at 5'6" and skinny, Theo was just hiding behind a mask constructed of his cutting remarks. Jeffrey is also not as cold and calculating as he likes to portray himself, even if Theo doesn't quite see it right away. That thing with the red shoelaces though - total win. And that was only icing on the Jeffrey-is-really-a-marshmallow cake. Because, see, Jeffrey doesn't even realize it himself for a long time - the super cool and collected at all times go-getter lawyer - that's a mask too. 

Shenanigans - this book had them. Snappy dialogue, self-deprecating humor, a brilliant use of the enemies-to-lovers trope, this was everything I had hoped for and more. 

Still, it's not all snark and banter aka foreplay here. Jeffrey does a crappy thing, and he knows it's a crappy thing, and he doesn't say anything about that crappy thing, even when he should have, and then it comes back to bite him in the ass. Hard. And it's the end of the Theo and Jeffrey comedy of errors. 

Well, no, not really, of course, since this is a romance, after all. When Jeffrey realizes the crappy thing was really super crappy and had some really crappy consequences, he actually for once in his life puts someone else first, no matter the consequences to himself. And Jeffrey, spoiled, rich, arrogant little boy Jeffrey grows up and becomes a real man. 

Theo too has some growing up to do. He has to learn that being short isn't the same as being helpless, but that sometimes it's okay to lean on others and let them help you. It doesn't make you a lesser person. 

I will warn you though - this book isn't politically correct or sensitive to unkind language. The author didn't pull any punches, but also succeeded in making the characters feel more realistic this way. Because, let's face it, we all have unkind thoughts towards others on occasion, that's just human nature. 

Additionally, and this is not an issue for me but may be for other readers, there is no on-page steam. While Jeffrey and Theo get it on eventually, those scenes are completely fade-to-black and mentioned only in transition to the next scene. There is plenty of chemistry though, and I had no difficulty believing that their bedroom exploits were as explosive as their hate-ship in the beginning. 

The old adage is true after all - there is but a thin line between love and hate, and the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Neither MC, despite their protestations, was indifferent to the other, and they went easily from hate to love, without meaning to, without realizing it at first, and without having planned for it. And in the process found in each other exactly that which they never knew they always wanted. 

Brilliant!

I LOVED this book. Highly recommended. 


** I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-02-01 01:49
ARC Review: Heard by A.M. Arthur
Heard: An Omegaverse Story (Breaking Free Book 3) - A.M. Arthur

This series just keeps getting better and better.

In this 3rd installment, the main couple is Jax Orris, a widowed omega who was previously mated and has a baby son from that marriage, and Karter Jenks, a young constable who had a supporting role in the previous books.

Karter has recently undergone a change of mind after witnessing Kell Iverson's trial (from book 2) and has opened his eyes to how badly many omegas are treated by alphaholes. He's slowly becoming woke and has started to rebel against his own father's conservative views. He's still relatively young, and fairly new to being a constable, so he's not looking for his mate but fate has other plans.

Jax and his baby managed to escape from an illegal fight ring where he's been held captive since shortly after his husband died. Forced to bulk up with daily protein shakes and workouts, Jax has the appearance and stature of an alpha. Homeless and penniless, he's forced to break in to homes and steal supplies for his baby and himself. And a botched surgery has also left him mute.

Karter is investigating a recent break-in and is shocked to find the young omega is his bondmate. Jax cannot believe he isn't being hauled to jail immediately upon his capture and has no intention of trusting the constable, but also cannot deny the pull he feels toward the man fate intended for him.

This book cannot be read as a standalone. While it focuses on the relationship development for the main couple as part of the plot, there is too much backstory from the previous books to make it readable on its own. Some specific plot points from the previous books are also further developed and explored in this one, and I expect that to continue into future books. The characters from the previous books all make an appearance, and it's important to know their stories to fully understand and appreciate this one.

I cried a lot. A lot, a lot. When Jax's story comes out, as he tells Karter about his time in captivity, the consequences of losing a fight, the cruel and inhumane treatment he received because of his omega status, his fears for his baby, his willpower to survive, his inner strength - I alternately cried in anger and in joy. 

The author writes with so much emotion, and the world she's built is colorful and vivid and horrifying and believable. There are parallels to be drawn to our own society. There are people fighting for equality and there are people pushing these fighters back down, to keep the status quo, to keep the oppressed under their thumbs. It's an interesting comparison to our current political climate where some folks aren't viewed as human beings by those in power, because of the color of their skin, their gender, or their sexual orientation, their country of origin or ancestry. The author created a world in which alphas hold all the power and most of the well-paying jobs, while omegas aren't even guaranteed a driver's license but expected to be the little house-husband, taking care of the kids and their alphahole's every need, including spreading their legs whenever their alpha so desires, and their own wishes and dreams don't matter none to anyone. 

These aren't easy books to read. The author doesn't shy away from being explicit in the descriptions of the violence perpetrated by alphas against helpless omegas, but she also shows that it can be different, and that a bond-mated couple can be truly in love and deeply care about each other, and that an alpha who loves his mate is capable of treating his mate with respect and dignity. 

The horror is mellowed to some degree by the love that exists between Jax and Karter, Kell and Ronin, and Braun and Tarik. That loves gives hope to others, shows them that they don't have to accept the status quo, and that the fight to make a better world for all is in everyone's best interest and totally worth it. I loved how Jax learned to communicate in sign language, and how Karter tried and tried and tried to win his trust. I loved how Karter grew into his own person in this book, how he moved past his father's views and stood up for himself and his mate and became a better person for it. I loved how supportive Kell and Braun were with Jax, how Tarik and Ronin helped where they could, and how Serge and Dex continued to be awesome friends to them all. The characters are all fully fleshed out and carefully crafted, with realistic and reasonable personalities that all felt authentic and believable. 

This was an edge-of-your-seat read from start to finish. Have tissues ready. Wine and chocolate is also useful.

Highly recommended that you read this series. The next book is going to come out soon. 


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

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review 2018-01-02 01:46
ARC Review: Saint And The Sinner by Sam Burns
Saint and the Sinner - Sam Burns
In this 4th book in the Wilde Love series, we finally get Owen and Mickey's story. I had an inkling in book 2 that they would eventually get their own book, because when I read Keegan's book (Sins Of The Father), there was an undercurrent of want I could see from Owen and Mickey toward each other, so I hoped. And the author delivered.

This book can be read as a standalone, though why you wouldn't read the whole series is beyond me, and it also feels as if this is the last book, as it seems to wrap up any leftover questions and open issues.

Mickey Martin is Owen Quinn's father's 2nd in command, more or less, having worked for Brendan Quinn since he was fifteen years old, owing his life and his livelihood to the man, and is basically a member of the family by now. Brendan is ill, and it looks as if Mickey will be asked to take over to run the Quinn mob syndicate. Mickey, who is also best friends with Keegan, has had the hots for Owen for a long time, but he also knows that nothing will come off it, as Owen is out of his league, and he's been fighting his feelings for the younger man for a long time. A string of girlfriends led to nothing much, because Mickey can never fully commit himself to anyone,since Owen unknowingly holds his heart. Even if he knows the boy deserves so much better than a thug like himself. Or so he thinks.

Owen is in love with Mickey, and has been since he was but a teenager. He doesn't think that the older man will ever love him, and he's basically resigned himself to not ever getting the man he wants. Owen still lives in his father's house, but is not involved at all in the criminal business side, though he reaps the fruits of that illicit labor since it pays for his education and lifestyle. He's disdainful of his father's thugs, except for Mickey, of course. He knows that his dream of joining the FBI will never come to fruition because of who his father is. 

At the core of this book is the juxtaposition of these two characters - how can Owen love a man who represents all that he abhors, and how can Mickey pursue a romantic relationship with the son of his employer, his best friend's little brother? There is angst and drama, of course, though little of it stems from the criminal activities - while there is some of the crime aspect present, it's not the focus of this book. Most of the drama within is based on the two men's differences and their different stations in life, their assumptions and inability to see a future in which they can be together. There is never a question of the veracity of their feelings or the strength thereof - they love each other wholeheartedly - but neither sees a way to overcome what stands in their way.

What is also remarkable about this series is how well the author fleshed out her characters. Not just the main ones, but also all the secondary and supporting characters, and how carefully she has crafted their individual relationships and contributions to the plot. The deep love of a father for his sons, despite misunderstandings, hard feelings, and controversies, permeates this book, and Brendan's sacrifice at the very end only cemented my admiration for him - even if he can be ruthless and cold in his business dealings, I always knew he loved his children, no matter what. 

If this is truly the last book in this series, it is a fitting ending. I closed the book on my e-reader with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart. 

Read this series - I implore you. While Sam Burns may be a fairly new author, her books have a fascinating cast of characters, with complexities and flaws that make them realistic and relatable. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **
 
 

 

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review 2017-08-25 01:43
ARC Review: Barging In by Josephine Myles
Barging In - Josephine Myles

Ah, I just adore Jo Myles' books. They're so very British, and I just love that. 

I'd never heard of Narrowboats before this book. I'd no idea that there are people in Britain who live on these skinny boats, slowly moving up and down the rivers and canals through the country-side. I'd no clue that you can rent such a boat for a holiday. Until I googled that, and wow - there's apparently a ton of these boats, no wider than a few feet, on which you can live and cook and sleep. 

Robin, one of our MCs, owns such a boat, and he's basically hiding himself away after heartache and heartbreak, unwilling to risk his heart ever again. Love? Pshaw - who needs it?

On the other side, we have Dan, a London-based travel writer and self-proclaimed slut (one-night-stand-Dan), whose latest assignment is writing a story about the Narrowboat culture. He knows not a darn thing about boats, including the one he's rented, which is how he meets Robin. 

Boats collide, two very different men collide, and - dare we hope - hearts collide as well.

With her typical British humor, Jo Myles creates a fabulous romance against a background of lazy canals, penniless boaters scraping by, and the ever so beautiful English countryside, where two men, both different and alike in so many ways, literally bump into each other and tentatively, carefully, dare to reach out and learn that what they believed to be true might not be true after all.

With a fabulous supporting cast (other boaters, a land-locked curmudgeon, a randy old geezer, and Robin's errant cat), this book paints a gorgeous picture of what life is like when you live on a boat, and presents you with two imperfect, somewhat damaged MCs who are, beyond their wildest dreams, perfect for each other. Their banter had me in stitches, the sexy times were smoking, and their rather rough road to their love story, no matter how much they might fight their feelings and hurt each other in the process before kissing and making up, made me want to root for them, and in the end left me with a huge smile on my face.

I love Jo Myles' books. Recommended!



** I received a free copy of this book from the author via Signal Boost Promotions. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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