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review 2017-09-25 00:56
ARC Review: Pins And Needles by A.J. Thomas
Pins and Needles - A.J. Thomas

This is only my 2nd book by this author. The title is apt - I was on pins and needles for most of the time while reading this excellent story of suspense, intrigue, and romance among the ruins. 

Okay, so that latter part is a bit hyperbole - there are no actual ruins, per se. What is in ruins however is a promising career, a father/son relationship, and an invention that could revolutionize a part of the oil industry.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

This is a complex story, and it would behoove the reader to read slowly and carefully, much in line with the slow progression of the story. As it is so often the case, all is not what it seems, and it takes some time to untangle the many threads that make up this particular plot.

The book begins by introducing us to Nate Delany, a young lawyer working for his father's well-known company, who is basically the do-boy for another lawyer, and whose briefs, as eloquent and well-researched as they are, are not getting credited to him, but the "supervising" attorney. Nate is frustrated, especially as his father doesn't seem to realize that the brilliant briefs "written by" the supervising attorney are actually his son's work and believes that Nate is just a slacker, unable to run the company himself. At the end of his rope, Nate quits. 

On his way out, his assistant gives him the name and number of a man who had an appointment with the supervising attorney, but who was apparently deemed too rough, with too many tattoos, to warrant the jerk's time. 

Nate makes a call. Nate makes a visit to the hospital where he meets Sean Wilkinson, whose former foster father Hawk was the man rejected by Nate's father's lawyer. As Nate hears what happened to Sean, he can't help but be intrigued by the young man who after a terrible accident lost not only his leg, but also his livelihood and his career as a petroleum engineer.

Hounded by his employer's lawyers to agree to a ridiculous settlement after the accident, Sean needs someone in his corner to help him navigate these new rough waters. And Nate is just the guy to do that.

Both MCs have their own personal struggles and rather different personality-wise. 

Sean, with his difficult early life and rough upbringing, isn't quick to trust anyone and plays his cards rather close to his chest. He's not only a brilliant engineer, but also a fantastic tattoo artist, who learned the craft in his foster father's shop. Hawk is perhaps the closest thing to a real father Sean has, and their relationship is very close and supportive. He doesn't have any close friends; in fact even the people with whom he spent months at sea don't really know him at all, including his boss, with whom Sean has had an affair since he interned with the company at 19. 

Nate, on the other hand, had a rather normal, if affluent, childhood and appears to most people as someone who had everything handed to him - with his last name being so well-known and the assumptions which come with that. His personal struggles aren't as obvious, but they're just as real. Nate has to prove himself repeatedly at his father's company, more so really than any other newly minted attorney would have to, because he's his father's son. In addition, his parents have more or less forsaken him because their older son is a bigot and doesn't want his children or his wife anywhere near Nate. Since, you know, homosexuality clearly rubs off and we must think of the children. For years, Nate hasn't been able to spend holidayrs or any quality time with his family; it's as if he's been erased. No photographs of Nate are displayed at their house - it's as if he doesn't even exist. His name isn't ever mentioned around the older son, and his brother's kids have zero relationship with him. 

Taking on Sean as his first client after quitting his father's firm seems like a great idea at the time, even if it's just fighting for Sean to get the biggest possible settlement for the accident that cost him one of his legs, but there's a lot more to their case than just that. See, Sean invented something that's been used on the ship, and the case now also involves intellectual property rights. 

And someone may be out to kill Sean to silence him.

The romance that develops between Nate and Sean is by design a super slow burn. Not only is Sean seriously injured and still recovering from the accident, but he's also Nate's client, and there are a bunch of ethical issues to consider before the two of them can be together. As an added detriment, when Nate tries to find another law firm to represent Sean and remove the ethics issue, he finds that many firms will not even consider taking him on, because of who Nate's father is. No matter how brightly the attraction burns between them, Nate must first and foremost consider that any romantic relationship they might have could adversely impact Sean's day in court. 

Underneath all the suspense and intrigue, the point this book drives home time and again is that of family. Not necessarily the one you're born into, but the one you choose, the one you make for yourself. And for that, Sean had a great example in Hawk, his mother's ex-boyfriend, who took him in, no questions asked, when Sean was kicked out at home for being gay. A man who never asked for anything but was there time and again when Sean needed him. A man who not only gave him a home but also a way of paying the bills, when he taught him the fine art of tattooing. Nate has an example too, really - that of how NOT to treat your family. While I believe his parents loved him, they never even considered how hurtful their behavior was when they excluded Nate to appease their older son's homophobia and bigotry. 

My only niggle came toward the end of the book, during the big reveal as to who was behind all the bad things that happened. It felt a little over the top, and the villain really came out of left field, to be honest. Sure, the explanation made sense, but the way it all went down was a little... too much, I guess. 

Still, this was definitely an enjoyable read, with a satisfying HFN, and I would recommend you give this book a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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

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review 2017-07-10 01:36
ARC Review: Straight From The Heart by Sam Burns
Straight from the Heart (Wilde Love Book 1) - Sam Burns

Very impressive debut novel! 

We are first introduced to Alex, 23 and a little naive, who has just defied his mother and dropped out of college, after which she has kicked him out to couch-surf with his friends from his band and cut off his cash-flow. Undeterred, Alex takes his box of things and his guitar and his last bit of cash to celebrate his freedom in the local bar. While there, a little drunk, he's almost mugged but saved by a hot hunk named Liam, and Alex has an epiphany while being pressed against Liam - yep, he's gay. 

As his Liam. Alex wastes no time wallowing in angst, embraces what he's feeling, and goes home with Liam. Who's a perfect gentleman and doesn't take advantage of the slightly younger and much drunker man. 

And that's basically the first couple of chapters. From there, the story takes off, and the author does a great job mixing the suspense with the budding romance between Alex and Liam. Except Liam isn't exactly who he says he is, but he's mostly honest with Alex about all the things he can be honest about.

The relationship between Alex and Liam develops quickly, and love is rather insta, but I didn't care, because the two characters just made me want them to succeed. And the drama/intrigue plot is action-packed and had me more often than not on the edge of my seat. 

I suspended disbelief on occasion, but the unrealistic moments didn't bother me all that much. What felt real are the complex characters. Not only in Alex and Liam, but also the supporting cast. Alex's bandmates (one of whom will also get a book, I'm told), the crime-boss Liam works for, and his son were fully fleshed out and not just cardboard characters. The villain was perhaps slightly over the top, but that was to be expected. 

Alex as a baby-gay was well done, and I suppose I chalked it off to his age and lack of romancing girls before that there was little angst for him when his body reacted to Liam's hot bod saving the day. He just accepted it, though I would think he had to have had some inklings before. Jumping feet first into exploring his sexuality, with Liam as a willing subject, burning up the sheets - oh yeah, that was fun to read.

Alex's best friend and bandmate Jake has a confession too, and there's a little bit of drama when they come out to each other, but Jake definitely has Alex's back, and is a bit suspicious of Liam at first. 

I don't want to give away the plot itself, and don't want to spoil the experience for anyone, but I will say this: If you like romance mixed with suspense and action, and you like when two men just completely fall for each other and make it work against the odds, this book is for you.

I cannot wait for Keegan's story - that's coming next. Sign me up!!

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

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review 2016-11-08 01:01
ARC Review: Settling The Score by Eden Winters
Settling the Score - Eden Winters

Joey, a small-town mechanic, is counting down the days until he can follow his almost-famous actor boyfriend to Hollywood. He's got his plane ticket booked and can't wait to get out of his hometown, where nobody knows he's gay.

Except, the boyfriend not only dumps him, but also outs him during an interview on national TV, a program watched by nearly everyone in the town. Including Joey's family. While he's with them. Luckily, they are supportive and kind, and sort of build a wall around him to protect him from the town's nosiness and backlash. Small town homophobia is alive and well in their neighbors, but Joey's family is steadfast, and not afraid to stand up for him.

Immediately, reporters flock to the small town, wanting to get a scoop, and basically ambush the poor young man, who's heartbroken over this betrayal.

And only realizes that the now ex-boyfriend has also cleaned out his bank accounts, when the town's sheriff pays him a visit.

Somewhere on the South Carolina coast, Troy Steele, aka Oren Keller, knows only too well what Joey is going through. He had his own heartbreak years ago. He's also an author, and just happens to be writing a story that seems to imitate Joey's life, to some extent.

Together with his PA Erica , Troy hatches a plan to offer Joey a way out of the scrutiny - become Troy's personal real-life research project for the book he's writing.

At this point, I was reminded a bit of My Fair Lady, with Joey getting a makeover, being forced to join a gym and work out, and wearing fancier clothes than he's used to. And being offered a chance at pay-back.

However, what may have started out as a revenge plot, for both Troy and Joey, slowly turns into a romance, as the men spend time together, with Joey answering questions about his feelings, and Troy using the answers to work on his book.

The author gave them lots of time to fall in love, and this is a rather slow burn story. There are very few steamy scenes, which worked really well here. Joey isn't someone who'd fall in bed with another man immediately, and Troy is still, after many years, wary of letting anyone into his heart.

I loved Erica. She pressures Troy into joining Joey at the gym, something that wasn't in their original agreement, and is overall a really great character. She doesn't take crap from Troy either, and was basically a force to be reckoned with. So fun!

Eden Winters always delivers. Her characters are complex and fully fleshed out. Her books have to be read slowly, because there are so many subtle undertones that are easily missed.

There are humorous elements too, one scene specifically late in the book where Big Joe plies Troy/Oren with his special brand of moonshine, that had me howling with laughter, though I giggled quite a bit throughout the book.

I loved Joey and Troy/Oren both. Joey is kind, trusting, and just so sweet - I wanted to wrap him in a hug most of the time. Troy/Oren is a bit prickly early on, primarily because he's been hurt so bad, and betrayed by his former lover, and doesn't trust easily anymore, but he softens over the course of the book, and comes to find that revenge is no longer all that he's after.

Troy's plan offers Joey a chance to get even with the ex, something that Joey is partially looking forward to, and partially questioning. There's anger simmering underneath the nice demeanor, and he eventually gets to say what's he's been wanting to say.

And even Troy gets his revenge, too.

A truly delightful story, and one that I enjoyed quite a bit. Eden Winters has a very distinct writing style, one well suited to this kind of story. The plot flows nicely, without any lulls or big time jumps, and there was something interesting happening on each page, whether it was a humorous moment, such as Troy in the gym, complaining, or a more somber moment, such as Joey dealing with the fallout from his ex's betrayal, and his worry how being outed was impacting his family.


** I received a free copy of this book as part of a blogtour from Indigo Marketing and Design. A review was not promised in return. **

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review 2016-11-04 20:17
ARC Review: If I Should Stumble (Tork & Adam #3) by Claire Davis and Al Stewart
If I Should Stumble (Tork and Adam Book 3) - Claire Davis,Al Stewart

There's no way I can write an adequate review for this book. Apologies, dear authors, but you have slayed me with this.

But I'll try. I'll try to tell you why you should run, as fast as Kaz runs inside the pages of this book, to get yourself a copy as soon as you possibly can. I'll try to tell you why I cried all the tears, why my heart is broken yet repaired, and why you should read this book.

Because there is a young man inside who needs you to listen to his story, even though he doesn't have the words to tell it to you himself. Because words. They can change your life in a moment, and Kaz only knows that too well.

Kaz can run. He can run fast, and he's told to run and not look back, to run and run and run toward the headlights because if he stops, they might catch him and kill him. Because they know. They know he's different, they know he's not like the others, and they hate him for it. They might not stop at killing just him, they might kill his family too. His parents. His sister.

So Kaz runs. He's been running from his war-torn, homophobic country, he's been running from his would-be killers, from the life he knew, where he had friends and university and Coach and family. Even now, in the UK in a refugee house, he's still running because the horrors he's seen along the way are haunting him.

He's alone, so alone. He's drowning in regrets, in guilt, in grief, in shame, and then he drowns the pain with cheap cider. And stuff - a broken stroller, beads, pool noodles, coats, single shoes - all the stuff he needed while he was running from the only home he ever knew, but didn't have, which would have helped him and helped to save the ones he couldn't save.

He puts on a happy face, smiles and says all the right things that people expect to hear. Outwardly, he's fine, adjusting to his new life, doing what he's told. Always a "please" and a "thank you", and "it's an awesome day" on his lips.

But inside, there's guilt. Grief. Shame. Terror. And pain, so much overwhelming pain.

But there's Tork, too. Tork who shines so brightly in this book, who's so supportive, who sees what Kaz cannot put into words. There's Adam too, who's still a bit of a dick, but who loves Tork.

And there's Zack, who doesn't think much of himself because he's overweight and likes to eat, but who also sees Kaz. Sees him, patiently offers his shoulder and his ear and his heart on his sleeve to the boy who's running from everything. Zack, whose soft body and sweet cakes get Kaz to slow down and then stop running. Get him to open up, to allow the words Kaz has held inside for so long to bubble out. Zack who stops the rooftops from spinning, Zack who rights the tilt of Kaz' world.

As much as Kaz needs Zack, so does Zack need Kaz. They find each other, and they're never letting go.

I cannot imagine the horrors Kaz has seen on his journey, nor would I want to. Innocent lives lost. Desperation that sends you into the waves again and again to try to save the child that slipped from your arms as you crossed a sea in a rickety overloaded boat. Running as fast as you can just to have a chance to live. And then not knowing how to stop running, because what you've seen will haunt you for the rest of your life.

So, this is my review. It isn't good enough, not even close, but I don't have better words. I will beg you though to get this book and read it. Maybe read it a few times. There aren't many I'd take with me to a deserted island, out of all the many books I've read, but this is surely one of them.

It's... everything.

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

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review 2016-11-01 11:00
ARC Review: The Outfielders by Robert P. Rowe
The Outfielders - Robert P. Rowe

Really cute friends-to-lovers story. If the implied possible GFY in the blurb is keeping you from buying this book - don't worry, there's no GFY here at all. None.


Tony is 24, stuck in a dead-end job working for the local big box store that has driven all the small business out of their little town, and still living at home. Both have crushed his dreams of college and coming out to his parents. He plays baseball on a small team with friends he's known since high school, and lusts after his straight best friend Alex, also 24, when he thinks no one is looking.


And he loves to bake cookies. Lots and lots of cookies that he brings to the baseball games, and pretends his "girlfriend" made, so nobody will know that he's a gay man who bakes cookies. He bakes cookies when he's upset, or frustrated, or thinking too much. Rocky Road cookies. Oatmeal Raisin cookies. Chocolate chip cookies with coconut. Lots. And. Lots. Of. Cookies.


He has a beard of sorts, his friend Jennifer, who's officially his girlfriend, just to keep any rumors at bay, because Tony can't come out. Jennifer knows all about Tony's lust for Alex, and comes up with a plan to get them together - Tony just needs to get Alex alone, and convince him that, since all guys are horny, and if something should happen, Alex is just gay for Tony.


Right. That's not creepy at all.


Tony is not convinced that this plan will work - he foresees a black eye and possibly broken bones, if he were to make a move on this straight friend, and then lose his best friend, and he's not keen on that idea either. But he reads the book Jennifer gives him, which is about two men who live in a small town and play on the same baseball team. Like, a book within a book, with some similarities to Tony's situation.


The rest of the book is a comedy of errors and misunderstandings and false assumptions. I laughed a lot. Tony is soooo oblivious. He should win an award for how very oblivious he is. This was also where I had a bit of a niggle, because he sounded so much younger than his 24 years, and I had a hard time believing that anyone could be so blind. However, considering the fact that Tony, much like Alex, still lives at home because of the dead-end job and no college money, it's not completely infeasible to still be not quite an adult and sound like not quite an adult.


But whatever, I enjoyed this book a lot, and I laughed and laughed, like during the camping trip, or whenever Alex's snarky younger brother is in the scene, or when Zach tries to put the moves on Tony, and Alex is upset, and Tony doesn't get it.


I laughed and laughed and laughed when Tony finds out that his big "gay" secret isn't so secret after all, and when Alex and Tony finally get their acts together and show up at the baseball game with huge smiles on their faces (I'm sure you can guess why), "skipping like schoolgirls", I smiled too.


This is a fun rom-com, with lots of likable characters, a religious nut mom who gets put in her place, supportive parents (except that one), and friends who love our MCs just the way they are, and who might have been keeping secrets of sorts themselves.


Also, baseball. Hot players in uniforms. Fun!


I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves rom-com; just ignore the fact that the MCs sound a bit younger than their actual years.


Good stuff. This was the author's sophomore offering, and I can't wait to see what else he'll come up with. Sign me up!!


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


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