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review 2018-02-20 01:16
Release Day ARC Review: Teaching Ben by Shae Connor
Teaching Ben (Dreamspun Desires Book 52) - Shae Connor

Ben Cooper put in his time with the military, but at 24 is now looking for a fresh start, using his GI bill to attend college in Savannah, GA. And finally step out of the closet. 

David Powell is a TA in Ben's class, same age as Ben, but obviously off-limits due to his status. David also had some struggles in his past, but has tried hard to stay away from temptation and stay the course. 

The attraction is immediate, but neither can act on it, thus there is lots of UST in this book, and the romance is super slow burn. David and Ben become friends, and as they learn more about each other, and secrets are revealed, their friendship, while platonic, becomes even stronger. 

I liked how the author gave Ben room to expand his horizons, how she let him spread his wings, away from his commandeering father, away from the rigors and structure of the Air Force, building the life he wants to live. 

David made a huge mistake once and it cost him dearly. He's making up for it, but he also knows that he cannot step a single foot out of line, no matter how attracted he is to Ben. The author did a fine job fleshing out his character and giving him a background story that felt realistic and believable in how much it still impacted his life. 

Told alternatively from Ben's and David's point-of-view, we get a well-rounded story with a believable plot that even had a bit of suspense, though the villain of the story was rather clear from the get-go and the suspense was more in how this particular piece of the plot would unfold and impact their budding relationship. 

As with all the books in this series, there is little explicit steam on page, which is fine as far as I'm concerned. I much rather read about the relationship development, and how the two MCs get to their HEA than about what they do in the bedroom. I much rather see an emotional connection develop more so that a romp in the sheets, and I got that here. Ben and David really clicked, like they were meant to find each other, with both of them having had to struggle to get to this point in their lives, which meant that they were more aware of what they found and thus more protective of it. 

I enjoyed reading this. 


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

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review 2018-02-16 01:49
ARC Review: Wolf And The Holly (Rowan Harbor Circle #2) by Sam Burns
Wolf and the Holly (The Rowan Harbor Cycle Book 2) - Sam Burns

In this 2nd book in her new series, Sam Burns gives us Jesse Hunter, brother to Wade, childhood friend to Devon, reluctant would-be Alpha wolf, who came back to Rowan Harbor five years ago after dropping out of college for reasons not entirely clear and has been sort of drifting along aimlessly ever since. He's the accountant for many of the business owners in town, still lives with his parents and doesn't want to take his mother's place on the town council.

The night before his 30th birthday, which is where the book opens, we find Jesse in the bar with friends, trying out one of Cassidy's new concoctions and generally feeling a little sorry for himself. The evening is interrupted when a rogue vampire named Sol enters the bar. He's known to both Cassidy and Max and warned immediately to not feed from humans, but register with the bloodbank. 

Jesse has a bad feeling about the new vamp - he smells wrong, and Jesse's wolfy nose is still perfectly functional, no matter how much he tries to deny the wolf inside. 

As Jesse leaves the bar and walks home, he smells blood in an alley way. Thinking the rogue vamp may have struck, he investigates and find his childhood friend Isla slumped at the end of the alley, unconscious and bleeding from a head wound. 

Thus the author has set the scene for what follows, and Jesse can no longer deny his instincts - the wolf wants free to protect his family and friends. 

This is billed as a paranormal romance, and there is a romance inside as Jesse finds his mate in Sean Anderson, who recently returned to take over the flower shop in town (a unique place, you'll see). The romance however takes a backseat as the paranormal and suspense parts of the plot unfold. 

The whole story is told from Jesse's POV. Sinister forces may be at work, and Jesse must use his wits and overcome his reluctance to figure out what is going on and how to stop it and who's behind it all. I still had questions at the end, and can barely contain my excitement at the prospect of book 3.

Most of the world-building was taken care of in the first book, and these cannot be read as standalones - don't even try. A lot of the background information provided in book 1 is needed to understand the dynamics and the events in this book, and I expect that the subsequent books will be no different. The author calls this a trilogy of trilogies so these must be read in order as well. There is also no HEA for Jesse and Sean in this book, only a HFN, which made sense to me because they have only JUST found each other. I also like very much that while there is a mating pull at work, the couples aren't automatically in love - they still need to learn about each other and forge a relationship. 

This book is alternatively edge of your seat intense and giggly fun (such as when Jesse gets zapped by Sean, as I knew he would), but there are also parts that really showcased the author's talent in creating fully fleshed-out characters, who are flawed and complex and don't always have their act together. Jesse's self-doubts, his fears, and the reason he's denied his wolf for so long - there were moments when I wanted to either shake him to pull his head out of his rear end or hug him and tell him that yes, he could become what he was meant to be. 

None of these characters are perfect, not Devon whose anger can make buildings shake, nor Wade who can be a bit grumpy, nor Isla who has been running for years for reasons explained within, nor Jesse, the wolf who left to find his place in the world, only to realize that his rightful place is home in Rowan Harbor, doing what he was born to do. 

The townsfolk have interesting dynamics. Some made me laugh and some made me think - especially since not all is as it seems at first. So well done.

At the very end, the author cleverly sets up the events to come in book 3 - I cannot wait. Is it March yet?



** I received a free copy of this book as part of a review tour, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. **

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review 2018-02-11 00:59
ARC Review: Blackbird In The Reeds by Sam Burns
Blackbird in the Reeds (The Rowan Harbor Cycle Book 1) - Sam Burns

This, ladies and gents, this is how you write the first book in a new series. The world-building and character development in this book are absolutely fabulous. There is absolutely no info dump. Each piece of new information is revealed via the plot progression, and while I still had no idea what was actually going on at about 30% in, I couldn't wait to find out.

Devon Murphy, from whose 3rd person POV the story is told, rushes home to Rowan Harbor, Oregon, at the request of his grandmother. Who never asks for anything. Some years ago, Devon fled his hometown because everyone knew everyone, and everyone had their nose in everyone else's business. But now Gran needs him, and Devon rushes home. He's in such a rush that he gets into a car accident not far from town and comes face to face with a massive wolf. 

I'm not going to give away the plot - you should read this book yourself to find out what happens within. I will however tell you that this series is planned for 9 books, and I cannot wait to devour each one. This author mixes a suspenseful whodunit with a paranormal romance, and it all fit exceptionally well together. I was on the edge of my seat more often than not, and grinned and giggled when Devon gets zapped by Wade Hunter, and then comes to terms with what that means. 

Supernatural politics? A town council? The Knit Nights? Devon being treated like the town's long lost son, without having any idea why? Each step forward in unraveling the mystery surrounding this small coastal town only poses more questions, with some hinting at things to come in future books.

The romance itself was more subdued and doesn't really come to fruition until the latter part of the book, which made sense to me, considering the many things Devon has to explore and figure out. While there was some mating compulsion at play here, there was no insta-love, and while the book doesn't end on a cliffhanger, there's no HEA - obviously. I did believe though that Devon and Wade will get their happy ending, once the series runs its course, and I had no doubt whatsoever that they are truly in love, but still need to learn so much about each other. 

This author is quickly becoming one of my favorites. The first series, Wilde Love, was obviously very different from this one, but Sam Burns is an author to watch and I will gladly read anything they decide to publish. 

Fabulous, just fabulous. Go get yourself a copy, stat!

 

 

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

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review 2018-02-09 02:47
ARC Review: Cinderella In The Sheets by Reece Pine
Cinderella in the Sheets - Reece Pine

This was superficially cute and engaging, and I had a good time reading it. For those readers looking to spend a few hours with a comfortable read, this book would be a good choice.

For me personally, this didn't reach the depths I usually expect from a romance novel. The idea behind the book is that Presley, step-son to the Republican President of the United States, whom he regards as evil (though no reason is really given, other than the guy being Republican and thus presumably homophobic, which explains why Presley is in the closet), therefore Presley has only anonymous sex with escorts who are provided by Rico, a member of his security team. As part of the anonymity, Presley wears a blind-fold before, during, and after sexy times so his hook-up du jour can't recognize him. Which means that while he's in a hotel room alone with the escort, HE CANNOT SEE. 

Stupid and dangerous? You bet. 

Presley is tired of traveling all over the country trying to win over other Republicans to his way of thinking, no matter how stealthily (since he has evil step-daddy in the White House), and when he finds out that his latest escort wasn't an escort after all (thanks, Rico), he moves heaven and earth, and his entire security team, to find the guy. Because this was more than a fuck and run, and Presley might have fallen harder than he thought possible.

The title of the book is misleading. Neither Presley nor the escort are Cinderfellas by any means, and any real similarity to the real Cinderella story is rather far-fetched. While Cinderfella leaves his glasses in Presley's room, in a nod to the glass slipper, that's about the only thing that felt somewhat familiar.

I think this would have worked better for me if the presumed Cinderfella was actually poor and/or in distress, or the one with the evil step-mother or step-father, but that wasn't the case here. Unfortunately, due to the plot, the MCs spend most of the book apart, and I had a difficult time believing that Presley had truly fallen in love to the point of not leaving any stone unmoved to find his man. 

The search for Cinderfella was the best part of the book, and the snarky banter between Rico and the head of Presley's security detail was fun. Like I said, I had a good time reading this book. I would have liked a bit more character development, and I would have liked to know a bit more about Louis the Cinderfella, other than how sweet and considerate he was. The HEA was cute, though I would have liked for Presley to grow a bit more of a backbone than he did. 

This was a fun albeit not very deep read. 

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

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review 2018-02-09 01:34
ARC Review: Autumn Fire by Cameron D. James
Autumn Fire - Cameron D. James

Dustin, our narrator, doesn't believe in love. Definitely not lasting gay love. He's young, full of cum, and enjoys anonymous hook-ups since they allow him to remain in the closet. Of course, fate has other ideas, and Dustin's latest blow-and-go, in the university library men's room of all places, leaves him questioning whether his current choices are the right ones. He cannot get this particular hook-up out of his mind, and when he meets him again in the form of his algebra tutor, Dustin is pulled in further.

He tries and tries to get Kyle out of his system by having more meaningless sex with others, which only confirms the feeling of missing something in his life. Namely Kyle. Who is not gay, no, sirree, nope.

There's also Jason, his straight roommate, and Jason's girlfriend (she's actually really sweet). Jason calls Dustin "buddy" all. The. Damn. Time. That quickly grated on my nerves. Props to Jason though for being supportive after Dustin comes out to him and generally trying to be a good friend. 

About 1/2 of the book is taken up by explicit sex scenes, most of which are Dustin with other people. Not exactly what I'm looking for in a romance, but I dealt, since this is billed as erotica more so than a general M/M romance. It surely wasn't cheating since Dustin and Kyle aren't together at the time, considering that Kyle has made it clear he's not willing to do that again, and each subsequent hook-up does drive home the change in Dustin - he now realizes how empty hook-ups are and wants to be in a relationship, and he's possibly in love with Kyle. 

The writing isn't terrible overall, but the dialogue often felt contrived and stilted. However, there were definitely moments when I thought that the author did a fine job bringing Dustin's confusion and longing across. 

The only character that felt sufficiently fleshed out for me was Dustin himself, which makes sense as he's the one telling the story, so we don't get a whole lot of real info on Kyle, other than what Kyle shares in dialogue. Some scenes felt rushed and lacking depth, and some were drawn out to the point that I started skimming. 

I guess I wanted a more meaty story than what I got here. It had so much potential - peer pressure, fear of coming out, first love, figuring out who you are and what you want, risking your heart... all those things sounded promising in the blurb, but sadly, the story didn't delve deep enough for me. I was on board with Kyle's fears and as he hems and haws his way out of the closet, but then the sudden switch at the end was too rapid for me to be believable. 

YMMV. There is definitely an audience for this book, so don't let my personal hang-ups scare you off giving this a try.


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

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