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review 2018-08-11 02:24
ARC Review: Drumbeat (Notes From Boston #3) by A.M. Leibowitz
Drumbeat - A. M. Leibowitz

This is Jamie's book. If you've read the other two books in this series (Anthem and Nightsong), you may remember Jamie as one of the roommates who shared a house with Trevor and Nate before both of them got their happy ending. He currently shares the space with Mack, but they're looking for a roommate since Trevor is all moved out and Nate spends most of his time at his fiance's place. 

Both Jamie and Mack are in a band (Jamie playing drums, evocative of the title of this book, though drumbeat has another connotation, but we'll get to that in a bit), but Jamie also works in a restaurant to make ends meet. Oh, and he's still working on coping after years of living with an abusive ex-boyfriend. Who's still contacting him all the time, and harassing him, and trying to convince him to come back. Sage, the ex, is a real piece of work, and I would have liked to wring his neck. Repeatedly. 

Jamie struggles with his past, Jamie struggles with food, and Jamie struggles to not get caught up in Sage's web again. Years of abuse have taken a toll on him, and there were moments when he's still getting caught up in expecting the worst of others, expecting others to act the same way Sage did. It's probably a form of PTSD that manifests itself in what's stored in the box underneath his bed. Vague? Yep, I know - just read the book! 

The other MC in this book is Cian, a dance instructor/teacher, who works with deaf and hearing children, one of whom is his little sister, using ASL to communicate and his cane to tap out the drumbeat (the other connotation of the title). He's an outlying part of a triad (two women, one man) who live outside of town, and while they've invited Cian to join them permanently, he's not ready to take that step. He's torn between wanting to stay in town for Jamie to see where their relationship may go, but also conscious that with the dance studio closing, he may not have a choice but to move. 

The author weaves telling us about the characters into the storyline seamlessly, and as we learn more about Jamie's and Cian's situations, the two of them meet again, as their paths cross occasionally. There's also some history between them, and their initial stance toward each other is a bit antagonistic. They have a mutual friend, Brandon, who's trying to play a bit of matchmaker, but that doesn't initially work.

Jamie also knows ASL, for reasons I won't divulge here, because you should read this book and find out.

This author has a real knack for writing real people with real issues and real problems, looking for real solutions. They are complex and flawed, with a variety of sexuality. While the two main characters are male, only Jamie is gay - Cian isn't. They felt real and relatable, and their relationship developed slowly, over time, over misunderstandings, over misgivings, over realizing that they perhaps have more in common than they initially thought. 

There are trials and tribulations, and both men need to forge paths of their own that then eventually converge and thus allow them to travel the road to their happy ending together. 

This isn't your typical M/M romance, and I knew that going in. While there is on-page sex, it's not limited to happening only between the two MCs - that's another thing you should know. I don't consider those sexual encounters cheating, as Jamie and Cian aren't together for a long while, and those encounters happen primarily before they do. Still, if you don't like your MCs getting into bed with others, this book probably isn't for you. 

Jamie has some serious issues that are far beyond the lingering problems with the abusive ex, and those issues are the cause for what becomes the climax in this book, where all the doors are flung wide open and all his secrets are shared with Cian. 

There is no happily ever after in this book (and there couldn't be) but a strong HFN and a commitment to work through their issues, to be honest and open with each other, and to deserve the trust they put into each other. Considering what this author put their characters through, I couldn't really ask for more than that.


So, recap - not your typical M/M romance, sex outside of the main relationship, realistic, flawed, complex characters, and a well-rounded plot that allows both MCs to grow - yeah, I'd recommend it. 


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

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review 2018-08-08 02:52
Release Day ARC Review: The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster
The Missing Ingredient - Brian Lancaster

About a year ago, Marcus, a busy chef in London, lost his best friend Raine in a car accident, and in one fell swoop, Raine's husband and their children as well, due to being asked to "give them time to grieve".

Marcus respected Tom's wishes, though he misses his two "nieces", never mind the grief of losing his friend and ersatz family. 

But then he runs into them by chance and realizes that Tom doesn't look like's holding it together at all, and it's obvious that Marcus is needed. He immediately steps up despite Tom's feeble protests, and soon, he's caring for the girls and taking care of Tom as well. Obviously Tom is straight, and any resurrected attraction Marcus may be feeling mustn't be acted upon. Because Tom is straight.

Or is he?

This is by design a slow burn romance, covering almost a year's worth of time, and the relationship between the two men develops realistically and organically, as Marcus and Tom and the girls start to mesh their lives together, with Tom relying on Marcus, and Marcus giving more and more of himself to prop up his late friend's family. 

There's also a bit of a side plot with the mystery of why Raine was in the location of the accident, with someone not her husband in the car. This side plot's resolution also serves as a point of conflict between Marcus and Tom, as Marcus relays to Tom what he found out, and as Tom has a hissy fit when he does. 

Tom struggles with his feelings for Marcus, and even goes so far as to attempt to deny that part of himself by showing apparent interest in dating a woman. This leads to him using Marcus' revelation of the mystery behind Raine's travel that fateful day to break off their budding romance, and mostly cut off communication. I really, really didn't like this Tom at all. I felt for him while he was coming to terms with his feelings for Marcus, but he then treated Marcus abysmally, and the man didn't deserve that at all. 

Despite the slowly developing romance, the book is actually quite fast-paced, and the pages just flew by. Marcus forgives Tom's behavior time and again, the fact that Tom is hiding him, until Tom does a really hurtful thing and Marcus has had enough. 

And then Tom comes to his senses, finally, realizes what's he lost, and makes the "grand gesture" to regain the man he loves. That scene had me a wee bit choked up. 

The epilogue - OMG! For a few moments there, I was in utter shock, not quite believing what I was reading, because seriously the epilogue is supposed to be where we get their HEA, and it just didn't seem to start out that way at all. I was all like "WTF?" and "WHY?" and then I turned the page and about died laughing. Clever, Brian Lancaster, real clever. 

The supporting cast was well-rounded, with Tom's parents, Moira and John, Tom's two daughters who were front and center but never overshadowed the relationship building, Tina, who's Marcus assistant... even some of the more minor characters who all played a role in moving the plot forward.

The book is told entirely from Marcus' third person POV, and we thus don't get a whole lot of insight into what makes Tom act the way he does, but we do see them both grow, retreat, and grow some more. In many cases, due to the circumstances, Marcus felt like the more mature of the two, even though he's 10 years Tom's junior. 

I enjoyed reading this book, and I think this would be a good choice for anyone who loves the hurt/comfort stories. Incidentally, while Tom's wife dies at the beginning of this book, it never feels as if this is simply a plot device to clear the way for Marcus and Tom - it's more that Raine's death leaves them both adrift, and they honor her memory in a myriad of ways, always mindful that they are in each other's lives because of what she meant to both of them - a wife to Tom, and Marcus' best friend, the person who's stood by him since their school days. 

Recommended.


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

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review 2018-08-07 11:00
Release Day ARC Review: Bad Behavior by K.A. Mitchell
Bad Behavior - K.A. Mitchell

This book starts off with a bang - literally - as Beach, irresponsible, immature, and full of IDGAF, meets a hot guy at a bar (where he's not really supposed to be, what with the ankle bracelet and alcohol monitor, courtesy of his dumbassery) and ends up pushed against the bathroom stall for a pounding.

I snickered a whole lot when hot guy turns out to be his probation officer. Oopsie.

Tai, a Dominant without a sub, dumps Beach off on his co-worker real fast, and tells the other man that there still can't be anything further happening between them, except Beach is used to getting his will, and Tai notices how Beach reacts to when he's given a direct command. 

Isn't that interesting, Tai thinks to himself and continues to test that theory.

I didn't like Beach in Gavin's book, because he was a spoiled brat, but I sure as heck like David Beauchamp, once the author peels back the layers that poor boy has wrapped himself in and explores his full backstory. No wonder that man is so fucked up in the head. 

The D/s aspects of their relationship completely made this novel for me. This wasn't playful kink like we saw in Bad Boyfriend, this was full-time DD/Ds, and I watched David grow into himself as he gives himself over to Tai's direction and discipline. 

Until he fucks up, and badly, and it all comes to a crashing halt. 

Because despite his growth, David still doesn't know his own worth, doesn't realize that he's worthy of being loved, doesn't understand that his fear of abandonment directs his steps until it's almost too late, because when he has to make a choice, he falters for a bit. 

Tai too has to learn here - though not quite as much as David - and he too makes some serious missteps.

I loved what the author did with Beach's character. She not only gave him room to grow (up) but also let him find that inner strength that was there all along, hidden below the layers, hidden behind that mask, hidden so deeply that David almost didn't know it was there. But it is, and I think of all the characters in this series, David grows the most. This one ranks high as one of my two favorites in this series.

As for the supporting characters, Jamie was a massive prick in this book. While I could understand the animosity due to the history there, he didn't have to be such an asshole to David. I also thought that Gavin was portrayed here as a bit more shallow than he was in his own book - again, perhaps of the history there, and how Beach almost cost him Jamie. Eventually Gavin does see the light though, and I appreciated that. 

I think this might be the end of this series, and I'm a little sad about that, but there's always the option to re-read them all. 

As for this one - loved it.


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

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review 2018-08-02 02:30
ARC Review: No Regrets by Alex Jane
No Regrets - Alex Jane

This is a really short book, but it definitely packs a punch. 

Ryan is an ex-soldier, working in a diner in a small town, keeping to himself. He stays mostly in the kitchen, and when he's not working, he's in his camper behind the diner, keeping the nightmares at bay with alcohol.

Lucas is barely twenty, quiet and shy, a regular at the diner who's caught Ryan's eye - mostly because Ryan recognizes something in the young man, primarily in the haunted eyes and the bruises on his skin.

Both men are damaged, though not beyond repair. Their relationship builds slowly, so slowly, and trust doesn't come easy, but it comes. 

The story is dark, by design, and rather angsty. The author cleverly peels back Ryan's layers one at a time, and it's not immediately clear why Ryan reacts so strongly to Lucas' plight.

The diner's owner knows of Ryan's back story, and she realizes that Lucas is in some danger, but both she and Ryan also know that they cannot step in unless Lucas asks for help. Which is why boss lady encourages Ryan to befriend Lucas to build a level of trust. She has another motive which is clear to both Ryan and this reader.

Initially, this book reads as a regular hurt/comfort kind of story, but then it takes a really dark turn with an unexpected twist. I was a bit surprised at Lucas' reaction, but I also understood that he might react that way. Yeah, I know this is vague. Deal with it by reading the book. 

I didn't like the ending. Well, let me rephrase that - I liked that Ryan and Lucas got their HEA. What I didn't like is that Ryan thinks this thing (which I'm not going to spoil here), and it sounded as if that was his reason for proposing, and if that's the case, WTF?

I enjoyed this overall, even if the ending left me scratching my head a bit and definitely sort of ruined their HEA for me. YMMV.


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

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review 2018-07-28 03:33
ARC Review: Denim by K.C. Wells
Denim - K.C. Wells

Harry is thirty-five and thinks he's no longer desirable. A bit pudgy around the middle, he has no illusion that anyone might still be interested in him. He likes his job alright, and convinces himself he's content with his life after moving back to his hometown to look after his mother before she passed away. Still living in her house, still unable to pack away her things, Harry is letting life and love pass him by.

Tony, a construction worker of similar age, sees the somewhat staid Harry and immediately perks up. Or, well, one of his appendages does. But Harry is oblivious, and Tony has to pull out all the stops to convince the other man that he's truly interested.

The author weaves a fabulous tale of two ordinary men living ordinary lives and falling extraordinarily in love. 

As the story unfolds, we learn more about the two men - Harry who has let himself go after his mother's death, who likely has low-grade depression, who has basically given up on finding anyone to love him, and who cannot believe that the hunky construction worker is actually whistling at him, and Tony, a hard worker, a good bloke, a kind man, who didn't get that memo and who thinks that Harry is the most delicious bear he's ever come across. 

Obviously, someone with low self-esteem such as Harry would be reluctant to start a relationship with a hunky bloke, and their relationship starts off very slowly. And while Tony pulls out all the stops to woo the other man into bed and into his life, Harry looks at himself and decides that eating is overrated and that he should lose a bunch of weight so he's worthy of Tony. Obviously, that doesn't go over too well, and there's a bit of drama but they actually talk about things, like mature men should, and it's not a huge stumbling block. 

KC Wells has crafted two realistic characters, and I loved how their romance unfolded. I loved how steadfast Tony was in his beliefs, how freely and courageously he put himself out there to win Harry's heart, and how Harry starts to blossom under Tony's capable hands.

There are sexy times, of course, but all of them repeatedly drove home the point that these men are falling in love, and each bedroom scene was high on their emotional connection. And with each passing day, Tony pulls Harry a bit more out of his shell, away from his safety net, into the light. 

Sweet and romantic, with little conflict and honest communication, this was a gorgeous story. I enjoyed every minute reading it, and I think you will too.

Oh, the denim from the title - Tony loves to wear jeans. To work, to dinner, to having a pint, to going dancing, Tony wears denim. And by the book's end, Harry loves to peel Tony out of his denims. 

Fabulous.


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

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