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review 2017-04-27 01:56
Release Day ARC Review: Vodka And Handcuffs by Brandon Witt
Vodka & Handcuffs (Mary's Boys Book 2) - Brandon Witt

The title of this book, much like the first one in this series, plays on the occupations of the two MCs - one a bartender, the other a cop.

Vahin, the bartender, is Muslim, and from India, and gay, and out, which has caused him to be shunned by his family. Marlon, the cop, is black, also gay, but deep in the closet. His partner on the beat is basically a Jeff Sessions wannabe - a racist, homophobic, xenophobic asshole first class, who thinks he can do what he wants because his daddy is a Senator. He's also universally hated by all, including the Chief, and only assigned to Marlon because the Chief figured it'd be best to pair the asshole with his best cop.

Marlon meets Vahin at Hamburger Mary's, they have a night of drunken fun, mostly off-page, and then shit hits the fan, what with the racist cop partner trying to frame Vahin and arrest him, and Marlon being involuntarily outed, and ... yeah... none of it is pretty. This is not a fluffy book. The blurb is a bit misleading. Okay, maybe a lot misleading. Don't expect a fluffy, easy read.

The only real fun on page is when ManDonna struts her stuff - I flove her! She takes no shit, and she will hand you your balls, and you'll thank her for it.

I didn't quite believe the romance in the time line used, and while we get a HFN, I wasn't sure that things were going to last - perhaps we'll see how that goes in a future installment for this series. I do want them to last, I do. I just have doubts that their still fresh relationship can survive the roadblocks that will continue to be in their way, despite marriage equality, and despite the tide slowly turning in their favor. I want to believe that Denver is a bit more enlightened when it comes to racism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

I think this might have worked a little better for me if the book had been longer and had taken the time to really delve into the issues, and perhaps stretch out the time frame a little bit more. The issues raised here are definitely hot topics, and I was a little disappointed that Marlon's forced coming out, and that loathsome, filthy, evil, little cockroach partner's despicable actions weren't given adequate resolutions. Perhaps that is fitting after all - in today's political climate, what with the current administration in the White House, and the "values" for which they stand, it's certainly possible to look at this and realize that, yeah, there won't be any adequate resolutions to homophobia, xenophobia, and blatant racism, until we've gotten rid of the pestilence in orange that empowered this pond scum to strut around with their ignorant flags and "white power" bullshit.

Kudos to this author for making his main characters non-white. I wish there were more books that did that. There is a message within this book too - as a POC, you have to stand up for yourself every damn day, against hatred, against persecution, against blatant ignorance, and if you're POC and gay, your resilience will be tested time and again in triplicate. I commend the author for touching on these difficult subjects with honesty and sensitivity.

The author also sets up the next book toward the end, which will feature Zachary aka Ariel Merman. I had my heart in my throat while reading that bit, and I need the next book, like, now.

This series is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, and that's primarily due to what it isn't - lighthearted fluff. I want to read books that deal with current affairs, and this one definitely does.

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

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review 2017-04-18 01:58
ARC Review: Wake Up Call by JL Merrow
Wake Up Call - J.L. Merrow

I can always count on this author to write a really British book. Wake Up Call is no exception in that. What is different in this book is that while I'm used to JL Merrow writing humorous and thus lighter fare, this book has a melancholy and painful undertone throughout.

First, there's Devan Thompson, a car mechanic, who's come to Porthkennack on the Cornwall coast to find someone he's wanted to meet all his life -

the mother who gave him up for adoption at birth

(spoiler show)

. He's decided that he's going to

track her down and ask her why she did what she did. Basically, he's planning to force the woman to give him a reason, without any thought to what may have led her to the decision

(spoiler show)

, so I wasn't really on his side from the start.

Still, Devan is a good chap, and this becomes clear when he runs into Kyle Anthony, who's lived in Porthkennack for a few months and already has a reputation as the town drunk, as he tends to pass out in inappropriate places. There's a reason for this - Kyle has been diagnosed with narcolepsy, but refuses to seek treatment, and hasn't even told his parents about the diagnosis. The condition has so far cost him his job as a barrister (that's English for attorney), his boyfriend, and he's built a bunch of walls around himself, needing nobody and no one. Or so he tells himself.

Devan makes no assumptions, even when told not to bother, with a sneer to boot, and merely stands guard over a passed out Kyle until the other man wakes up again. Attraction is immediate, and they begin spending time together. Devan's personality comes out in droves, and his compassion and easy-going manner have Kyle second-guessing his decision to keep everyone at bay and living life as a recluse in his house on the cliffs.

I'm not going to tell you the whole plot here - you should read this book and have the full experience - but I will tell you that there's humor and banter and very British English throughout the book, with interesting, complex, fully realized characters who both struggle with their lot in life and have serious doubts about what they might have to offer a partner - what with Kyle's narcolepsy and Devan's being a simple car mechanic. Their budding relationship is not smooth sailing, and there are instances when they both walk away in anger, with slamming doors and hurt feelings. Kyle came across as a bit whiny on occasion - while I understood his frustration with his condition, I didn't quite understand why a grown man would choose to hide himself away, instead of facing the issue head-on. I also lacked sympathy for Devan on occasion, especially when it came to his quest for answers, because it felt supremely selfish to me. It was only when he was given the true reason that he got some clarity on his motivations, and almost grew up before my very eyes.

There are supporting characters too, the most prominent being Ceri, a waitress in the local cafe, to whom Devan takes a liking and with whom he also starts spending time. She's an interesting character, cynical and blunt, but has her reasons for being that way. I liked her a lot - she didn't take crap from anyone, and she made Devan think. There's no romantic interest here for either - but they do become friends. Sort of.

The plot flows easily, and while the romance between Devan and Kyle is rather quiet and languid, there are passionate moments within as well. For the most part, the melancholy undertones persist, as Devan finds out more about

his mother

(spoiler show)

, and Ceri's backstory, and Kyle faces a decision on what to do about the narcolepsy.

The pace picks up a bit toward the ending of the book as Devan's little sister gets herself into a tight spot, and both Devan and Kyle rush to London to help out. This leads to Devan's doubts raising their ugly heads again which... well, you read this for yourself.

The primary location of this book was chosen really well - an old fishing village, with possibly pirates and smugglers in its history, with rocky cliffs and hidden tunnels, which now depends primarily on tourism to support its residents.

The ending felt a little rushed, especially since the subplot with Devan's sister was resolved so quickly, but we did get a fabulous epilogue, so I was happy with that.

Overall, this was a great first book in this series, and I'm keen to check out the others.

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

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review 2017-04-16 01:02
ARC Review: Relationship Status by K.A. Mitchell
Relationship Status - K.A. Mitchell

This obviously had the potential to be super-angsty, especially when we were in Wyatt's head, but it wasn't. It was mostly delightful to revisit Ethan and Wyatt and watch them find their way to a happily ever after. Also, the epilogue was like icing on the happy cake.

This is the third book in this trilogy, and it shouldn't be read as a standalone. It's actually best, now that book 3 is published, to read them all back to back.

I do love Ethan and Wyatt, even though they can be complicated, immature and annoying, and as a couple, they have the potential to crash and burn, but both of them are committed to their relationship. They struggle, of course, especially since Ethan doesn't always understand what drives Wyatt, and how his history continues to influence the decisions he makes, and how he sees himself. Wyatt comes across as resentful on occasion that Ethan's life to date has been fairly easy, and seemingly forgets that Ethan has been hurt too.

Some of the issues felt forced to me, though I liked that Wyatt didn't freeze out Ethan this time around as he had in the past, when Ethan does something immature. Part of me was also hoping that Ethan would have grown up a bit more in this book, but that wasn't always the case. I never doubted that he thought Wyatt hung the moon, but Ethan does on occasion come across as rather immature. I realize they're both still very young, so maybe I should cut them some slack.

In this book, they're also not living in dorms anymore - they're renting a room in a crappy apartment for the summer while doing internships - so this newfound freedom and privacy translates into lots and lots of sexy times, though, while definitely hot, there were so many that I started skimming them toward the end.

It also occurred to me during my reading of this book that this trilogy might have worked better overall if the three books had been released as one large volume, because neither book 1 nor book 2 really told the whole story. There is growth for both Wyatt and Ethan in this final book, which I appreciated, and they're better at being adults than in the first two, but Ethan still tends to fall back on his parents, whereas Wyatt doesn't really have that option. His uncle is still in the picture, and there's some additional plot around that, which I thought was rather well done, even if it felt like a bit much - it did highlight that Wyatt and Ethan do work as a couple, and that Ethan has a really good heart, and that Wyatt has finally started believing that they have a future.

Overall, this book was a fitting ending to this trilogy, and I enjoyed reading 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 2017-04-16 00:25
ARC Review: Forgotten Paradise by Shira Anthony
Forgotten Paradise (Dreamspun Desires Book 32) - Shira Anthony

This book made lovely use of the amnesia trope - with a twist, albeit one that was (un)intentionally revealed fairly early on.

Adam Preston is a programmer by heart and a computer business owner by trade. Having taken over the company his father built after Dad's untimely demise, he now has Entech, a giant, ruthless company, after his business and his brains. At odds with his younger brother, and stressed from having to deal with a merger he doesn't want, Adam takes his sister's advice and take a week's vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Where he meets Jonah James, who's lived on the island for the last 10 years after washing up on its shore without any memory of his former life. He's managed to become a Diving Instructor, and now leads groups of or individuals tourists on dives around the island. Any time he tries to remember his past, he's hit by massive headaches and mostly doesn't even try anymore. Except spending time with Adam seems to lift the murky veils that cover his past, and Jonah starts to get glimpses of events of who he might have been before.

The first half of the story describes what they presume is just a vacation fling - picnics on the beach, diving, spending time together as much as possible, talking to each other about whatever comes to mind, and realizing that the feelings they're developing may be more than just a fling. On Adam's last night, they finally fall into bed together and burn up the sheets.

The second half of the book deals with the fallout of Jonah regaining his memory (nothing like a night of great sex to get that clarity, amirite), and that changes the dynamic completely.

Adam finds out on the news that what they had joked about during an evening at the beach is actually true, and (view spoiler).

Which brings us to the second trope utilized in this book - getting a second chance. Jonah, upon regaining his memories, and reliving the event that caused him to ultimately wash up on the beach, uses this as a turning point in his life and begins to make amends, realizing that chasing success ruthlessly isn't all that life's about. There's a subplot here too with his business partner that for a while there causes Adam and Jonah's romance to fully derail.

Adam too has a chance to change - especially the relationship he has with his brother - and look at things differently. He's heartbroken, of course, thinking that he's lost Jonah, but deals with the pain as best as he can.

The author did a fabulous job realizing fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters in this book and allowed them to grow as well. Set against a gorgeous backdrop, the romance was absolutely believable, even if Jonah's background story is pretty unrealistic, but I expect that from the books in this series. I very much enjoyed reading this, especially as the author seamlessly weaves in fun facts about diving as well.

Obviously, this has a HEA - it wouldn't be a Dreamspun Desires title without. 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 2017-04-12 12:43
The Bane Chronicles-Various Authors
The Bane Chronicles - Cassandra Clare,Sarah Rees Brennan,Maureen Johnson

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