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review 2017-10-16 00:47
Release Day ARC review: The Fireman's Pole by Sue Brown
The Fireman's Pole - Sue Brown

This book is pure fluff. Which, let's be honest, fits perfectly within the Dreamspun Desires titles. And the cheeky title - hahahaha!

Here we have Dale, a firefighter who recently moved into the little village of Calminster, still smarting from a bad break-up with his closeted, cheating ex, hoping to lick his wounds and put his hopes and dreams for that relationship behind him. Unwilling to be in the closet himself, he's open about his sexuality, but has no aspirations to find himself another boyfriend.

Called out for a fire on his first shift, he manages to rescue the homeowner, a sweet elderly woman, and draw the ire of his Lordship at the same time. Shortly thereafter, he backs the big fire engine into the maypole, which was originally erected by his Lordship's great-great-grandfather. So, having blown his opportunity for making a good first impression, Dale offers to fix the pole in hopes to calm down Ben, Lord Calminster, who is behaving like an ass both during the fire and after Dale's unfortunate mishap with the big fire truck and the maypole. 

Don't expect any kind of realistic or believable relationship development - there's none. 

Ben, the lord of the manor, has kept his own sexuality hidden to the point where he's got a girlfriend/beard. Of course, he takes one look at our hunky firefighter, feels the stirring in his loins and finds the backbone to break things off with the woman he's been dating. 

Dale was a nice guy, and I liked him. Ben, once he removed the stick from his ass, was a nice guy too. I liked him fine as well. 

It's just that nothing here between Ben and Dale felt anything close to realistic. Dale states that he's still hurting from the break-up and doesn't want to fall in bed with yet another closeted man, but then shortly thereafter dismisses that notion and jumps right in with Ben. 

Ben apparently, after meeting and tongue-lashing Dale twice, is willing to risk a whole lot for the possibility of being with Dale. Perhaps exchanging angry words with the firefighter turns him on. 

There's a bit of mystery here with someone unknown setting fires all over the village, a subplot that culminates in an edge of your seat sequence of events that not only casts Dale as a hero again but also firmly pulls Ben right out of that closet for good. 

Since I usually suspend disbelief whenever I read one of the Dreamspun Desires titles and don't expect anything realistic, I didn't mind the rapid development of the romantic relationship. What I did mind however is that we're merely told these two men have the hots for each other - we're not actually shown that they do - so this book ended up in three star territory. Sure, there are sexy times within, but I didn't really feel their passion - I was only told about it.

Still an enjoyable read that fits perfectly within this harlequin-esque series. 


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

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review 2017-07-17 02:22
ARC Review: Smitty's Sheriff (Hope #3) by Cardeno C.
Smitty's Sheriff: A May December Contemporary Romance (Hope Collection) - Cardeno C.

It pains me to no end to have to give such a low rating to a CC novel, but I hated Richard in this book, and the romance here was not what I expected.

I quite liked Todd, and I really wanted him to fall for someone not Richard, someone who deserved him, but I guess the heart wants what the heart wants.

Todd is in his early 20s, and six months ago, Richard, the town's sheriff, broke off their three year hidden relationship for no apparent reason. Just no longer called or came by. Todd doesn't know why, and he's still carrying a torch for the sheriff, but doesn't know how to get him back. 

At 41, Richard is considerably older than Todd and a condescending, judgmental, stuck-up ass. He likes to be in charge, but he also looked down his nose at the younger man, his carefree, somewhat flighty personality, and didn't consider it appropriate to be known as "the grocery boy's booty call". Say what now? >.<

Both suffer from a serious lack of communication with each other, with Richard being averse to Todd sleeping with others, and Todd not knowing that Richard wants a committed relationship, when Richard never even hinted at it. When you're someone's secret booty call, the message they're sending is not one of commitment. 

But then Todd's sister needs a babysitter (how convenient), and since Todd couldn't possibly handle the baby by himself, he's expected to move into Richard's place to get help with his niece. I didn't like Todd's sister either. She older than Todd and closer in age to Richard, and they BOTH treated Todd like he's just a fuck-up.

But he's not. And I guess as Richard sees a more grown-up, responsible side of Todd, he has to reconsider his actions and maybe realize that he was wrong. Only he doesn't really think he was wrong, and it takes Todd telling him what he didn't consider for Richard to pull his head out of his ass.

The book makes it sound like Richard misses Todd as much as Todd missed Richard, but jealousy and distrust don't make a good foundation for a relationship, and for Todd to feel as if he has to justify himself all the damn time, and for him to offer Richard access to his phone so Richard can verify that Todd is not sneaking around with other men - UGH, NO!

CC's usual writing style of course shines through here, which is why I finished the book, because the fluff and hot sexy times are all there, but the romance was definitely lacking, and I don't have high hopes that these two will ride off into the sunset together. 

If you love CC's books, I hope you'll give this a try. You never know - it might work for you, even though it didn't for me. 

 



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

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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 2016-07-04 01:38
ARC Review: What Remains by Garrett Leigh
What Remains - Garrett Leigh

What can I say about this book that hasn't been said yet by other reviewers?

Garrett Leigh knows how to write angsty stories, no doubt about that. I also loved, loved, loved that she didn't go the route I almost expected at the end there, because this story was better for it this way.

The book asks the question: If your memories are wiped out after an accident, and you no longer remember the one you love, what remains? What is left and how do you rebuild?

Jodi and Rupert have been together for four years, living in Jodi's place. Rupert has a daughter from a previous marriage, and Jodi has an ex-girlfriend with whom they are both friends. They're happy, they're in love. Life is good.

Until it isn't. Jodi has an accident resulting in a traumatic brain injury that wipes out his memories of the past 5 years. He has no recollection of Rupert or their life together, and expects to still be in a relationship with Sophie, the ex-girlfriend.

The story of the before is told in flashbacks, and the aftermath of Jodi's memory loss is primarily seen from Rupert's point of view.

What impressed me most here was how realistic this story is - we see Rupert's struggle to come to terms with what suddenly is, and how he tries to cope and fight to regain what he's lost. We see Jodi struggle as well, learning to live again, realizing that he's lost so much time and that nothing is the way he thinks.

I liked that Rupert tried his best to let Jodi discover things on his own, and that he never pushed, or gave up. Watching Jodi rediscover parts of himself that he had forgotten was breathtaking. This is a true romance, a gorgeous love story, twice over. Jodi and Rupert just fit together, and their story doesn't end with Jodi's memory loss - it begins again.

Their happy ending is hard won indeed, achieved through sheer determination and hard work, and a love that will not be suppressed.

Beautifully written, high on emotions, I couldn't put this down for any length of time. Recommended!


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

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review 2016-06-15 05:00
Release Day ARC Review: Undercover Boyfriend by Jacob Z. Flores
Undercover Boyfriend (Dreamspun Desires Book 12) - Jacob Z. Flores

Jacob Flores really hit it out of the park with this one. Snark, romance, and a fabulous whodunit plot kept me riveted to the pages of this book until it was suddenly over.

I adored this. Fast-paced, with giggle-snort inducing zingers (Luke aka Tim delivers them in such a fun way), two well-done main characters, a great supporting cast, character growth, a believable albeit quick romance with lots of sweet and hot moments, and a great HFN - you couldn't ask for more.

Marty Valdez tends to make up stories, and people, when he feels pressured. And nothing adds more pressure than his mami expecting a real-life boyfriend instead of the one he invented after breaking up with a toxic ex. Except his mami doesn't know the ex is toxic, so Marty made up his underwear cover model boyfriend to fend her off and stopping her from praising the ex's virtues to him. A super hot model boyfriend who doesn't exist. Whom he's now expected to bring to his sister's wedding.

It's fortuitous that Marty drops his lucky coin and Luke Myers/Tim happens to pick it up. Luke is an undercover FBI agent whose cover got blown and who needs to lay low for a while. Pretending to be an underwear model isn't a far stretch, and Luke/Tim more or less invites himself to Marty's home, agreeing to pretend to be the elusive boyfriend.

Meeting the family has never been so much fun. Including the toxic ex, who gets his ass handed to him, in spectacular fashion.

Meanwhile, the attraction between the two men sizzles hotter than a Jalapeno.

Meanwhile, also somewhere in Mexico, a drug lord doesn't like that Luke/Tim has messed around in his business.

I really liked the suspense plot that was effortlessly written into this romance. I couldn't put this book down for any length of time, because I needed to know what would happen next. The climax was brilliant and hit me right out of left field. Well done, Jacob.

Highly recommended!



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

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