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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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review 2016-05-25 19:17
ARC Review: Crossing Borders by Z.A. Maxfield
Crossing Borders - Z.A. Maxfield

First off, my apologies to the author and the publisher for being super late to the party. I read this book back when I first got it on Netgalley, and then it just sat there in my Currently Reading pile, until I pulled it back up and read it again. 

 

There were lots of things I liked about this book, and lots of things I didn't.

What I liked:

Tristan's family, and Michael's mother - they were all great and worked well in their supporting roles.

The funny moments, such as Tristan's plan at Borders, Michael's obvious interest, especially that it's not obvious to Tristan. Their banter. Tristan's blushing. The Thanksgiving dinner.

Some parts of their relationship.

The flow of the story - no major lulls, no huge time jumps until the epilogue.

The romance, for the most part.

That Tristan calls Michael "Officer Helmet". To his face. I snickered a lot whenever that phrase was used.

What I didn't like:

Michael calling Tristan Sparky all the time, and that Tristan had to keep reminding him not to. "You light me up" wasn't a good enough reason for me. Also, seriously? That was your reason, Officer Helmet?

The fact that they get matching tattoos so quickly. Slightly weirded out by that. While I somewhat understood Tristan's burning need to get his, considering the circumstances, I found it slightly creepy when Michael did it. Even if he got his first.

The irrationally quick ILYs. Seriously. Tristan is 19, and while he may be more mature due to his familial circumstances, I didn't buy it as much as I may have wanted to. Also, he only just came to the realization that he's gay, Michael is his first non-het relationship, and he's still mourning what he considers the loss of what he grew up expecting to have - marriage, kids, and such. Not that this is an issue anymore, but when this book was written, same-sex marriage was but a dream for most.

The repetitive harping on safe sex, OMG, to the point where I thought this was turning into an ad for condom use. I'm all for using condoms when having actual intercourse, het or otherwise, but your chances of catching anything bad from oral sex are so slim that the use of latex, which was emphasized over and over again in this book, was a little off-putting. Tristan wasn't a super slut - he may have had sex with girls before, but there was no indication that he didn't use condoms when he did, and there was no reason for Officer Helmet to be so adamant about latex use during oral sex. At least not to me. And the fact that Michael in one scene bites his lip to the point of drawing blood, and then Tristan kisses him, TASTING THE BLOOD - yeah... I call BS on the insistence on using condoms. HIV isn't transmitted by seminal fluid only, you know.

Ron, the ex-boyfriend/lover, family friend, whatever. First, he's introduced as a bad memory of sorts, but then he inserts himself back into Michael's life, like a worm, for a reason that isn't clear, which makes him look and feel like a creepy old man, and then he becomes buddies with Tristan and decides he has the right to dole out unsolicited advice, and then turns into the catalyst for the almost-break-up. WTF? Rude!

The cover - while it's certainly cute, it doesn't fit the image of Tristan depicted within this book. Where's the long hair? Supposedly it's long enough for a pony tail. Not what we're seeing on the cover. Meh.

********

Overall, considering this was, from the looks of it, ZA Maxfield's first published book, even if this is the same book in its revisited format, it wasn't a bad read, not at all. I can see though that the author has grown by leaps and bounds since then, and that this book shouldn't be used a measure of her writing prowess. It's uneven in parts, and, IMHO, it's not her best work. The emotions often feel either forced or utterly OTT, and I still, even after reading it twice, have issues believing the romance between Officer Helmet and Sparky.

Maybe I'm just old and cynical. *shrugs*


** 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 2016-03-31 00:47
ARC Review: Forgive And Forget by Charlie Cochet
Forgive and Forget (Dreamspun Desires Book 7) - Charlie Cochet

I liked the plot. Not that it was a huge mystery as to who "Tom" turned out to be, but I liked it anyway.

I liked both main characters. Joe is in his later 30s, and a baker, with a small bakery/cafe over which he lives, and where he bakes his pies, in 18 different flavors. Heck, I didn't realize there was this much variety in pie, but just reading about them made me want some. Joe runs his pie bakery with two teenagers (Donnie and Elsie) and and older lady named Bea. I liked them too. I liked how Bea was like a mother figure.

But even if he proclaims that he's happy with his life, Joe is lonely. After a bad break-up, he seems to have given up on men, and he doesn't want to do anything other than baking pies and run his small cafe.

Then Joe stumbles upon an injured, bloodied man in the courtyard/garden beside his bakery. Being a kind soul, Joe takes the man inside to clean him up and offer him shelter. The fact that the man is super hot once all that blood is washed off is an added bonus, of course.

Except the man does not know who he is, what he's doing in the garden, or where he came from. Nor who injured him. What he does know is that Joe mustn't call the police. He's adamant that he can't go to the police or even to a hospital. They settle on "Tom" as his temporary name.

This being a romance novel in the Dreamspun Desires series, it's very clear from the start that Joe and "Tom" will fall in love. The fun is watching them get there. There's not a whole lot of steam on page, but this was also expected and thus didn't detract from the story.

What bothered me a little is that Joe often came across as younger than his years, that he was in some aspects a little immature (seriously, who sticks their head into an oven?), and perhaps insecure, possibly due to the treatment he received by the nasty ex who for some reason also got screen time. He was the archetypal jerk, and didn't add anything to the plot or the progression of it.

There were some fun moments and some really sweet moments, and... well, read it yourself, because I don't want to spoil things. You'll say awww much like I did, I'm sure.

Not one of my favorites from this series, this was still an enjoyable read and a good way to spend a few hours. Slightly OTT, but then most of the books in this series are. That's what makes them fun, amirite?


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

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