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review 2017-05-22 01:37
ARC Review: Michael, Reinvented by Diana Copland
Michael, Reinvented (Delta Restorations Book 2) - Diana Copland

4.5 stars for this 2nd installment in the Delta Restorations series!

 

First off, this shouldn't be read as a standalone. That's not to say that you couldn't - you just shouldn't. I think that to understand the progression of Michael and Gil's relationship, you should have read "David, Renewed", because the underlying UST between the two men develops in book 1, and is carried to its explosive conclusion in this book.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Michael is still David's assistant, and since David is still happily in love with Jackson (now living in the same house), and since Jackson and his band of merry men have formed a renovation company, with David slated as the interior designer, Michael still sees Gil on a fairly regular basis. Their relationship consists of a lot of teasing (on Gil's side) and a lot of "the lady doth protest too much" on Michael's side.

See, Michael is scared to admit to himself and anyone else that he's attracted to Gil, and that Gil possibly has the power to get past the brick walls Michael has erected around his heart due to past hurt. Therefore, Michael thinks that as long as he keeps Gil at bay and does not allow the man close, he'll be safe. So he snarks a lot. A lot. A whole lot. I giggled quite a bit at Michael's prickly responses to Gil's pursuit, knowing that it was inevitable, and just sat back to enjoy the ride to bliss.

Except the unknown entity from the first book who seems to be hellbent on hurting Michael's friends and business partners is still lurking in the bushes, and there's still the threat of David's abusive ex coming back to wreak more havoc, and when Michael is house-sitting for David and Jackson and finds a vandal outside of the house, his first call is not to the police but Gil.

Wonder why.

There's a lot more to Gil than Michael realized, and slowly but surely, as Michael discovers more about who Gil really is, his opinion of the man is changing, and Michael sees that maybe, just maybe, it's safe to be honest with himself and acknowledge with his head that what his heart has known for a while.

And just when Michael seems ready to take that step, tragedy strikes.

Nothing like a wake-up call to get your act together, is there?

I adored Gil - he was such a good, kind, and super patient guy, someone with a somewhat gruff exterior but a heart of gold. And Michael, prickly, hurt, and scared Michael, just grows on you - I realized in the first book that he must have had some real heartache in his life to become so standoffish and hide himself from what is definitely a good thing.

I can't say enough good things about the writing - super smooth and engaging, without any lulls or abrupt time jumps, with excellent pacing. While the book is told entirely from Michael's POV, and while Michael is a bit of an unreliable narrator, we get plenty of between the lines information about Gil. Michael may not always understand what makes Gil tick, but it's always very clear what Gil's priorities are, and how much he loves Michael, even if Michael refuses to see it.

Obviously, the men from Delta Restorations all make multiple appearances here, so we get to revisit with Vern, an older man with a rough exterior, (pretend-)grouchy most of the time, and Manny, who comes a bit more out of his shell in this book, but who still carries the scars from a previous relationship inside and out. I do hope that Manny's book will be next, because he sure as hell deserves someone who loves him fully and completely. Hopefully, that person will be Vern. I loved the easy banter between the group of men, and it was clear that they all respect each other and have formed a strong, supportive friendship.

This was a wonderful continuation of this series, and I can hardly wait to read the next book. Extra kudos for including the Velveteen Rabbit in this story - brilliant idea and execution, and thanks so much for making me cry.

One niggle - a neurologist isn't the same as a neurosurgeon, and these terms cannot be used interchangeably. I'm not sure if this was a research fail or an editing fail, but hopefully this was fixed in the final version.

Highly recommended that you pick up this book and its predecessor.


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

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review 2017-05-02 00:18
Release Day ARC Review: The Perils Of Intimacy by Rick R. Reed
The Perils of Intimacy - Rick R. Reed

"I'm Jimmy, and I'm an addict." 

Two years ago, Jimmy and Mark met for a night of sex. Jimmy was high on crystal meth and hoped to steal whatever he could find in Mark's home to feed his addiction, and Mark was feeding a different addiction, one he doesn't admit to himself until toward the end of this book.

That night changed both of them - it set Jimmy onto his path to beat his relationship with "Tina", and it destroyed Mark's trust in people.

They've both been alone since.

Now two years later, Jimmy works in a small restaurant, and Mark works a job he's good at but doesn't like. Both have a close friend, someone they can go to for advice or just to listen. In Jimmy's case, it's his roommate Kevin. For Mark, it's his co-worker Don.

And Jimmy also has Miriam, his sponsor for N.A. She's but a phone call away, whenever he needs her. There's a point in the book where... actually, no. I'm not going to tell. Read this for yourself.

Seriously, read this book. It's written in the first person present tense, switching between Jimmy's and Mark's POV, over the course of about a week, as the two men meet (again), and embark on a real relationship, with real intimacy. Which requires Jimmy to come clean to Mark about who he is and who he was two years prior. And you hope that he does before Mark figures it out himself. You hope, and you watch, and you sit there, all tense, because you know, you just know, that would be too easy, and OMG, Jimmy, tell him, TELL HIM, and then...

The writing is brilliant, and this may be the best book I've read by this author. It's not meaningless fluff. It's not just a romance - it's so much more. It touches on difficult subjects, and it makes very clear the point that once an addict, always an addict - recovery is an ongoing process, and you're never fully cured. It takes a hard look at the difference between intimacy and sex, and that neither is dependent on the other. Forgiveness is hard - merely saying the words doesn't make it so in your heart, and Mark has to struggle to get to the point where he can look at Jimmy and truly forgive him. And Jimmy has to forgive himself too.

Love will find you when you're ready - but first and foremost, you have to love yourself. And at the beginning of this book, and when they first met, neither Mark nor Jimmy were ready for this truth.

I'd like to quote Miriam here, because she really drives home the point:

 

Love yourself, Jimmy. With all your heart. That’s the only way you’ll ever find real happiness. We all make mistakes. [...] mistakes are the soil we grow from. Every mistake, every bad thing we did shouldn’t be a regret, because everything we do is simply one more step on our journey. Without the mistakes, we’d never grow.


There are quite a few poignant moments in this book (and one that shocked me), and the author takes an unflinching and very realistic look at what addictions will do to good people, and how many of them never get the chance to pull themselves out of the morass. But addictions come in various forms, and Mark has to learn that lesson too.

I LOVED this book. It made me think, it made me feel, and there were quite a few times when my heart was in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. It's a thing of beauty, this book, and I would highly recommend it.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the release tour. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-05-01 22:17
Release Day ARC Review: Stage Two by Ariel Tachna
Stage Two (Dreamspun Desires Book 33) - Ariel Tachna

This is the 3rd book in the Lexington Lovers series, as well as an installment of the Dreamspun Desires titles.

I liked this a lot. A whole lot. It's about family, second chances, learning to trust, and learning how to stand up for what you believe, even if it hurts you. It's about how sometimes teenagers are smarter than you are, and maybe you ought to listen to them.

Blake Barnes is a high school assistant principal and charged with the sophomores. Two of his newest students, two brothers who've recently lost their mother after losing their father when they were much younger, are being harassed by their classmates. When the bullying escalates and the two boys, Kit and Phillip, end up in his office, he comes face to face with Thane Dalton, the boys' guardian/uncle and Blake's teenage crush.

Thane is every bit the badass Blake remembers, but the attraction still burns brightly. Once he unravels his tied tongue after seeing Thane again, Blake goes full assistant principal mode and lays out his plan.

What follows is at once a humorous and poignant romance between two men who are trying to build a relationship against the odds and against many obstacles in their way, the least of which are the two teenage boys Thane has inherited from his late sister.

The book touches on important topics, such as high school bullying, homophobia, bad assumptions, and making rash judgments without having all the information. Yes, Thane - I'm definitely looking at you with that last one. And good for Blake for having a backbone.

As with all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, there's little steam, but there's plenty of UST, and one mustn't forget that it's kind of difficult to get it on when you have two teenagers living in the same house. The romance between the two men was totally believable and relatable. Neither has had any kind of long-term relationship before meeting again (which is something only Blake really remembers since he didn't actually interact with Thane back in his high school days), but they're both all in pretty much right away, especially Thane. Which made it so very painful when he did that stupid thing he did. Sure, I could to some extent understand his rash reaction, but to not even give the guy he professed to want to keep a chance to explain - yeah, you were dumb, Thane. And your boys suffered for it just the same as you did.

Speaking of Kit and Phillip - I really liked those two. They were grieving their mother, of course, but they stuck by each other and were fiercely loyal to their uncle and Mr. B. I loved seeing the relationships between the boys and Mr. B. develop through the course of the book and watch him go from Mr. B. to Uncle Blake. In fact, the boys really rounded out the plot in this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it whenever they were on page.

This was a really sweet read, and it met all my expectations, and surpassed them in some instances. For example, Blake's idea of giving the boys a place on the theater stage crew was brilliant, with sound reasoning, even if Thane doesn't buy it at first. The boys plotting to get Blake and Thane into the same room at the end - hahaha, that was fun, and it worked!

I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too. 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 2017-04-27 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 2017-04-09 00:08
ARC Review: Fallen Angel by Eden Winters
Fallen Angel (The Angel of 13th Street Book 2) - Eden Winters

In this sequel to The Angel Of 13th Street, we catch up with Noah and Jeremy shortly after the ending of the first book.

Jeremy is trying to help a meth addict off the streets, Noah is struggling with memories and haunted still by whom he couldn't save while he's trying to save another teenager, and Doc is making plans to turn the mission over to Noah, formalize it more, and get more volunteers.

And Jeremy is about to graduate from high school with plans to attend college on a scholarship, which will likely take him away from Noah.

In this book, Noah stumbles hard and nearly falls, and it's the Angel himself who needs saving this time around. Stuck in the memories from his former life on the streets, Noah lets his anger and his grief nearly consume him, full of doubt that he's doing any good at all, because he couldn't save Billy, not realizing that he's approaching an emotional meltdown.

This book is primarily Noah's story, whereas the first one was primarily about Jeremy finding his feet. We see flashback after flashback to Noah's life with Billy, his time as a rentboy, a drug addict, and the fall that nearly killed him but ended up saving him. We watch Noah fight his demons, and struggle with depression and hopelessness when he can't save Chip from the clutches of his pimp.

Eden Winters doesn't mince words here, and there's no fluff inside either. This is raw and gritty, showing the seedy underbelly of society that most of us don't want to see.

But there's love and hope too, and there are successes, such as Lark, who finds the strength to leave Tina behind and pull himself out of the mess his life has become.

We also get a full glimpse into Noah's and Jeremy's domesticity, and it was lovely to see Jeremy maturity level increase even more. I really enjoyed seeing him be so patient with Noah, not pushing, but also not allowing Noah to completely self-destruct either. I think that Noah's burned out emotionally, and he's not yet fully realized that Jeremy is an equal partner in the relationship, and not just the kid he saved and who's now running the Tub Of Suds next to the bar. The fact that Noah keeps things to himself and, even worse, keeps things from Jeremy is super not cool, but also understandable within Noah's frame of mind.

There are some intimate scenes, and these further the plot, showcasing how Jeremy catches Noah when he stumbles, which really drives home the point how much Jeremy has grown into himself.

Again, this is not a fluffy book, but it feels real, it's superbly crafted, it has fully fleshed out, three-dimensional characters, and the author is never afraid to call a spade a spade. I, for one, appreciate that.

I look forward to Lark's story.


** I received a free copy of this book via Indigo Marketing and Design. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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