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review 2018-05-17 00:36
ARC Review: Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson
Fourteen Summers - Quinn Anderson

The book opens with a wedding ceremony. Yes, you read that right.

Okay, so, fine, it's a pretend wedding ceremony, and the boys are but 10 years old or so, but it establishes from the start what dynamics may be at play.

Max and Aiden are identical twins, with Max being the older brother by a few minutes, which has shaped their relationship for a long time. Max was always the more outgoing, and Aiden, much more introverted, was happy to stand in his brother's shadow while they were younger. Now, with both of them at college, Aiden wants to be more than just Max's brother.

Oliver was their childhood friend until divorce meant leaving with his mother, and his father moving away as well. But now his father has moved back to their old town, and Oliver has come home for the summer. The family dynamics, with loud, overbearing uncles and with parents that still can't seem to stand being in the same room together, has Oliver not wanting to spend much time at his father's house, so he's real happy to run into Max and Aiden again. Introverted like Aiden, Oliver is perfectly content to let Max plan their get-togethers, especially since that allows him to moon over Aiden, his childhood crush.

For the most part, this read like a YA/NA novel, with lots of mooning and crushing and blushing, and not a whole lot of on page action, and characters who on occasion sounded younger than their purported years, but maturity is a sliding scale so I was mostly fine with their portrayals.

What I really liked is that the author primarily explored the dynamics at play between two twin brothers who have been joined at the hip most of their lives, and a boy coming between them when Aiden and Oliver get romantically involved. I loved how Max's jealousy was explored, how it realistically became a roadblock, and how it forced honesty and open conversation between Aiden and Max and allowed them to experience real growth in their relationship. In fact, the book, told from the POVs of all three of the young man, really focuses more so on the relationship struggles between the twins than the developing romance between Oliver and Aiden. While the crush/romance serves as a catalyst to the struggles Max and Aiden go through, it's not the the only focus of this book.

The characters, their portrayals, felt realistic to me for the most part, other than their maturity levels, and that's probably more so on me than the author - I guess I expected a bit more from 20 year olds even if they're twins. Out of the three of them, I would say that Oliver is probably the most mature, which is potentially due to him being a child of divorce, which tends to make you grow up a little faster, and also because he's an only child.

There are some interesting supporting characters as well. The twins' parents welcome Oliver back with open arms, and make him feel like he's part of the family again. They were perhaps slightly too perfect, but meh, I didn't care. I liked them. Oliver's parents are supportive of him, but also don't necessarily create an environment for him in which he feels free, on either side. His uncles and extended family on his father's side are a loud bunch, which introverted Oliver doesn't like so much, and his mother, while supportive, seemed to struggle somewhat with wanting her child have a relationship with his father, and also not realizing that the divorce affected Oliver much more than she thought.

The book ends with a super sweet epilogue, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Quinn Anderson has proven once again that she can write fully fleshed out characters, with realistic, convincing characterizations, and a believable plot and timeline.

Highly recommended.


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

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review 2018-03-30 01:17
ARC Review: One Under by J.L. Merrow
One Under - J.L. Merrow

This book, while part of the overall Porthkennack series, is basically a continuation of the first one, Wake Up Call, which I also loved. It would probably be best to read that first, because while this one doesn't focus on the characters from the first book, they do make an appearance, and there isn't a whole lot of backstory shared here - it's assumed the reader knows who they are.

This book also had a bit of a darker, more melancholy undertone than the first one, and for good reason. 

Mal Thomas has come to Porthkennack to heal from a traumatic experience at work, that isn't fully explained early on. Believe me, though, it's horrid. While I don't have personal experience with this sort of thing, a long-time friend of mine does. He is still, after many years since that incident, struggling with the emotional and psychological aftermath. So once I found out what had happened to Mal, I fully understood where he was coming from.

Jory Roscarrock (yes, the much younger brother of Devan's mother) hasn't had an easy life so far. While he has a doctorate in English Lit from a prestigious university, he also has been living under a dark cloud for some time, partly because of his older siblings, and partly because of a youthful indiscretion that derailed much of his plans. 

Mal and Jory meet. There's attraction, when Mal, after getting a bit of bad news from home while at the town's museum, is in need of comforting and Jory, the museum curator, offers, with much social awkwardness, a cup of tea. Then Mal finds out who Jory is, and the romance nearly dies before it has a chance to blossom. 

As with all of this author's books, I definitely appreciate the very British writing style, the very British choice of words, and the very British setting. JL Merrow just manages to transport me to whatever place they write about, and I could easily visualize the stark cliffs, the dark tunnels, the grey skies, the imposing house Jory calls home, the pub, the town - everything is described in vivid details, and the reader is transported into this fictional place on the rugged coastal setting. 

Both Mal and Jory spend time worrying about the secrets they keep/kept from the other, and both wonder if a relationship between them is even worth pursuing, considering Mal lives in London and Jory cannot leave Porthkennack, for reasons. There is a lot of angst inside, and this isn't a romance that comes easily for either of them. In addition to their personal issues, there's also the issue of Mal being best friends with the aforementioned Devan - who is Jory's nephew, and who's been treated badly by Jory's siblings - which puts additional strain on the budding romance, obviously, as Mal is torn between the attraction to Jory and his loyalty to Dev. 

The plot progresses slowly, and it had to, in my opinion, because the roadblocks in their way are, while not insurmountable, definitely considerable, and this book wouldn't have worked as well for me if the author had rushed through their individual insecurities and issues they had to overcome. 

I think the lesson here is that if you want something badly enough, you have to find the will to fight for it. You have to forge the path that works for you, because ultimately the only person responsible for your own happiness is you. And if you want it, pursue 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 2018-02-25 01:18
ARC Review: Cam Boy (Murmur Inc. #3) by Quinn Anderson
Cam Boy - Quinn Anderson

If you look up the words "naive", "reckless", and "overly confident" in the dictionary, you might find Josh Clemmons' picture there.

If you've read the previous books in this series, you might remember Josh as the guy who works with Pete at the coffee shop. Additionally, you might recall that Pete works for Murmur Inc, a company that makes pornographic movies, but also provides Phone Sex Operators, and apparently, on-camera live action. 

Josh, stuck in a dead-end, low-wage job, partly because college just wasn't for him, looks for more excitement and more dough. Thus he's been looking online at Murmur Inc. for open audition calls, and wouldn't you know, his luck is about to change. 

Hastily cobbling together a resume, he's so confident that he's perfect for porn and will be chosen to perform that he. Quits. His. Job. before he even has an interview lined up. Overly confident? Reckless? You betcha.

Also naive. So very naive, because he thinks if Pete can be a porn star, so can he. Like, surely, anyone can be in porn, right? Lots of sex and you get paid? Why wouldn't everyone do this, amirite? How hard could it be? 

Right.

Josh's dreams of being the next AVN winner are dashed quickly when he realizes after his first scene he's not quite cut out for that kind of career. 

Mike Harwood, on the other hand, has been an adult film entertainer for quite some time. Filming both straight and gay movies, he's so used to faking attraction that he's no longer sure what's real and what isn't. I could tell that he was approaching burnout, but he wasn't quite there yet.

Josh and Mike meet on set for Josh's first and last scene, after which Josh crawls back to the coffeeshop and begs for his job back. Which he does, lucky him. Neither can get the encounter out of their mind, but Josh isn't going to make any movies, and Mike is busy filming the next scene. Josh also gets even more lucky when Colette, the owner of Murmur Inc, offers him cam work - something he can do from his rented room, on his own laptop, but still get paid. Josh agrees - jacking off seems simple enough when one hasn't to contort himself, and getting paid to jack off - what more could he want? 

The author has done really good research for her books and gives good insights to the industry. What we see on film is hard work for the actors, and there is a constant fear of STDs that is just part of daily life. It's also true that the straight porn is less likely to utilize condoms, and thus the actors undergo frequent tests to ensure they're as safe as can be. When Mike is told that one of his recent co-actors on the M/F set has been tested positive, he is immediately sent for a test, and anyone with whom he performed since then must also be tested. Additionally, until he tests negative, he cannot perform with anyone else. 

And so Josh and Mike reconnect. With Mike laying low and waiting the appropriate potential incubation time, he's got time on his hands, right? 

There's a bit of angst among the giggle-snorts, and Josh's antics kept me largely entertained. This series is campy, cheesy fun for the most part, though there are some serious undertones between the lines. With each book, the author offers an unflinching look at the porn industry, and reminds us in subtle ways that what we as consumers see is only the glossy outer layers, and not the seedy underbelly of the beast. Mike knows that his days as a performer have a sell-by date, and he tries to share that knowledge with Josh. 

Mike also has a secret he's keeping from Josh - which I thought was going to create a bit more of an issue when it comes out, but thankfully Josh isn't just naive and reckless, he's also kind and forgiving. 

There's a happy ending here too, which I appreciated very much. It was nice to see them in a good place in the end, in love and happy.


I couldn't tell if there's going to be another book in this series, but I sure as heck hope so. This was a fun read!


** 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 2018-02-24 23:50
ARC Review: New Heights by Quinn Anderson
New Heights - Quinn Anderson

Insta-love done right, this is.

James is traveling home from NYC to Charleston, SC, after attending a friend's wedding. Mika, pronounced Mee-kuh, is heading the same way as part of work. Except, they don't initially know this.

The meet-cute happens when both of them need a power outlet at the airport after their respective flights are delayed. James is hogging the outlet, and Mika is irritated. Then Mika hogs the outlet and James is outraged. 

It's difficult to flesh out your characters in what amounts to a novella, but the author succeeded in weaving plenty of background info for both James and Mika into the plot. It's also admirable how well this book worked for me, considering that most of this novel takes place in an airport - there's not a potential for change of scenery, and you're somewhat limited in what you can get your characters into. 

The characters had immediate chemistry, and none of it felt forced. The attraction burns brightly from the start, despite James' prank (that was so funny) and Mika snagging the outlet when James isn't looking. They have a rough start, for sure, but ultimately, they both call a truce, give in to the attraction, and realize that there might just be something there. 

I liked this a lot. It's a quick and easy read, and it just flows and flows, and before you can blink, they're in the family bathroom doing not-so-family-friendly things. Which, as fiery as the attraction was, isn't really a surprise.

The sweet epilogue just sealed the deal on this book - that was fabulous.

Recommended for when you need a little pick-me-up for a long lunch break or some such. This was a lot of fun to read.


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

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review 2018-02-06 01:34
ARC Review: And The Next Thing You Know... by Chase Taylor Hackett
And the next Thing You Know . . . - Chase Taylor Hackett

This was freaking AWESOME!!!!

I didn't like Jeffrey (don't call him Jeff) in the first book in this series, because he came across as a pompous ass, and I don't usually have time for the arrogant, cocky, snobby, hot-shot attorney kind of person. 

But this book was delicious fun - I had a blast watching Jeffrey get cut to size by Theo. 

Let me set the stage, okay?

Jeffrey is best friends and co-workers with Rebecca who is Theo's older sister. This is important information. Theo is currently occupying his sister's fold-out couch, because his douchey sort of boyfriend has maybe found greener pastures. 

First scene, Jeffrey, still smarting from the break-up (how dare Roger leave him for Fletcher, the reformed cheater), is supposed to meet Rebecca in a restaurant for lunch and instead finds Theo at the table. Presuming that Rebecca is trying to set him up, Jeffrey informs Theo that, sadly, he's not interested in dating right now, because *sniffles* that break-up is still hurting him, but please don't take it personally, Theo, because surely you're fabulous, really. 

Theo, having no idea what Jeffrey is going on about, immediately makes mince-meat of the self-important prick who presumes to know anything about anything. 

And thus, their hate-ship is born.

The book is chockful of snark and sarcasm, and the witty back and forth between Jeffrey and Theo had me in stitches. And yet, even through my giggles, I could see a vulnerability in both of them, something they would categorically deny if asked, but simmering just beneath the surface. For all his pompousness, Jeffrey was really hurt by Roger choosing Fletcher, and for all his bravado at 5'6" and skinny, Theo was just hiding behind a mask constructed of his cutting remarks. Jeffrey is also not as cold and calculating as he likes to portray himself, even if Theo doesn't quite see it right away. That thing with the red shoelaces though - total win. And that was only icing on the Jeffrey-is-really-a-marshmallow cake. Because, see, Jeffrey doesn't even realize it himself for a long time - the super cool and collected at all times go-getter lawyer - that's a mask too. 

Shenanigans - this book had them. Snappy dialogue, self-deprecating humor, a brilliant use of the enemies-to-lovers trope, this was everything I had hoped for and more. 

Still, it's not all snark and banter aka foreplay here. Jeffrey does a crappy thing, and he knows it's a crappy thing, and he doesn't say anything about that crappy thing, even when he should have, and then it comes back to bite him in the ass. Hard. And it's the end of the Theo and Jeffrey comedy of errors. 

Well, no, not really, of course, since this is a romance, after all. When Jeffrey realizes the crappy thing was really super crappy and had some really crappy consequences, he actually for once in his life puts someone else first, no matter the consequences to himself. And Jeffrey, spoiled, rich, arrogant little boy Jeffrey grows up and becomes a real man. 

Theo too has some growing up to do. He has to learn that being short isn't the same as being helpless, but that sometimes it's okay to lean on others and let them help you. It doesn't make you a lesser person. 

I will warn you though - this book isn't politically correct or sensitive to unkind language. The author didn't pull any punches, but also succeeded in making the characters feel more realistic this way. Because, let's face it, we all have unkind thoughts towards others on occasion, that's just human nature. 

Additionally, and this is not an issue for me but may be for other readers, there is no on-page steam. While Jeffrey and Theo get it on eventually, those scenes are completely fade-to-black and mentioned only in transition to the next scene. There is plenty of chemistry though, and I had no difficulty believing that their bedroom exploits were as explosive as their hate-ship in the beginning. 

The old adage is true after all - there is but a thin line between love and hate, and the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Neither MC, despite their protestations, was indifferent to the other, and they went easily from hate to love, without meaning to, without realizing it at first, and without having planned for it. And in the process found in each other exactly that which they never knew they always wanted. 

Brilliant!

I LOVED this book. Highly recommended. 


** I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. **

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