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review 2017-06-25 03:19
Book Review: Shadows On My Soul by Leigh Jarrett
Shadows On My Soul - Leigh Jarrett

First off, trigger warning - there's is on-page male on male rape in this book. Be aware. The blurb hints, but doesn't spell it out. It's thankfully not drawn out, and done with sensitivity toward the subject matter.

This was my first book by this author. I liked the complexity of the characters in this book, but they exasperated me as well.

Supposedly best friends as well as business partners, Justin has kept a huge secret from Derek, and Derek has a secret of his own. Neither of them has the emotional maturity to discuss things honestly and openly, and their relationship was highly dysfunctional. Even at the end, which is supposedly a HFN/HEA, I didn't believe they will make it. There was a ton of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided if Derek wasn't so emotionally stunted and hadn't make such stupid assumptions, and if Justin hadn't lied for so long. Both of them needed therapy after the trauma (Justin for being violated, and Derek for having seen the violation first hand) to help them cope, but neither got that.

Their inability to read each other's facial expressions and emotions also threw a big wrench into their relationship, so much so that it made no sense considering that they had been best friends since their high school days. They just didn't really seem to know each other at all.

In addition to this, the two of them are also apparently completely oblivious to how their friends perceive them - Justin pretends to be straight and not in love with Derek, and Derek has one-night-stands to distract himself from being in love with his supposedly straight, supposedly best friend, but to everyone around them, they appear to be a couple.

The writing itself was perfectly fine, but the characterizations and the constant back and forth drama between the two main characters who have lied to each other, by omission or directly, for years, in a story that was billed as a romance, didn't work for me.

YMMV.


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

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review 2017-06-16 01:59
Release Day ARC Review: Romancing The Ugly Duckling by Clare London
Romancing the Ugly Duckling (Dreamspun Desires Book 36) - Clare London

On the isolated island of North Uist, which is apparently off the coast of Scotland, there lives a man all by himself in a smallish house after running away from his assholish brothers and his neglectful parents to paint, dive for scallops, and be mostly a recluse, keeping to himself.

His four brothers, one of whom I hated on sight, all somewhat famous for some reason or other, hope to make a deal with a TV company to create a reality show a la Kardashians, but they can only get the deal if the 5th brother appears as well. Greg Ventura, gentle, kind giant, wants nothing to do with them or the TV show.

Poor Perry Goodwood (lulz at that last name), ambitious and fashionable, is sent by his boss to the island to convince Greg to come to London to participate. After a make-over, of course. He flies to Scotland and catches a boat to the island, and is then stranded at the port before being fortuitously delivered to Greg's doorstop, looking like a drowned rat. The team that was supposed to meet him to convince Greg to come to London is nowhere to be found, and Perry's boss is giving him a bunch of excuses.

Great start, amirite? City slicker meets backwoods grump, and opposites attract - excellent trope!

This book is full of cute and sweet and quirky, and as Perry slowly falls in love with the island and Greg, so does Greg fall for Perry. The setting is perfect, and rather well described, so much so that I felt like I was right there on the small island. There be heather and bogs and cold, cold lochs, and beautiful nature all around.

I really liked both Perry and Greg. Perry impressed me because despite his city roots, he really tried hard to fit in on the island, and he seemed so appreciative of everyone who gave a helping hand. He wanted to learn from Greg and experience island life for himself. Greg is a bit rough around the edges, and grumps a lot, but I could tell that this was mostly to protect himself. He was kind and gentle, if somewhat clueless on occasion. The chemistry between the two men was there from the start and truly believable. There are certain parameters for this series as far as on-page sexy times are concerned, and the author delivered within those parameters, but also managed to infuse a lot of emotional bonding outside of the bedroom scenes.

The locals on the island play a huge role in this book as well, and I just loved how the author gave them all unique personalities and characteristics. Dougie, Bridie, and Louisa were perfect in their roles, and I enjoyed especially Bridie's easy banter with Perry, and how she was ultimately... well, you read this for yourself.

The Scottish brogue comes across well in the writing, and I had no trouble reading the dialect.

Quirky. Cute. And utterly adorable. A perfect addition to the Dreamspun Desires series. I had a grand time reading it. The author did a fantastic job with the characters, the setting, and the pacing, giving us a really emotional romance between two men who are complete opposites at first sight, but turn out to both want the same thing after all.

Fabulous!!


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

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review 2017-06-13 00:03
ARC Review: Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summers
Arrows Through Archer - Nash Summers
"One morning I woke, but the two halves of my heart did not."



I don't have adequate words to review this book, or tell you how it slayed me, or how hard I cried and grieved and wailed for Archer and for Mallory, or how impressed I am with this author's writing skills.

I'm sorry, Nash Summers. I'll buy a copy when it comes out because I just cannot write you a review - I don't have the words.

"Leaving me there in a million broken pieces, Archer walked out the door."



If you're reading this review, dear people of Booklikes, just do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book on June 14, when it comes out, hide yourself away in a comfortable corner and read it. Have tissues, wine and chocolate ready. Yes, there is a HEA, if that's something that worries you, but their journey there is what makes this book so outstanding, so raw, and so real.

That is all.


** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A review was not promised in return. Good thing too, seeing how I can't adequately review this brilliant book. **

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review 2017-06-01 03:14
Release Day ARC Review: Breaking Bonds by Ari McKay
Breaking Bonds (Dreamspun Desires Book 35) - Ari McKay

It's no secret that I have loved almost all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, having read devoured every single one, and this latest by Ari McKay was no exception.

Liam Walker, almost-famous NYC celebrity chef, cousin to Beau (from Striking Sparks), is in a resort/hotel near Asheville, NC, licking his wounds from a bad review he got that prompted him to punch the reviewer, in public, in the face. Served a less than mediocre meal at the resort, Liam doesn't hold back in his disgust with the frozen and clearly not fresh shrimp he's being served, and demands to talk to the manager.

Enter Carter Galloway, owner/manager of the resort, having distanced himself from his overbearing father and mother, barely holding it together, what with bills and old appliances and needing to succeed so he can finally break away completely from his father's demands and expectations.

Sparks fly at first sight. This is also right about the time where the reader needs to suspend all disbelief, as Liam offers his services to Carter to help out in the kitchen and train the young chef currently employed. For free. Because that's what a celebrity chef would do, right?

Whatever, I went with it. Because at that point, I was already invested in the characters and needed to find out what would happen next.

So the sparks are definitely there, but Liam is planning to return to NYC and Carter isn't interested in a fling. Liam cooks and teaches and longs for Carter, and Carter longs and watches and shares pieces of himself with Liam.

I liked both characters, despite Liam's initial arrogance, and I enjoyed how both of them had personal struggles to overcome. The title is apt - both of them have to break free of their bonds to others before they can have their HEA.

It's low steam, which I don't mind at all, but the UST just jumps off the pages, and when they finally, finally get together, it was well-fought for and ever so awesome. Liam at times seems a bit more sophisticated than Carter, but I think that was also part of Carter's charm - he's not a simpleton, for sure, but more laid-back, kind and generous, with a lot of respect and fairness in his heart.

There's a lot of talk about food, naturally, which often made me salivate, and I thought that the food choices worked well for the type of location represented here. This wasn't a hot spot NYC restaurant catering to celebs, but a resort-style place that catered to locals and tourists alike.

I liked quite a bit that Carter seemed to find his backbone in this story, and the courage to stand up to his parents, not allowing them to continue to berate him and demean his choices. He did so a little quicker than Liam, for whom the moment of clarity arrives at a later time, but bolstered by what he might have waiting for him in the mountains of NC. Their romance was believable within the setting of this book and worked well within the tropes employed here.

The requisite villains in this story, in the form of Carter's father and Liam's boss/mentor, were somewhat one-dimensional, but served their purpose. I thought that Marco, Liam's boss, was smarmy, self-serving, and rude, and Carter's father (and mother by extension) was nothing more than a stereotypical homophobic control freak who decided what his son would be and was then belligerent and condescending when his son chooses his own path.

The book utilizes the expected tropes rather well, and I thought it was a perfect addition to this harlequin-like series. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and if you like the sweet, fluffy, and easy-read romances, this is definitely a book for you.

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 2017-05-16 02:25
Release Day ARC Review: Two For Trust by Elle Brownlee
Two for Trust (Dreamspun Desires Book 34) - Elle Brownlee

Well, that was mostly lovely. No steam but a few hot kisses and a lot of longing, and a super slow burn romance between an American nurse/tourist in England and the well-off owner of a manor. Finch is utterly adorable and exactly what the somewhat stuffy Benedict needed in his life.

Finch Mason, young, single, and a nurse, is on the trip of a lifetime - two weeks in jolly olde England, armed with a National Trust pass, that turns out to be a pass for two for one week, instead of a pass for one for two weeks. No matter, because why not offer the 2nd entry to the old mill he's visiting to the handsome Brit who shows up ever so fortuitously. And then Finch and Benedict meet time and again, and share a week of visiting historical sites in that particular area of Britain.

Over the course of the week, Finch rescues a puppy from a hole in the ground, has tea and crumpets with Benedict, and starts to have feelings for the handsome older man. He's quit his job in the States because they wouldn't grant him the vacation time, and he is not looking forward to returning stateside because of that pesky job search he'll have to undertake.

His funds are limited, but he's optimistic and a bit of a history geek, and admires Benedict and his charms.

I could see how Finch would look to the older Benedict as someone to admire, but I just didn't really buy the developing relationship. More often than not, Benedict comes across as a cold fish - I'm not sure whether that was his personality or if he acted this way because he thought it was expected.

After the first week, Benedict plans to move on to the next hostel, but his plans are dashed when he returns to his room and discovers someone has ransacked it and stolen nearly everything. And Benedict rushes to the rescue.

I had already figured at their first meeting that Benedict wasn't quite who Finch assumed him to be, so the reveal wasn't a big surprise to me. I also at that point became a little bit uncomfortable with the manner in which Benedict takes over control, and starts telling Finch what to do. It could be said that he was doing this only because he too had started to look at the young man with something like desire and longing, and possibly even love, but it wasn't well explained and not really shown.

At about 2/3 in, Benedict asks Finch to take his grandmother across the Channel to visit her sister in The Netherlands, for payment, and Finch agrees to play nursemaid for the trip across and a few days in the Dutch countryside, and then catching a flight to London and get there in time for his return to the US. There's an unexpected kiss at the dock. Except things don't exactly go as planned once they've made it across, and Grandma gets herself into a spot of trouble, and then Finch... well, you read this for yourself.

Finch ends up staying longer than initially planned - not that he has a job to go home to - and then there's a bit of a misunderstanding, and an impetuous Finch runs off, thinking he's unwanted.

As this is a romance, we get a happy ending, of course.

I quite adored Finch. He had a really bad relationship experience prior to getting to England, and I don't think he saw himself as someone who was worthy of Benedict, or anyone else, for that matter. He's unfailingly polite, gracious, and always very grateful to everyone who helps him, but also not a complete doormat. He loves animals, he's kind and optimistic, and he doesn't let life get him down. I do believe he was good for Benedict, and helped to loosen the chap up a bit, and maybe pull the stick out of his arse.

Benedict - well, I guess he grew on me by the end, but I didn't like it when he said things that sounded a bit too much like scolding Finch for my taste, or giving me the impression that he was bothered by the young man's presence in his home. Sure, we're told that he doesn't feel that way at all, but it doesn't really come across that way in his actions. I guess I was missing the chemistry here - there just didn't seem to be much passion at all - and while I don't need steam in my romance books, I found it strange that the two men would share nothing but a few hot kisses before the grandiose ending, not even off-page.

YMMV.


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

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