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review 2017-07-19 01:35
Book Review: Not Safe For Work by L.A. Witt
Not Safe For Work - L.A. Witt
I snagged this when the author offered it for free a little while back, and devoured it as soon as I got a chance.

It exceeded my expectations!!

Now, I know LA Witt can write the sexy times, and I know that she will always, always, always make sure that her BDSM novels make it very clear indeed that while the Dom is in charge, the sub holds all the power. She takes the time to weave explanations about the lifestyle seamlessly into her books, and I cannot thank her enough for continuing to educate me and others what BDSM is really all about.

What pushed this book into 5 star territory though was the romance. Never mind the holy hot boysecks, what really impressed me here was the author's ability to convey how her characters felt, through their words and actions. She showed me their emotions, their fears, their joy - she didn't tell me. Told entirely from Jon's POV, we don't hear from Rick directly, but his character was well fleshed out just the same, and I felt a connection to him just as much as I connected with Jon.

Jon and Rick both have struggles to overcome, and Jon often carried a lot of weight on his shoulders (work issues, and paying for his kids' college education), but Rick was always supportive and understanding.

I loved every single minute I spend reading this book, cursing when work interfered, because I needed to keep reading, dammit, and follow Rick and Jon through their first realization that their kinks match up, through growing closer, through realizing that what they have is, while unexpected, exactly what they both need, and through the rough parts where they falter and stumble and nearly crash and burn.

This book is everything I could hope for in a romance novel. The conflict was exterior to the relationship, and I ranted out loud when Jon's employer did that thing they did, and I was enraged when Jon... no, you read this for yourself. 

Extra kudos for not having an evil ex-wife (Jon's ex-wife lives with him for financial reasons, and they are good friends, supportive of each other), and for having a wonderful supporting cast in Jon's co-workers that often made me laugh out loud. 

If you like your romance a bit on the kinky side (it's not overwhelmingly kinky, to be honest, and Rick is not a pain slut or a slave, and Jon isn't a sadist), then I would highly recommend you give this book a try. 

I loved it.
 
 

 

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review 2017-07-19 01:12
ARC Review: Satin by KC Wells
Satin (A Material World Book 2) - K.C. Wells,Meredith Russell

The 2nd in this fabulous series, Satin can be read as a standalone. 

Joel Hunter is a DC (Detective Constable) on a surveillance job with his partner Trish, in a bar/lounge, hoping that the owner comes by so he can be arrested.

The stakeout is going fine, but then Joel is rather distracted when Satin takes the stage - a beautiful singer whose sultry voice nearly puts Joel under a spell. 

Shortly thereafter, with the bar owner locked up and the stakeout over, but unable to get Satin out of his mind, the smitten DC goes back to the bar to listen to Satin again. 

And Satin makes her move.

Except, Satin is really Ross Dauntry, a female impersonator and aspiring ballet dancer. Joel gets over his shock pretty quickly and agrees to meet Ross for coffee, as friends. Joel has until now identified as straight, and any previous attraction to a man has never been acted upon. He is confused at the attraction but also doesn't feel any shame or massive angst. He is willing to explore this thing with Ross, even if they only end up as friends.

Obviously, Joel isn't as straight as he thinks he is. Things get steamy pretty quick, and there's very little angst in this book, other than Ross wondering if Joel is attracted to him or to Satin, and Joel taking a bit of time to make peace with his attraction to Ross. The sexy times are not only steamy but seriously sensuous, and I contemplated taking a cold shower after each scene. There's one in the ballet studio where Ross trains... holy hot boysecks, Batman!

Of course, there's a bit of a conflict there too, and Ross' roommate didn't do him any favors with her interrogation of Joel, but I understood where she was coming from. Joel struggles with how to be in a relationship and his feelings for Ross, while Ross falls quickly but also realizes that he might set himself up for heartbreak. 

Trish was a great character - supportive and not afraid to call Joel on his bullshit when he needed it.

There's a scene towards the end - gah! Nope, not gonna tell you what happens. You should read this for yourself and experience the same kind of swooning I did. 

KC Wells' personal brand of magic shines through in every word in this book. This was fabulous, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'm pretty damn sure you will too.

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-06-17 02:50
ARC Review: The Palisade by Rosalind Abel
The Palisade (Lavender Shores) - Rosalind Abel

Lavender Shores is a new series by Rosalind Abel (aka Brandon Witt), and it's certainly off to a great start.

In this first book, we meet Andrew Kelly, whose family was one of the founders of Lavender Shores, a small tourist town/LGBTQ haven north of San Francisco, bordered by the Point Reyes National Seaboard. I've never been in that area, but the descriptions of the landscape in the book paint a gorgeous picture.

Joel Rhodes has come to Lavender Shores at the behest of his father and boss to scope out the town for a new flagship store for his father's coffee empire, and close a deal for the store. He knows this is likely a test, one he's willing to take, but also realizes that he likely will never please his father despite his best efforts. It was fairly easy to feel kind of sorry for Joel from the start.

They first meet at a local restaurant where Andrew's family is celebrating his older brother's birthday and Joel just happens to be in the same restaurant the evening he arrives in town. Attraction is immediate and fiery, and Joel and Andrew spend a hot night together.

The very next day Joel is both delighted and dismayed to discover that Andrew is a real estate agent, handling the commercial properties. As they thus meet again, and as their night of passion still lingers, the two men spend more time getting to know each other. An extra day leads to a week, and falling in love happens quicker than either of them thought.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Like I said in my final update, there's hot sex, a ton of emotion, a tight narrative, and a well-chosen location, with excellent use of romance tropes - what's not to love?

There's a bit of angst, of course, because there has to be. Falling in love in a week, developing such a strong bond in such a short amount of time - there's got to be some angst to level out that playing field. Joel's in a terrible position, what with his father's expectations and his own desires at complete opposites, and Andrew is unable and unwilling to leave Lavender Shores behind, happy and content to stay in the small town he calls home - thus theirs is not a smooth ride to everlasting happiness.

But love will find a way, and there's the most amazing and teary-eye-causing happy ending, and I was overjoyed to see them so in love. Joel finds in Andrew what he's been missing most his life. And Andrew gets exactly what he's dreamed of for so long.

A sweeping romance, excellent pacing, and a cast of fantastic characters (Andrew's dad is a hoot), except perhaps Joel's father, who was a bit of a caricature horrible man, made this book a fabulous read and a real page-turner. There are quite a few sexy times inside but none of them felt superfluous and all of them helped move the relationship and thus the plot forward. I also want to point out that this being the first in a series, the author did a fantastic job introducing the town and its people without it distracting from the main couple's romance.

Highly recommended. I can hardly wait for the next installment.


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

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review 2017-06-06 02:33
Release Day ARC Review: Action by Quinn Anderson
Action (Murmur, Inc. Book 2) - Quinn Anderson

When I first read the blurb, I was a wee bit worried that we'd see the two MCs perform with others, based on their line of business.

But I jumped right into this book, and then by chapter 4, the plot and fabulous writing kept me glued to the pages until the very end.

I should have left my assumptions at the front page.

Pete aka Jaden is in porn, working for Murmur Inc., to help pay for his college tuition. He enjoys it to some extent, and it pays the bills. But he's also sort of not loving it, and that comes across in his performance. His other job at a coffee shop isn't enough to cover tuition, and Pete needs this job. He also hoped when he first started that being a porn star would make him more outgoing and exciting, but that hasn't come to fruition. He's not out as a porn actor, and keeps that part of his life very much hidden from the coffee shop people and everyone else.

His boss at Murmur Inc. tells him about a feature film that she wants him to star in, with Evan/Kyle Darko as the star of the movie. And if he can't pull off his part in the movie, Pete may have to look for a new job.

Kyle is Pete's opposite in many ways - loves being a porn star, loves strutting his stuff in front of the camera, and, according to Pete, is way more daring and so not boring or gawky like Pete.

They meet as one does prior to starting the shoot, and oh boy, the UST just leaps off the pages. The scenes are super tame early on, because that's part of the movie, but I was already fanning myself from the sexual tension between the two men.

The book is told entirely from Pete's POV, so we don't really get Evan/Kyle's inner thoughts, but despite Pete's disbelief, Kyle falls for Pete. Hard.

I totally believed their romance, quick as it may be coming about, and I loved how sweet and humble Pete is, and I loved Kyle the same, even though he was a bit (okay, a lot) on the cocky side. But he knew what he wanted, namely Pete, and went for it, no hesitation.

Pete of course has trouble believing that a hot guy like Kyle could really want him, which is more or less the only angst found in this book. There is one moment where I was a little concerned that it might derail their relationship, but all's well that ends well, and it was but a blip on the radar, really.

I giggled a lot. A whole lot. The narrative in Pete's POV, and the dialogue are often snarky and hilarious, and there are quite a few one-liners that made me laugh out loud. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too.

Pete's mom was fabulous, and so was Kyle's family. They rounded out a fantastic cast.

Highly recommended. Also, while this is the 2nd in a series, it's no problem at all to read this as a standalone, though I would suggest that you read the first one, Hotline, as well, just to get the whole experience.


** 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 2017-06-01 15:56
Book Review: The Escort by Jeff Erno
The Escort - Jeff Erno

I picked up this book when it was offered for free by the author a little while back. I liked the blurb, and the trope used here (man hires escort and they fall in love) is one I enjoy. Plus, having the story set at a GRL-like convention - heck, yeah, that clinched it.

In his foreword, the author explains that the characters within aren't necessarily real people, but are an amalgam of certain types of characters that have attended these conferences in the past.

As have I, and I can certainly say that the author evoked quite a few giggles and quite a few cringes in me while I was reading this book, because many of the characters are just spot-on showcasing behaviors I have seen myself.

It often seems that the events and behaviors woven into the plot of the book are tongue-in-cheek reminders of things that might have happened in slightly similar fashion, and have scandalously blown up in this genre on Facebook and Twitter. There are subtle read-between-the-lines moments that had me wonder just from whom the author drew inspiration for certain characters.

The plot is rather straight-forward - popular author DJ Torrent (Darren), in his mid-forties, hires a male escort (Travis) to accompany him to the GRR (Gay Romance Retreat) conference being held in St. Louis, MO. It's Darren's first time attending a conference, and since his husband Dan left him, he's become a bit of a recluse, but feels that after the success of his latest novel, he owes it to his readers to make an appearance. Knowing he won't be able to do so on his own, he hires Travis to pose as his husband at the conference.

Travis is in his mid-twenties and a high-end escort. Initially he's taken aback when Darren doesn't want sex and instead offers him an all-expenses-paid trip to a book conference, by pretending to be his husband. Travis has known heartbreak in his past, and has basically come to the conclusion that he'll never find real love, and certainly not in his current profession. He's an interesting and complex character, and there's much more to him than meets the eye(-candy). He realizes that his escorting days will eventually come to an end, but also doesn't think himself worthy to become anything more than what he is. He's still charming, smart, and kind, and his personality comes across very well.

The book covers five days of the conference, from arrival on Wednesday to departure after the Sunday morning breakfast, and quite a nice epilogue. There's drama, of course, what with someone basically assaulting Travis during the Cock Walk (yeah, this is a real thing, people), and then publishing a nasty blog post, exposing the truth about Darren and Travis, which thankfully backfires spectacularly on the blogger, but there's also a lot of love, not only between Travis and Darren, but also from certain conference attendees, who are supportive and kind. There's a line in which Travis describes the people at the conference as his "tribe" - and that's exactly what it feels like. I've attended three so far, and it is truly like a massive family reunion, with love of the genre being what we all have in common. You get to hang with like-minded people for four days, gush over books and authors, dance and drink, have a ton of fun, and create strong friendships that often carry over into real life.

It's fascinating, really, to read this book having attended these conferences and seen, to some extent, the individual behaviors described within. It made me think, too, actually, and remind me that the authors who attend GRL are real people, with real emotions, and while I too have fangirled over certain authors, I try to be mindful of the fact that they are real people with real emotions and real lives outside of writing the books we so enjoy, and thus I try to keep not my distance but be respectful of their personal space. Hugs are great when offered, but not expected.

Moving on.

I did have some niggles, specifically with the proofreading efforts. I can't say whether the author employed someone to proof-read this book, and while there weren't many spelling or punctuation issues, there were many times when Travis became Darren and Darren became Travis. While their voices are distinct, the narrative often mixed up their names, something a good proof-reader or proof-editor should have caught. Each time it happened, I was pulled out of the story, trying to decipher what name should go where.

My other niggle is the characterization of Zach, someone from Travis' past, someone who owes money to Travis, who decides to blackmail him to keep quiet about the ruse, but then blabs anyway. I couldn't understand his motives, to be honest, and it didn't make sense for him to talk to Micah, the aforementioned blogger/assaulter, and expose Travis' secret. What was the point, unless this plot point was needed to make sure that Micah got the scoop he was after?

The book takes a rather unflinching look at what might go on at the conference, and I thought that publishing this might raise some eyebrows with some people. The romance is mostly believable, though there are instances where their actions are a little inconsistent. Darren keeping a massive secret from Travis felt realistic in light of the length of their acquaintance, but Jan knowing about it wasn't explained.

Despite these inconsistencies, I rather enjoyed reading this book. If you've never attended a GRL conference, don't believe everything you read within, as a lot of is is exaggerated, and if you have attended in the past - well, then, you might have a similar reaction as I did.

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