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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 01:31
ARC Review: Personal Challenges by K.C. Wells
Personal Challenges - Meredith Russell,K.C. Wells

When K.C. Wells offered me this book for review, I asked her if it could be read as a standalone, since I hadn't read the first three books in this series. She said I'd be fine, and after reading this, I completely agree.

I had no problems whatsoever in following along or figuring out who's who. The other three books are now on my TBR, and I'll get to reading them just as soon as I can, because I want to see how these three couples got to where they are in this book.

We have Will and Blake, who welcome little baby Nathan as their second child, what with older sister Sophie, and their lives are blissful and happy, until they find out that little Nathan might have a medical issue.

There's Rick and Angelo, who are planning their wedding, but are thwarted time and again by Angelo's mother's meddling in their wedding plans.

And there's Colin and Ed, who are also blissfully happy, but then Colin gets a call from an ex who has some bad news which brings back a rather painful period of Colin's life before Ed.

For all three couples, there are hurdles to overcome, and we are given a well-rounded vision into life after their initial romance, and how they are making things work. I enjoyed reading about them all, and I especially enjoyed how close-knit they all are with each other, what with Rick and Angelo and Colin and Ed all serving as uncles to Sophie and Nathan, and how they help each other out, in word and deed, whenever needed. This is a group of friends I wouldn't mind having in my own life.

Of course, none of them are perfect, but they are perfect for each other. And they still burn up the sheets much like they likely did in the previous three books.

Overall, I would say that if you've read the first three books, you'll definitely want to read this book too, just so you can see them all happily together still and riding off into the proverbial sunset, and if you haven't read the first three, you'll still enjoy this as much as I did.

By the way, this is a very British book with very British characters and very British words. Which I love because I'm a total Anglophile, and reading Ed's particular accent was a special treat for me.

K.C. Wells has a real knack for writing massive emotions into her books, sprinkled deliberately with holy hot boysecks, Batman. This book is no exception to that rule.

Read it!


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

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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 2017-04-09 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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review 2017-03-31 20:15
Release Day ARC Review: My Dragon, My Knight by John Inman
My Dragon, My Knight - John Inman

First off, trigger warnings: Domestic Violence, physical, mental, and emotional abuse, and dubious consent.

This book is a lot darker than John Inman's usually sweet, funny, and somewhat fluffy romances. Sure, there's a bit of humor in this one too, and a sweet relationship as well, but there's a lot of darkness too. Quite a bit of suspense inside too, not in the usual whodunit sense, because it's clear from the start who the villain is, but I was on the edge of my seat for the last half of this book, because I knew, I just knew, that... well, you read this for yourself.


Danny Sims, one of the MCs, is in the above mentioned abusive relationship with his older boyfriend Joshua, asshole first class, and doesn't know how to escape the ever-tightening shackles he wears day in and day out. Having fallen into this trap, he now feels dependent on his abuser, without any friends or anyone to help him. My heart broke for him from the first chapter, and I hoped that he would find the courage to run.

Jay Holtsclaw is a bartender/owner of a bar not far from where Danny lives with his abuser, and takes a shining to the young man sitting at his bar with what is going to be quite a bruise on his jaw.

I liked Jay from the start. He was unassuming and kind, while at the same time only offering friendship to Danny, knowing that the younger man was in a relationship.

Danny's little dog is a thorn in the abuser's side, and when he goes after the dog one morning, Danny scoops up his pooch and runs.

Straight to Jay.

And Jay offers the safety of his arms and his home, and Danny learns to breathe again.

What develops next is a wonderful new relationship for these two as they make a home for Danny in Jay's mountain house. Their initial friendship slowly turns into more, and Danny learns that love is patient and kind and supportive and encouraging. Danny learns to trust.

The writing here is emotional and really tugged on my heartstrings. The more I found out about Danny's life with the abuser, the angrier I became, and the more I cried for this sweet young man trapped in such a loveless relationship, controlled by an abusive asshole who didn't know love at all. But I also smiled with Jay and Danny as they forged a new life together, rejoiced at Jay's tenderness and Danny's awe, and even giggled on occasion, though underneath all of those smiles and giggles, I feared. The author really kept me in suspense - again, not so much as to who was the villain, but as to what the hell he would come up with next. There was obviously the calm before the storm, then a few quick showers, and then all hell broke loose.

I cried hot tears for Ernie. Sweet, helpful Ernie who loved Jay so much and who gave it everything he had.

But when the storm finally came, I was also ready for the abuser to meet his well-deserved ending. Thank goodness for George.

Who's George? Well, you read and find out. I'll just say it was very fitting that George would be the one to deal the final blow.

So, yeah - darker than what I'm used to from this author, but oh so well plotted and written and oh so fantastic to read.

Get yourself a copy. It's available now from Dreamspinner Press.



** I received a free copy from the publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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