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review 2018-02-02 01:10
Release Day ARC Review: Swann's Revenge by Shira Anthony
Swann's Revenge (Dreamspun Desires Book 51) - Shira Anthony

This book uses the Ugly Duckling to Beautiful Swan trope, with a bit of a twist.

When Jimmy Zebulon was 15, he was a bit of a band geek and a little on the short and chubby side, in love with Danny Parker, the hot and straight football player, who unknowingly broke Jimmy's heart when he stood idly by, allowing his teammates to reduce Jimmy to snot and tears with their torment and taunts.

Fifteen years have since passed and Jimmy is now J. Graham Swann, successfully attorney and co-owner of his very own law firm. The years have been good to Graham, who now sports movie-star looks and has left Jimmy, the band geek, in his past.

But of course the past comes back to haunt him - in the form of Danny, now Dan, recently widowed and moving back to North Carolina to be closer to his parents. 

Graham recognizes Dan, though not until after an almost hook-up, but Dan has for the longest time no idea that his super hot new boss is his former classmate. 

Graham is standoffish and almost rude, but then remembers to be a professional.

As the story unfolds, we see Dan and Graham become friends and then more, though Graham keeps his past identity to himself. Of course, I knew this would come back to bite him. Graham is not willing to tell Dan the truth - that he's Jimmy - and things are complicated a little bit further when Dan reveals he has a young daughter named Lacey.

And then Graham finds out that Dan, his secret high school crush, is gay and came out not long after leaving high school, met and married a man and adopted a child. 

I adored this story. I loved both characters, and I loved how well the author brought across Graham's hang-ups and his pain from the past, and Dan's confusion when Graham blows a bit hot and cold for a while. I loved how easily the story unfolded, how seamlessly each scene flowed into the next, how Graham and Dan go from employer and employee to friends and then to lovers.

And then... well, you read this for yourself. I don't think you'd regret it. The book has two great MCs, a lovely little girl that pulls them together, and an excellent supporting cast that rounded out the story. 

Seriously, read this. This was a perfect addition to the Dreamspun Desires series, and I utterly adored it.

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

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review 2018-01-22 00:23
Book Review: The Rules by Jamie Fessenden
The Rules - Jamie Fessenden

I normally avoid reading M/M/M stories, because I'm usually worried that jealousy will seep in and tear things apart, but the blurb of this book made me perk up and put it on my wishlist, for a kind soul to gift to me. Totally worth the initial anxiety. This was wonderful. I read it in one go. Put this on your list, if you haven't yet.

The author does a fantastic job exploring the intricacies and potential pitfalls of a poly relationship in this book, with fully fleshed out characters in Boris and Thomas (a married couple), and Hans (their housekeeper-cum-third), and doesn't shrink away from including realistic conflict, vulnerabilities, and hurt feelings. Theirs is not an easy journey, but it's one I was happy to follow along.

So well done.

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review 2018-01-10 11:00
ARC Review: Forever With You by Londra Laine
Forever With You - Londra Laine

First off, trigger warning - there is a detailed flashback to sexual assault in this book that happened when Kelly was a teenager. Proceed accordingly if this might be a trigger for you.

I'm of two minds about this novel. On one hand, I liked the characters and most of the plot, and the romance between the two men progressed at a reasonable pace, once Drew pulled his head out of his ass. There was good, believable chemistry between them, and the relationship had little angst - other than Kelly's traumatic experience, which he still grapples with, and Drew keeping a secret he shouldn't have. On the other hand, some of the plot felt a little OTT - there was a homophobic father and blackmail and attempted coercion and a marriage pact that all seemed a bit too much for my taste. In addition, during the first 15% or so, I felt that a lot of the writing was info dump and superfluous. For example, I didn't need to be told multiple times that Kelly's little brother Jaylen has asthma and required breathing treatments, which are expensive. I didn't need to be told multiple times that Kelly has chosen to be an admin assistant at this company because it comes with medical benefits for his brother. Most readers, including myself, will remember if being told information once. Twice is okay. More than that, I get irritated. 

Drew is Kelly's boss, and because Drew has a crush on the younger man, he's been treating him coldly and rudely, which - what? Considering that Drew is supposedly in his 30s, I would assume that someone of his age had a better grip on his emotions than that, and could act in a professional manner - which he didn't. Kelly doesn't understand why his boss is nice to everyone else, but cold with him, especially since Kelly has a bit of a crush on the older man too. I wouldn't have understood either, and Drew's behavior pissed me off.

After Kelly's office birthday celebration, Drew's tenuous hold on his self-control snaps, and the two men share a hot and heavy kiss in his office. Something triggers Kelly, and he freaks out and runs. Confused and worried, Drew attempts to find out what happened. He comes on super strong at first, but when Kelly has a another freak-out due to his trauma, Drew reins it in, thankfully so. He was actually a very caring guy, and I appreciated that.

I did have some concerns about the realism of their office demeanor - nobody seems to have questioned their changed behavior, really, and nobody seems to have any suspicions. Additionally, there were some occasions early on where Drew is a complete ass in making himself sound as if Kelly's job may be on the line if he doesn't comply - which, hello, harassment.

Kelly has a great support system in his friends, and dances at a gay bar on weekends. He also has custody of his much younger brother after his mother and step-father died when Kelly was but 19. Having put himself through college and looking after his baby brother is quite a feat. He had a lot of backbone, which I appreciated, and he didn't let Drew push him around. Much.

Once Drew finds out more about Kelly's background and really takes the time to get to know the other man, lending support when the little brother ends up in the hospital with asthma attacks, and generally being there for Kelly, their romance truly started to flourish, and I could see that Kelly started to trust Drew.

There were many emotional scenes that were either heart-breaking or heart-warming, and plenty of sexy times that thankfully didn't feel gratuitous, and I enjoyed reading this story for the most part. I could have done without the explicit flashback - I didn't feel that was necessary to bring Kelly's trauma across, and it felt somewhat exploitative. Again, heed the trigger warning.

Overall, for a debut novel, this was a good read, and I would be inclined to read more of this author's books as they are published.

** I received a free copy of this book from Gay Book Promotions as part of a review tour in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2017-09-25 00:56
ARC Review: Pins And Needles by A.J. Thomas
Pins and Needles - A.J. Thomas

This is only my 2nd book by this author. The title is apt - I was on pins and needles for most of the time while reading this excellent story of suspense, intrigue, and romance among the ruins. 

Okay, so that latter part is a bit hyperbole - there are no actual ruins, per se. What is in ruins however is a promising career, a father/son relationship, and an invention that could revolutionize a part of the oil industry.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

This is a complex story, and it would behoove the reader to read slowly and carefully, much in line with the slow progression of the story. As it is so often the case, all is not what it seems, and it takes some time to untangle the many threads that make up this particular plot.

The book begins by introducing us to Nate Delany, a young lawyer working for his father's well-known company, who is basically the do-boy for another lawyer, and whose briefs, as eloquent and well-researched as they are, are not getting credited to him, but the "supervising" attorney. Nate is frustrated, especially as his father doesn't seem to realize that the brilliant briefs "written by" the supervising attorney are actually his son's work and believes that Nate is just a slacker, unable to run the company himself. At the end of his rope, Nate quits. 

On his way out, his assistant gives him the name and number of a man who had an appointment with the supervising attorney, but who was apparently deemed too rough, with too many tattoos, to warrant the jerk's time. 

Nate makes a call. Nate makes a visit to the hospital where he meets Sean Wilkinson, whose former foster father Hawk was the man rejected by Nate's father's lawyer. As Nate hears what happened to Sean, he can't help but be intrigued by the young man who after a terrible accident lost not only his leg, but also his livelihood and his career as a petroleum engineer.

Hounded by his employer's lawyers to agree to a ridiculous settlement after the accident, Sean needs someone in his corner to help him navigate these new rough waters. And Nate is just the guy to do that.

Both MCs have their own personal struggles and rather different personality-wise. 

Sean, with his difficult early life and rough upbringing, isn't quick to trust anyone and plays his cards rather close to his chest. He's not only a brilliant engineer, but also a fantastic tattoo artist, who learned the craft in his foster father's shop. Hawk is perhaps the closest thing to a real father Sean has, and their relationship is very close and supportive. He doesn't have any close friends; in fact even the people with whom he spent months at sea don't really know him at all, including his boss, with whom Sean has had an affair since he interned with the company at 19. 

Nate, on the other hand, had a rather normal, if affluent, childhood and appears to most people as someone who had everything handed to him - with his last name being so well-known and the assumptions which come with that. His personal struggles aren't as obvious, but they're just as real. Nate has to prove himself repeatedly at his father's company, more so really than any other newly minted attorney would have to, because he's his father's son. In addition, his parents have more or less forsaken him because their older son is a bigot and doesn't want his children or his wife anywhere near Nate. Since, you know, homosexuality clearly rubs off and we must think of the children. For years, Nate hasn't been able to spend holidayrs or any quality time with his family; it's as if he's been erased. No photographs of Nate are displayed at their house - it's as if he doesn't even exist. His name isn't ever mentioned around the older son, and his brother's kids have zero relationship with him. 

Taking on Sean as his first client after quitting his father's firm seems like a great idea at the time, even if it's just fighting for Sean to get the biggest possible settlement for the accident that cost him one of his legs, but there's a lot more to their case than just that. See, Sean invented something that's been used on the ship, and the case now also involves intellectual property rights. 

And someone may be out to kill Sean to silence him.

The romance that develops between Nate and Sean is by design a super slow burn. Not only is Sean seriously injured and still recovering from the accident, but he's also Nate's client, and there are a bunch of ethical issues to consider before the two of them can be together. As an added detriment, when Nate tries to find another law firm to represent Sean and remove the ethics issue, he finds that many firms will not even consider taking him on, because of who Nate's father is. No matter how brightly the attraction burns between them, Nate must first and foremost consider that any romantic relationship they might have could adversely impact Sean's day in court. 

Underneath all the suspense and intrigue, the point this book drives home time and again is that of family. Not necessarily the one you're born into, but the one you choose, the one you make for yourself. And for that, Sean had a great example in Hawk, his mother's ex-boyfriend, who took him in, no questions asked, when Sean was kicked out at home for being gay. A man who never asked for anything but was there time and again when Sean needed him. A man who not only gave him a home but also a way of paying the bills, when he taught him the fine art of tattooing. Nate has an example too, really - that of how NOT to treat your family. While I believe his parents loved him, they never even considered how hurtful their behavior was when they excluded Nate to appease their older son's homophobia and bigotry. 

My only niggle came toward the end of the book, during the big reveal as to who was behind all the bad things that happened. It felt a little over the top, and the villain really came out of left field, to be honest. Sure, the explanation made sense, but the way it all went down was a little... too much, I guess. 

Still, this was definitely an enjoyable read, with a satisfying HFN, and I would recommend you give this book a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

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

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review 2017-09-16 22:58
Release Day ARC Review: Finding Mr. Wright by B.A. Tortuga
Finding Mr. Wright (Dreamspun Desires Book 42) - BA Tortuga

What do you get when you mix the enemies-to-lovers trope with a pinch of doing-the-bossman and an almost FUBAR wedding plan?

Finding Mr. Wright, is what.

Mason is a wedding planner in Colorado. His most recent contract calls for a 200-person wedding and reception at the Leaning N Ranch where Ford and Stoney (from the first book) have been busy creating a fabulous destination for weddings and other such things, all LGBTQ friendly. Yurts included. I had to google what a yurt is, but now I know.

Anyway, a few days before the wedding, Noah Wright, whose office has so far communicated with Mason by phone/email about this huge wedding, comes up to the Leaning N from Dallas, where he's got a gazillionaire oil business, to make sure everything is as planned but finds out that someone somewhere FUBAR'd - Sam isn't one of two grooms, as Mason assumed, but the bride, and as her brother, paying for the shindig, he ain't none too pleased. Matter of fact, Noah acts much like an entitled jerk at first, but the author did a fine job making him a lot more likable as the book progressed. 

But Mason is of course a professional, no matter how much he wants to climb Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome at first sight even if he's a bit snotty and snarky, and quickly rearranges things to be fit for a princess. 

Noah is impressed. Intrigued. And definitely in lust.

I quite liked this. This author has an uncanny knack for writing fun characters, and I enjoyed my time reading this book. Of course it's super tropey - this is a Dreamspun Desires title after all - but when you take away all the OTT and super rich stuff, you're still left with two men who fall hard and fast (with sexy times too), and decide that nothing shall stand in their way to their HEA. Well, Mason might not be so convinced at first, but Noah is - and what Noah wants, Noah gets. They figure it out, y'all, as they should. 

It was lovely to revisit with Ford, Stoney, and all the folks on Leaning N - they played a big part in Mason pulling off the wedding after the big oops, and I hope we'll get to see more of them in a future book. Sam, the bride, and her groom were a fun couple too, even if Sam came across as a wee bit on the spoiled side, used to getting her way. Seriously, a climbing wall? 

There were a few moments toward the end where Mason has some doubts, understandably so, based on what he's being told. I mean, I knew that they would get their HEA, but for a short while there, I was a little worried that things might not work out as planned. Mason actually shows some backbone throughout, and refuses to let Noah walk all over him. Good for him, that. 

It's a feel-good read, which is what I expect from one of these titles. This was an excellent addition to this series, and while it can be read as a standalone, why would you want to? Read 'em both, I say. They're worth it.

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

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