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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 2018-05-11 02:34
ARC Review: Forgiveness by Grace R. Duncan
Forgiveness - Grace R. Duncan

I flew through this, from opening the file this morning until finishing it tonight, with grumbled interruptions for such pesky things as lunch and dinner and errands needing to be run.

The romance was slow burn, frustrating at times, and sweet at other times. The mythology is still well done, and I enjoyed catching up with the couples from previous books. 

Nine years ago, Eric's chosen mate broke their bond, and he's been in wolf form ever since, roaming the woods, thinking he can never go home again. An unexpected encounter leads him home, returning him to his human form, having to learn to be human all over again. Opposing thumbs are a tricky thing if you've been on paws for a long time. 

Soon after coming home, Eric runs into Ben, a newcomer to their pack, and finds his destined mate, the person their goddess has chosen just for him, a mate that trumps a chosen one. 

And Eric freaks out. 

Because he's a dumbass. Because he's been hurt and he doesn't trust that this one won't also leave him. 

Like I said, this was a frustrating read at times - I wanted to slap him in multiple times as Eric keeps asking for time and patience, and Ben was a fucking SAINT and kept giving Eric time and space and whatever he needed, because that's what destined mates do.

Ben has some struggles of his own - for all his life, his mother told him that the wolf within is a demon to be kept inside. I couldn't for the life of me figure out why Ben's father would choose his wife (a destined mate also, but one who never took the bite to become wolf) over his son, when he could see how much his wife's ranting about the demon-wolf hurt his kid. He never really stepped in to stop her from inflicting this emotional abuse on his son. I was ENRAGED! And then she... well, no, I won't give that away.

But Eric and Ben have friends now, and they have support, and they learn, they grow, and they accept what Diana has given them. 

I would say that this book was probably my least favorite of this series. For one, I found Eric disappearing for nine years a bit long, considering that Kim wasn't his destined mate. Secondly, I strongly disliked that both important females in this book were portrayed as uber-bitchy and had few, if any, redeeming qualities. I really don't like that in a book. 

The author has a writing style that works well for this type of book, and there weren't any lulls in the plot or any kind of big time jumps. I appreciated seeing couples from the previous books all step up to help Eric and Ben where they can - the sense of family, of belonging, is strong with this series. 

While this could be read as a stand-alone, I would recommend you read this series in order for full impact. 



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

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review 2018-05-01 03:01
ARC Review: Diego's Secret by Bryan T. Clark
Diego's Secret - Bryan T. Clark

25 year old Diego Castillo came to the US at the age of 17 after illegally crossing the border from Mexico with his two older brothers via a coyote - a person paid to smuggle people into the US. This cost their father lots of money, but they hoped for a better future than what they would have had in Mexico. When staying with an uncle didn't work out, Diego and his brother rented a tiny 2 bedroom apartment where they still live, plus the oldest brother's girlfriend. Unable to obtain legal status, Diego runs a landscaping business and tries to fly under the radar as much as possible, including keeping his sexuality a secret from his brothers. Being a Mariposa is obviously a no-no. 

Winston Makena, 32, is widowed and grieving. Having lost his husband suddenly, he's barely going through the motions. He lives comfortably in a mansion, where Diego is his gardener, but has basically distanced himself from his company and only leaves the house if he absolutely has to. He notices the gardener, who mows his yard every week, who plants the beautiful flowers his late husband loved, and who keeps the garden looking gorgeous. He notices. And finally steps outside to talk to the guy. 

And thus the two finally meet. Diego is of course aware of the older man, but keeps his distance, until Winston makes the first move.

This book is by design a slow-burn romance. Winston is struck by the younger man, but also unsure of whether he should pursue him, and Diego feels completely out of his element. There's a bit of a language barrier, but also, much bigger, a social barrier to overcome. They are two very different people, and for a long time Diego is hesitant and afraid to let Winston in, not only due to their different social standing, but also out of fear what his brothers will say.

While the two men spend a lot of time together on page, the author also took the time to expand on their daily lives, which made the book drag a bit on occasion. Still, there weren't many superfluous scenes, and the story unfolded mostly organically. 

In fact, I liked that the two men didn't immediately jump into bed, and that their romance didn't immediately solve all their problems. It felt realistic to me, though I still have questions about the solution to Diego's immigration status - simply marrying an illegal doesn't automatically grant them a Green Card, and there are additional steps they'll have to take. 

Overall, I believed the relationship, and I appreciated that it unfolded slowly - it made it more believable.

This was my first book by this author. 


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

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review 2018-04-27 18:11
Review: "Evolved" by N.R. Walker
Evolved - N.R. Walker

 

~ 5 STARS ~

 

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review 2018-04-03 23:46
Release Day ARC Review: Sweet Nothings by T. Neilson
Sweet Nothings - T. Neilson

At first glance, this seems like a sweet and cute romance, with an MC who's starting over in his smallish home town of Lake Balmoral, and the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks being the love interest. Throw in some freshly baked goods, like tarts and muffins and such, and you might think you'd be able to settle in for a nice, easy ride to happy ever after.

You'd be right. But you'd also be wrong.

Sweet Nothings is a sweet and cute romance, no doubt, but it's also a lot more than that. It's about starting over, about family ties, about older brothers, about finding your own way, about not judging a book by its cover, about forgiveness, about trust, and about love. 

When Tristan flees his current life and his fiance in NYC to return home to Lake Balmoral, we don't know much about his reasons, other than that Christopher, the ex, is controlling and manipulative, and that Tristan felt stifled and smothered and needed to get out of the relationship. He buys the old bakery with his savings and works toward the reopening. 

He meets Jake, a car mechanic, on his first day home while shopping for groceries. It's a real meet-cute, even though Tristan's flirting techniques are rusty and even though he's warned off Jake by the store clerk and everyone else. Tristan doesn't care what others say - there's immediate attraction between him and Jake, and he's all too willing to find out where this might take them.

Meddling family notwithstanding, Tristan works hard to get the bakery business off the ground, taking wholesale orders from his oldest brother Simon and the nice couple who owns the coffee shop next door, while cleaning and sprucing up the place. And getting closer to Jake.

Jake has a history, a bad one, and the reader finds out fairly quickly that Jake's been to prison, but is now released and working for his sister's garage, living in an old travel trailer behind her house, to get back on his feet. The reason for his prison stint isn't immediately clear, but nothing about Jake screams criminal, and his whole persona was one of kindness and consideration, and keeping his nose to the grindstone. He knew, of course, how people looked at him in town, but he wasn't willing to prove their assumptions right - he kept on working and doing the right thing. Good guy, Jake is. 

The further I got into the book, the clearer it became that Tristan was afraid of his ex, and for good reason. When he finally tells the truth about what pushed him to leave NYC, to end the relationship, I might have sniffled a bit, and I might have wanted to reach into the book and wring Christopher's neck. What also upset me was Simon's behavior toward his little brother - Tristan didn't need a father; he needed his brother to be on his side and stand by him. Sure, Simon changed his whole attitude once the truth came out, but his grumpy ass should've known better. 

As you can see in the blurb, the bakery falls victim to a fire. I'm not going to tell you here why there's a fire, or who's responsible for it, because that's pretty clear once you get into the book, but I was struck by how the author chose to use that moment, and how it really made it clear that Tristan believed Jake, and that he stood up for him. I truly loved that scene!

As for Jake, his truth also comes out, and we are told why he went to prison, why he made that choice, and what it has cost him. I might have sniffled a bit once more, but thankfully the author didn't delve too deeply into his experiences in prison. 

So... while this is superficially a sweet and cute romance, it's actually much more. The 3rd person narration, switching between Tristan's and Jake's POV worked well for me, and the writing isn't overly flowery. I enjoyed this quite a lot. 

And I think you should definitely give this book a try. Perhaps you'll love it like I did, and then end up in my position - anxiously awaiting the next installment when grumpy Simon gets hit by the love bug. I can hardly wait!


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

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