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review 2017-11-21 23:56
ARC Review: All Of The Above by Quinn Anderson
All Of The Above - Quinn Anderson

I quite liked this book once I pushed past the first 30% or so. Brendon, one of our MCs, works what's basically dead-end job as a salesperson for hair straighteners and other beauty products in a local mall, while also going to school to become a hair stylist/make-up artist. He's friends with a married couple running the sales stand next to his.

Brendon also comes across as a bit lonely, though he's described as someone who doesn't usually finish what he starts, a bit flaky, a bit effeminate. He's gay and there's no hiding it. His hair frequently changes color. He can't seem to hold on to a boyfriend, looking for perfect and never finding it. He felt real enough to me, and definitely likable, and I hoped he would find what he was looking for.

Then he comes across a quiz in a local magazine asking "Who's Your Perfect Man?" And it appears as if the author of the quiz, one Matthew Kingston, is just perfect for Brendon.

The meet-cute is fake, obviously, as Brendon sort of stalks Matthew online, finds his pictures and his usual hangouts, realizes that what he sees he definitely likes, and begins hanging out at those places, hoping to run into Matthew.

Which he does, after a while.

They have an awesome first date, and they seem to have a lot in common, considering how much Brendon knows about Matthew's preferences, which he uses to his advantage. And then Brendon realizes he has to come clean, knowing Matthew abhors liars, and what might have been turns into heartache.

I didn't actually like Matthew all that much for most of the book, to be honest. He came across as a bit of a judgmental dickhead. Even after he supposedly forgives Brendon for the initial deception, and they're on their 2nd date, something Matthew apparently spent some time setting up, he keeps making snarky remarks about Brendon's lie, until Brendon, suddenly finding his backbone, calls him on that shit real quick. I cheered in my head when that happened, because I was getting quite irritated with Matthew at that point. His behavior was, while certainly understandable, not something someone with forgiveness in his heart would likely do.

I did warm up to him eventually, when he makes an about-face and the two of them really talk things through. I really liked that Brendon who, despite feeling guilty about his earlier deception, held Matthew's feet to the fire when his words of forgiveness didn't match his actions.

The feelings between them grow quickly, but believably, and I had no issues with the time frame here. I do believe that Brendon and Matthew were well-matched, and thus the rapidity with which they developed into a full-blown relationship was perfectly fine with me. 

This is the kind of easy, happy reading that I need every so often. It's a bit quirky, on the sweet and fluffy side for sure, and definitely worth your time.


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

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review 2017-11-07 00:54
Book Review: PS by Caraway Carter
PS - Caraway Carter

This book was given to me by the author at GRL 2017 in hopes that I'd read and enjoy it, and write up a review. 

I read it and enjoyed it, and here's my review:

Gus, our protagonist, is in his early 40s and decides to change his whole life for Sam, including buying an old train depot up in Vermont, sight unseen, to restore and open a bookstore/cafe. 

Except Gus is the victim of catfishing, and Sam isn't who he claims he is. Which Gus doesn't find out until he's already in the air on his way to the small Vermont town.

PS stands for Post-Sam here, and Gus jumps headlong into the adventure. The premise is cute, even if the beginning is horrid (for Gus), and I enjoyed myself reading this book. Slightly unbelievable that folks in this small Vermont town would drop everything to help a guy out, and even more unbelievable that they'd be okay with deferred payment for renovating/rehabbing the old train station. Or offering Gus a place to stay. Then again, I haven't been to Vermont so I really couldn't say how realistic this actually is. 

I had some issues with the characters, and those are the main reason for the lower rating. The author's word choices were mostly fine, even if dialogue tended to be a little awkwardly phrased on occasion, but there are some plot points that didn't work for me.
- Sam the catfish supposedly being a 21 year old creative writing student, yet the relationship is supposed to have gone for 4 years - am I supposed to believe that Sam was 17 when he/she first started playing WoW with Gus? 
- the relationship between Gus and James was a little too quick for my taste, and it felt as if Gus was able to move on from Sam just a little too rapidly. Also, the history between James and Sam felt too convenient. 
- Sam being a real person - so weird, that part. Also, Sam's behavior in general. Pretty odd for the most part, and gross on one occasion. What the fuck was that? Sam felt to me like someone who really really really could have used some serious therapy. 

My biggest issue was the lack of depth. I needed more, especially for Gus and James. I never got a real good feel for either of them - what made them tick, what drove their actions. I also didn't really get a spark between them, so their relationship progression didn't work for me.

Caraway Carter spins a decent tale, and the writing itself is likable and enjoyable. I'm interested in reading more by this author.


** I received a free copy of this book from the author. **

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review 2017-11-03 23:05
ARC Review: Game Point by M.J. O'Shea
Game Point (Dreamspun Desires Book 45) - M.J. O'Shea

Quinn Valenzuela, heir to the Sparta Athletics empire, has spent most of his life, first at boarding school and then traveling the world, playing on the yachts of the rich and famous, drifting his life away, pretending this is all he wants from life.

Porter Davis, COO of the same company, hasn't had a chance to even enjoy the fruits of his labor, working his way up from athlete using the product to basically running the company for and with Quinn's grandfather and mother. He lives with his sister because it's easy, and pretends he's not lonely.

The book is a little heavy early on as the characters deal with the grief of losing the old man. Both men are adrift in different ways, neither quite sure how to move forward. Quinn decides he wants to learn how to run the company, but needs Porter's help to do so. 

The relationship between the men progresses from reluctant acceptance to realizing that they work well together to developing a friendship to bedroom benefits, and the development felt natural and realistic within the confines of the plot. It was lovely to watch driven, workaholic Porter start to relax a little, and drifting, unsure Quinn find his footing and start to shine. Of course, it's not smooth sailing all the way, and the two men still have to figure out what they need long-term.

I liked the supporting characters as well - Quinn's mother and Porter's sister were two well-developed female characters who both supported and challenged our MCs as needed. 

The requisite relationship hiccup was visible from a mile away, and I liked how the author handled Quinn's obliviousness and panic, but also how it wasn't dragged out for too long. I also think that this needed to happen for the relationship to actually grow beyond what it had become at that point, and for Quinn to think about what he really wants. 

This is slow burn by design, though there's plenty of UST within. And tons of believable emotions, so that worked quite well for me.

It's a sweet romance and definitely worth your time.


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

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review 2017-10-16 00:47
Release Day ARC review: The Fireman's Pole by Sue Brown
The Fireman's Pole - Sue Brown

This book is pure fluff. Which, let's be honest, fits perfectly within the Dreamspun Desires titles. And the cheeky title - hahahaha!

Here we have Dale, a firefighter who recently moved into the little village of Calminster, still smarting from a bad break-up with his closeted, cheating ex, hoping to lick his wounds and put his hopes and dreams for that relationship behind him. Unwilling to be in the closet himself, he's open about his sexuality, but has no aspirations to find himself another boyfriend.

Called out for a fire on his first shift, he manages to rescue the homeowner, a sweet elderly woman, and draw the ire of his Lordship at the same time. Shortly thereafter, he backs the big fire engine into the maypole, which was originally erected by his Lordship's great-great-grandfather. So, having blown his opportunity for making a good first impression, Dale offers to fix the pole in hopes to calm down Ben, Lord Calminster, who is behaving like an ass both during the fire and after Dale's unfortunate mishap with the big fire truck and the maypole. 

Don't expect any kind of realistic or believable relationship development - there's none. 

Ben, the lord of the manor, has kept his own sexuality hidden to the point where he's got a girlfriend/beard. Of course, he takes one look at our hunky firefighter, feels the stirring in his loins and finds the backbone to break things off with the woman he's been dating. 

Dale was a nice guy, and I liked him. Ben, once he removed the stick from his ass, was a nice guy too. I liked him fine as well. 

It's just that nothing here between Ben and Dale felt anything close to realistic. Dale states that he's still hurting from the break-up and doesn't want to fall in bed with yet another closeted man, but then shortly thereafter dismisses that notion and jumps right in with Ben. 

Ben apparently, after meeting and tongue-lashing Dale twice, is willing to risk a whole lot for the possibility of being with Dale. Perhaps exchanging angry words with the firefighter turns him on. 

There's a bit of mystery here with someone unknown setting fires all over the village, a subplot that culminates in an edge of your seat sequence of events that not only casts Dale as a hero again but also firmly pulls Ben right out of that closet for good. 

Since I usually suspend disbelief whenever I read one of the Dreamspun Desires titles and don't expect anything realistic, I didn't mind the rapid development of the romantic relationship. What I did mind however is that we're merely told these two men have the hots for each other - we're not actually shown that they do - so this book ended up in three star territory. Sure, there are sexy times within, but I didn't really feel their passion - I was only told about it.

Still an enjoyable read that fits perfectly within this harlequin-esque series. 


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

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review 2017-10-14 01:20
ARC Review: His Convenient Husband by Robin Covington
His Convenient Husband (Love and Sports) - Robin Covington

This was my first foray into this author's writing, but hopefully not my last. 

I found this to be an excellent use of the "marriage of convenience" trope, showcasing a romance between a still-grieving widowed football player and a somewhat effeminate Russian ballet dancer seeking and being denied asylum in the US, who get married avoid deportation and potential death in the homophobic climate of Mother Russia. 

I adored Viktor, the ballet dancer and activist, who's not afraid to use his fame position to shine a light on homophobia and the persecution of LGBTQ people everywhere. He was loud in his advocacy, but also thoughtful and kind and generous and loving. And very insightful, too.

Isaiah on the other hand is much more reserved and chooses to live his life much more quietly, afraid to rock the boat, even though everyone knows he's gay, considering he was married to a man before his husband's untimely death. He's unwilling to confront homophobia in others, and prefers to focus on his football career and on raising the teenage son he and his late husband adopted. He's also still grieving and unwilling to open his heart to a second chance at love, thinking that it would diminish what he had before. 

Viktor and Isaiah meet, spend a hot night together, but decide to part as friends. When Viktor's asylum request is denied and he's faced with having to return to Russia, Isaiah steps in and offers marriage and the subsequent Green Card, but takes sex completely off the table.

Isaiah is an interesting character. I was wondering many times whether his reluctance to live his life "out loud" was because of his career choice and the still rampant homophobia among NFL players/teams/coaches/owners, or because of his skin color, or because of his need to keep his son Evan safe and protected, or just because that's who he is - quiet, introverted, and perhaps just a little spineless. 

Obviously, Isaiah's desire to keep a lid on Viktor's activism backfires spectacularly. But that's not the only thing that backfires - his plan to keep his hands off Viktor and not fall for the man crumbles just the same. For a lot of the book, there's a ton of tension in the relationship, and more often than not, I was angry with Isaiah for making Viktor feel like he had to walk on eggshells. There's clearly a power imbalance at play as well, what with Viktor dependent on keeping the marriage "alive" for as long as he has to until he's no longer in danger of losing his immigration status. 

The two men have zero issues getting along in the bedroom, and there were plenty of steamy scenes inside. And still, Isaiah is reluctant to examine what he's feeling for Viktor, and ends up pushing the other man to his breaking point. 

Of course, this being a romance, a HEA is expected and was delivered, in a grand romantic fashion when Isaiah pulls his head out of his ass, listens to his son, and runs after Viktor to grovel. While I loved the romantic conclusion, I was a little irked for two reasons. One, Isaiah's change of heart came way too quick for my taste, and two, he didn't have to grovel nearly long enough before Viktor took him back. Yes, yes, I know - the grand romantic gesture - but that didn't excuse the hurt Isaiah inflicted on Viktor before that. 

Still, all's well that ends well, right?

I'm definitely interested in reading the next book in this series. The story flowed well, there were no massive time jumps or lulls in the plot, and the writing was not overly purple. The characters' actions and reactions were, for the most part, reasonable and realistic, and the dialogue felt organic as well. 



** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. **

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