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review 2017-10-09 00:45
ARC Review: In Over Our Heads by CJane Elliott
In Over Our Heads (Stories from the Shore Book 2) - CJane Elliott

This is a cute sequel to All The Way To Shore . We met Anthony Vallen in the first book, as Jonathan's quirky, sassy cousin, who didn't do romance or relationships. 

He still doesn't in this book either, for reasons that are explained within. See, many years ago, when Anthony was a wee teenager, he met a boy, a super smart boy, whom he loved, but the boy left him abruptly after a near-drowning for which the boy blamed himself. Ever since then Anthony has given up on love - it's for others, not for him. 

Even if he might be occasionally a bit jealous of what Jonathan found with Marco, but those moments don't last long, because there are just so many other men to have fun with. Who needs love, amirite?

And now Anthony is headed to Key West for a fun vacation with Jonathan and Marco, who've gotten married since the last book, and he's looking forward to sun and fun and possibly some scuba diving. Or maybe not, since putting his head under water is still something Anthony doesn't do all that willingly. 

But who should be the owner of the bar and the scuba diving place but his old boyfriend, Walter Elkins. The boy who broke his heart is now all grown up, but no longer a scientist for reasons. 

Getting a first row view of Anthony's deeper side was fascinating. His sassiness and easy flirting routine is a front, something he hides behind. If you don't open your heart to anyone, you can't get hurt, right? But behind that facade is a person who yearns for someone to call his own, for someone who understands him and takes him as he is, for someone who loves him.

While Anthony can be a little OTT some of the time (or most of the time, at least outwardly), he's actually a really nice and thoughtful person with a huge heart, even if most people don't get close enough to realize it. The things he did for his cousin Jonathan in the first book, standing by him, helping him, supporting him - all that is part of what really makes up Anthony Vallen. Sure, he's flamboyant and in your face, and he talks and talks and talks, but I liked him quite a bit. 

Walter, on the other hand, pissed me off for most of the book. He suffers from severe Edward Cullen syndrome, and his reason for bailing not only on Anthony but also a lucrative career as a brilliant scientist was ridiculous and felt contrived. I mean, the guy needed some serious therapy. Seriously.

I'm all for "Opposites attract", and I usually love second-chance-at-love books, but I didn't love this one, primarily because of Walter. Yes, sure, Anthony is a super crazy queen, though that's his persona, his protection, and he never tried to crap all over Walter's hesitations, but Walter's constant waffling and one step forward, two steps back, hurting Anthony in the progress, just made me angry. 

If I had been in Anthony's shoes, I would have made Walter grovel a LOT more than he did. Yes, Walter did eventually find the courage to work through his issues, but that was long after he'd broken Anthony's heart again. Though, and this must be said, I did love that Anthony had backbone and said, Look, I'm worth more than what you're begrudgingly giving me, so adios, I'm done trying.

I did believe that the two men loved each other, the first time, and the second time too. I think it is that love that carried them both to their happy ending, even if getting there was fraught with pain and hurt. Walter's brilliant mind is more of a hindrance than an advantage to their road to forever, but he eventually puts his smarts to the right use. In the end, they realize that they have to compromise, and the book ends in a really good spot for them both. 

On the supporting cast, we have Jonathan and Marco, blissfully happy, and Miles, who works for Walter, who flirts with Anthony and who, it turns out, provides them with a catalyst to start getting their act together.

There are sexy times within, and it's clear that Walter and Tony have no issues whatsoever inside the bedroom at all - it's outside of it where they struggle. 

I don't know if this concludes this series, though I'd like to see Miles find the person for him as well. Perhaps that's still to come.


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

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review 2017-10-08 22:46
ARC Review: The Shipwreck (Lavender Shores #4) by Rosalind Abel
The Shipwreck - Rosalind Abel
"Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practise To Deceive..."



Lamont Price, Andrew's older half-brother, is an author of M/F romances under a female pseudonym, attending his first romance book conference and about to come clean to his readers. He's nervous, understandably, not only because he's deceived his fans into thinking he's a woman named Ginger Peach, but also because he doesn't like the spotlight. As soon as he can, he runs from his fans to a bar outside of the conference hotel.

Lamont is an interesting character. In his mid-forties, he is plagued primarily by what he considers his failures (no boyfriend, no long-term relationship prospect, no books in his own name, no sex for years), and largely avoids getting together with his family, because they keep trying to set him up with someone he could add to the family. Lamont hasn't had sex in years because he doesn't do hook-ups and prefers to have sex within a relationship only. Not a bad attitude, of course, but obviously, that can lead to loneliness. And he is lonely. He sees all the happy couples in Lavender Shores and feels left out, like he's on the outside looking in.

While he's at the bar, hiding from his fans, he meets Tate Dallas, who's the prolific cover model for another romance author and whose real name is Tyler Dixon. 

Tyler/Tate is what may be considered a rentboy. He's not only a cover model, but can also be hired as an escort, including providing bedroom attention, and some other jobs within that industry. He does all his to fund his photography and showing his work in galleries, while waiting for his "big break". He makes no secret of having a lot of sex, but he omits telling Lamont outright that he gets paid for doing so. He also omits another major thing, one that... nah, you read this for yourself.

So Lamont, having the baby shower for Andrew and Joel's soon-to-be-born baby coming up, asks Tyler if he would consider posing as his boyfriend for a long weekend in Lavender Shores, no strings attached, and no hanky-panky included. Of course, Lamont thinking that Tyler is the most beautiful man he's ever seen definitely helps in overcoming a smidgen of his shyness to even propose this arrangement. But surely, someone as gorgeous as Tyler has no interest in someone as boring as Lamont.

Except Tyler is struck pretty much just the same, but doesn't feel that he has anything to offer the older and more successful man. And thus expects nothing except the part he's agreed to play. It's a one-time thing, and then they'll go their separate ways. 

But the best-laid plans and all that...

I quite liked the two main characters here, and the author did a darn good job exploring them in depth. It was clear that the Tate Dallas persona was a front, and that there is a real person hiding behind that pseudonym, a person who gets scared of what might be and a person who doesn't believe in love everlasting. Tyler is not ashamed of what he does to support himself, but he also keeps Tyler and Tate very separate. As Tyler, the fact that he's pretty straight-forward in what he says and does helped to draw Lamont out of his shell too.

It was also clear that Lamont, while shy and introverted, faltered more often than not under the pressure his parents put on him, whether it was intentional or not. Many people in town looked at him as if he was this fragile person and failed to realize that Lamont is in fact quite strong. His strength is in his convictions and his unwillingness to settle for anything but the real thing.

The two men have a strong connection from the start, and once Tyler gets to Lavender Shores for the baby shower weekend, they both struggle to stick with the original plan. I really liked that this was a slow burn romance for a good chunk of it, and that they had a chance to get to know each other a little bit before jumping into the sheets. 

I really liked the imagery of the Shipwreck that the author used here, and the many parallels that could be drawn from it. It was also quite lovely how the author used the actual shipwreck as a background for Lamont and Tyler to get closer and soon allows them to realize that neither of them is ready to say good-bye quite yet. 

Obviously, the omissions I mentioned at the beginning of my review play a huge role in the progression of their relationship and end up to be a chasm Lamont and Tyler cannot bridge once the truth comes out. 

Or can they?

This is a romance, after all, so you know that a HEA is guaranteed, and the author doesn't let the reader down. Still, both men need to first find themselves, find who they really are, and figure out that what they had, what they built, no matter how short their time together, may be worth fighting for. 

How they find their way back to each other - well, you read this yourself. There's some angst, some self-discovery, and there's a fabulous epilogue that you don't want to miss.

And plenty of holy hot boysecks, Batman, to boot!!

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-10-03 02:31
ARC Review: Facing West by Lucy Lennox
Facing West: A Forever Wilde Novel (Volume 1) - Lucy Lennox

I flew through this book. Didn't even take the time to post a single status update, because I was riveted to the pages and could. Not. Stop. Reading. until I had finished the whole thing.

 

Nico is a tattoo artist with his own shop in California, having run away from his family in small town Texas when he was only 15, for reasons that are elaborated upon in this book. He had zero plans to ever return, but then he gets a call from an attorney that his sister has passed away and declared him her baby's guardian. So Nico goes back to Hobie, TX, to take care of things, find a suitable couple to adopt his little niece, and hightail it back to Cali.

 

West(on) is the town's doctor, and Nico's late sister was his best friend, and there's no way in hell that West will allow Nico to take custody of the baby. He's initially a judgmental jerk who never even thinks to ask why someone so young (15, for the love of Christ) would run away. Never mind the purple hair and multiple tattoos, clearly Nico can't be trusted anyway.

 

I'm not going to elaborate on the plot in this review, because I think you should read this book and find out for yourself how and why West changes his initial mindset, and how Nico isn't the bad guy for abandoning his mom and sister, and how two rather adorable old fogies (Doc and Grandpa) in love might help them along to their HEA.

 

There's a good amount of steam inside, and it's some holy hot boysecks, Batman, because both West and Nico get along fabulously in the bedroom. Outside of it, well, that's another matter entirely, as neither trusts the other completely for quite some time.

The running theme in the book is one of family - the one you're born into and the one you make for yourself, and the author does a fabulous job exploring that theme in a variety of ways, including the sacrifices a young boy might make to give his family what he thinks they need, and how family isn't necessarily determined by blood alone, but also but what you'll do for the ones you love.

 

The other theme is that not all is what it seems, and that's a lesson West in particular has to learn. He does, fortunately, but it's a hard-won lesson, and one in humility to boot.

 

As I said, I flew through this book. The characterizations were spot-on, and having a dual POV gives the reader a lot of insight into what makes each man tick. Nico especially is distrustful of other people, based on his experiences, and comes across as skittish. He wants to run when things get tough, but also wants to stay with West. He falls in love with his niece at first sight, but also doesn't believe that he has anything good to offer her. West is happy living in the small town, but also realizes that homophobia is a thing, even if his own family is cool with it and wants to see him settle down. He's mostly calm and clear-headed in his actions and reactions, where Nico tends to shoot from the hip and react more impulsively.

 

This was a great start to a new series, and I'm definitely interested in reading the next book as well. The author's writing style worked well for me, and the story flowed easily, without any massive time jump or long drags. Well done!

 


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

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review 2017-10-03 01:59
Release Day ARC Review: The Bunny And The Billionaire by Louisa Masters
The Bunny and the Billionaire (Dreamspun Desires Book 43) - Louisa Masters

This is such a Harlequin-esque book. I mean, seriously, this one lays it on super thick, and as such fits the Dreamspun Desires series to a T.

Here we have Ben Adams, a nurse from Australia, who recently inherited a large sum of money (and when I say large, I mean LARGE) from the old lady whom he looked after for some time, and whom he still misses. Never having known wealth, Ben decides on a tour of Europe but still counting his pennies and saving money where possible. 

While in Monaco, he meets Leo Artois, the billionaire from the book's title, who's never known a day without wealth, seeing how his mother is a princess and his father is not only fabulously wealthy but also almost French royalty or something of the sort. 

Why Leo insists on calling Ben Bunny all the time escaped me. Leo, as well as his circle of friends, come across as the sort of people who never had to work a day in their lives and who think nothing of spending money whenever they please. 

Ben only planned to stay in Monaco for a few days before heading to Italy, but after meeting Leo, and the instant attraction he feels for the man, he decides to stay a while longer. 

What I liked about this book is that Ben isn't shy about pointing out to Leo how wasteful spending isn't impressive to him, and that Leo make concessions for Ben's point of view on money issues, but also teaches him that some things are worth the money they cost and introduces him to some of the finer things in life that most mortals will never be able to afford. 

Ben, despite his substantial inheritance, is still a normal guy and tries to impress that normalcy on Leo. 

I believed their holiday fling. Their attraction burned brightly from the start, and I bought that Leo was fascinated with Ben, and vice versa, but their HEA romance - nah. Didn't believe it. They had so little in common, and despite Ben's new wealth, their social circles and life experiences didn't really mesh for me at all. Ben was too normal whereas Leo was way more sophisticated and often came across as someone whose illusions of entitlement were showing. Ben came across as uncomfortable with the OTT displays of wealth Leo and his circle found normal, and that doesn't make for a life-long romance. I mean, obviously with this series, disbelief must be suspended most of the time anyway, but the romance should still be something that resonates. And here, it sadly didn't, for me. YMMV.

The writing was pretty good; the dialogue was believable (with some snark, yay) for how the two men were characterized, and I'm interested in reading more by this author.



** 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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