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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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review 2018-03-30 01:17
ARC Review: One Under by J.L. Merrow
One Under - J.L. Merrow

This book, while part of the overall Porthkennack series, is basically a continuation of the first one, Wake Up Call, which I also loved. It would probably be best to read that first, because while this one doesn't focus on the characters from the first book, they do make an appearance, and there isn't a whole lot of backstory shared here - it's assumed the reader knows who they are.

This book also had a bit of a darker, more melancholy undertone than the first one, and for good reason. 

Mal Thomas has come to Porthkennack to heal from a traumatic experience at work, that isn't fully explained early on. Believe me, though, it's horrid. While I don't have personal experience with this sort of thing, a long-time friend of mine does. He is still, after many years since that incident, struggling with the emotional and psychological aftermath. So once I found out what had happened to Mal, I fully understood where he was coming from.

Jory Roscarrock (yes, the much younger brother of Devan's mother) hasn't had an easy life so far. While he has a doctorate in English Lit from a prestigious university, he also has been living under a dark cloud for some time, partly because of his older siblings, and partly because of a youthful indiscretion that derailed much of his plans. 

Mal and Jory meet. There's attraction, when Mal, after getting a bit of bad news from home while at the town's museum, is in need of comforting and Jory, the museum curator, offers, with much social awkwardness, a cup of tea. Then Mal finds out who Jory is, and the romance nearly dies before it has a chance to blossom. 

As with all of this author's books, I definitely appreciate the very British writing style, the very British choice of words, and the very British setting. JL Merrow just manages to transport me to whatever place they write about, and I could easily visualize the stark cliffs, the dark tunnels, the grey skies, the imposing house Jory calls home, the pub, the town - everything is described in vivid details, and the reader is transported into this fictional place on the rugged coastal setting. 

Both Mal and Jory spend time worrying about the secrets they keep/kept from the other, and both wonder if a relationship between them is even worth pursuing, considering Mal lives in London and Jory cannot leave Porthkennack, for reasons. There is a lot of angst inside, and this isn't a romance that comes easily for either of them. In addition to their personal issues, there's also the issue of Mal being best friends with the aforementioned Devan - who is Jory's nephew, and who's been treated badly by Jory's siblings - which puts additional strain on the budding romance, obviously, as Mal is torn between the attraction to Jory and his loyalty to Dev. 

The plot progresses slowly, and it had to, in my opinion, because the roadblocks in their way are, while not insurmountable, definitely considerable, and this book wouldn't have worked as well for me if the author had rushed through their individual insecurities and issues they had to overcome. 

I think the lesson here is that if you want something badly enough, you have to find the will to fight for it. You have to forge the path that works for you, because ultimately the only person responsible for your own happiness is you. And if you want it, pursue it. 


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

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review 2018-03-23 20:07
ARC Review: Fox And Birch by Sam Burns
Fox And Birch - Sam Burns

The third installment of the first trilogy of trilogies in the paranormal Rowan Harbor series focuses on Fletcher Lane, one of the town's deputies, who featured to some extent in the first two books (more so in book 2, actually). He's friends with Devon, works with Wade, and was heavily involved in the events of book 2. 

The story picks up right after the second book ends. Fletcher, instrumental in getting rid of the bad vampire, is now sort of possessed by the spirit that lived inside the magic book Isla has been hiding from Hector MacKenzie. Obviously, having someone whisper to you in Gothic all the time isn't fun.

Additionally, Fletcher has had a traumatic experience when he was younger, one that cost him his mother and has left both him and his father scarred. 

Somewhat timid and lacking a healthy dose of self-confidence, Fletcher finds it rather difficult to make friends, always wondering if he's a bother. In that aspect, his shyness is indicative of his shifted form as a fox. Socially a bit awkward, Fletcher seems never sure of what to say. 

I really loved how the author fleshed out the character, made him real and oh so likable, with all his awkward dorkiness. 

Fletcher is a really nice guy, kind and unassuming, and the people of Rowan Harbor look out for him and his dad. 

We are introduced to the bounty hunters, Frank, Bob, and Conner, who roll into town looking for the bad vamp. Or so they say. Conner is younger than the other two, and also much kinder. He takes a liking to Fletcher, which slowly develops into a romance. 

We get to visit with Wade and Devon from the first book, who are still together, as well as Isla and Oak, and other familiar supporting characters from the preceding books. 

As the story unfolds, we watch Fletcher struggle to control his own magic as well as the uninvited magic he now carries, trying to focus and center himself so the uninvited guest doesn't wipe out who Fletcher is. We get to watch Fletcher come into his own, with a little help, and finding his way to become who he was meant to be. 

I would have liked to have learned a bit more about Conner. We get a bit of his background story, but other than being a likable guy, I really didn't get a good feel for him. Perhaps that will come out in future books. He's nice, don't get me wrong, and I think he really does fall for Fletcher, and of course that thing he does toward the end basically cemented for me that he needs to be in Rowan Harbor long term, but I would like to see more of him and learn what really makes him tick.

As with the two previous books, we get a strong HFN, as their story is not done. I'm good with that and can't wait to read what the author still has in store for them all.

These book cannot be read as standalones and must be read in order, as each builds on the previous one and continues the overall plot. I'm good with that too.

Recommended!


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of this review tour. A positive review was not promised in return. 

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review 2018-03-07 02:04
ARC Review: The Pick Up by Allison Temple
The Pick Up - Allison Temple

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, primarily because of the snarky, sarcastic back and forth between Kyle and Adam. 

This book is enemies to lovers and hot for (your kid's) teacher and returning home and finding exactly what you never knew you always wanted.

With sharp and snappy dialogue, lots of giggle-snorts, a slow-burn romance, and a good chunk of character growth for both MCs, I simply flew through the pages. 

The characters are complex and flawed, and felt realistic to me. One small niggle is that Kyle's relationship with Olivia, his daughter's mother, wasn't really explained deeply enough for my taste. 

I might have shed a tear for Adam and how scared he was to trust again, and for Kyle still grieving for Olivia, but also cheered for them when they finally got it together. 

This was my first book by this author, and I'm interested to see what else she has to offer.


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

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review 2018-02-25 01:18
ARC Review: Cam Boy (Murmur Inc. #3) by Quinn Anderson
Cam Boy - Quinn Anderson

If you look up the words "naive", "reckless", and "overly confident" in the dictionary, you might find Josh Clemmons' picture there.

If you've read the previous books in this series, you might remember Josh as the guy who works with Pete at the coffee shop. Additionally, you might recall that Pete works for Murmur Inc, a company that makes pornographic movies, but also provides Phone Sex Operators, and apparently, on-camera live action. 

Josh, stuck in a dead-end, low-wage job, partly because college just wasn't for him, looks for more excitement and more dough. Thus he's been looking online at Murmur Inc. for open audition calls, and wouldn't you know, his luck is about to change. 

Hastily cobbling together a resume, he's so confident that he's perfect for porn and will be chosen to perform that he. Quits. His. Job. before he even has an interview lined up. Overly confident? Reckless? You betcha.

Also naive. So very naive, because he thinks if Pete can be a porn star, so can he. Like, surely, anyone can be in porn, right? Lots of sex and you get paid? Why wouldn't everyone do this, amirite? How hard could it be? 

Right.

Josh's dreams of being the next AVN winner are dashed quickly when he realizes after his first scene he's not quite cut out for that kind of career. 

Mike Harwood, on the other hand, has been an adult film entertainer for quite some time. Filming both straight and gay movies, he's so used to faking attraction that he's no longer sure what's real and what isn't. I could tell that he was approaching burnout, but he wasn't quite there yet.

Josh and Mike meet on set for Josh's first and last scene, after which Josh crawls back to the coffeeshop and begs for his job back. Which he does, lucky him. Neither can get the encounter out of their mind, but Josh isn't going to make any movies, and Mike is busy filming the next scene. Josh also gets even more lucky when Colette, the owner of Murmur Inc, offers him cam work - something he can do from his rented room, on his own laptop, but still get paid. Josh agrees - jacking off seems simple enough when one hasn't to contort himself, and getting paid to jack off - what more could he want? 

The author has done really good research for her books and gives good insights to the industry. What we see on film is hard work for the actors, and there is a constant fear of STDs that is just part of daily life. It's also true that the straight porn is less likely to utilize condoms, and thus the actors undergo frequent tests to ensure they're as safe as can be. When Mike is told that one of his recent co-actors on the M/F set has been tested positive, he is immediately sent for a test, and anyone with whom he performed since then must also be tested. Additionally, until he tests negative, he cannot perform with anyone else. 

And so Josh and Mike reconnect. With Mike laying low and waiting the appropriate potential incubation time, he's got time on his hands, right? 

There's a bit of angst among the giggle-snorts, and Josh's antics kept me largely entertained. This series is campy, cheesy fun for the most part, though there are some serious undertones between the lines. With each book, the author offers an unflinching look at the porn industry, and reminds us in subtle ways that what we as consumers see is only the glossy outer layers, and not the seedy underbelly of the beast. Mike knows that his days as a performer have a sell-by date, and he tries to share that knowledge with Josh. 

Mike also has a secret he's keeping from Josh - which I thought was going to create a bit more of an issue when it comes out, but thankfully Josh isn't just naive and reckless, he's also kind and forgiving. 

There's a happy ending here too, which I appreciated very much. It was nice to see them in a good place in the end, in love and happy.


I couldn't tell if there's going to be another book in this series, but I sure as heck hope so. This was a fun read!


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

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