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review 2017-05-16 02:25
Release Day ARC Review: Two For Trust by Elle Brownlee
Two for Trust (Dreamspun Desires Book 34) - Elle Brownlee

Well, that was mostly lovely. No steam but a few hot kisses and a lot of longing, and a super slow burn romance between an American nurse/tourist in England and the well-off owner of a manor. Finch is utterly adorable and exactly what the somewhat stuffy Benedict needed in his life.

Finch Mason, young, single, and a nurse, is on the trip of a lifetime - two weeks in jolly olde England, armed with a National Trust pass, that turns out to be a pass for two for one week, instead of a pass for one for two weeks. No matter, because why not offer the 2nd entry to the old mill he's visiting to the handsome Brit who shows up ever so fortuitously. And then Finch and Benedict meet time and again, and share a week of visiting historical sites in that particular area of Britain.

Over the course of the week, Finch rescues a puppy from a hole in the ground, has tea and crumpets with Benedict, and starts to have feelings for the handsome older man. He's quit his job in the States because they wouldn't grant him the vacation time, and he is not looking forward to returning stateside because of that pesky job search he'll have to undertake.

His funds are limited, but he's optimistic and a bit of a history geek, and admires Benedict and his charms.

I could see how Finch would look to the older Benedict as someone to admire, but I just didn't really buy the developing relationship. More often than not, Benedict comes across as a cold fish - I'm not sure whether that was his personality or if he acted this way because he thought it was expected.

After the first week, Benedict plans to move on to the next hostel, but his plans are dashed when he returns to his room and discovers someone has ransacked it and stolen nearly everything. And Benedict rushes to the rescue.

I had already figured at their first meeting that Benedict wasn't quite who Finch assumed him to be, so the reveal wasn't a big surprise to me. I also at that point became a little bit uncomfortable with the manner in which Benedict takes over control, and starts telling Finch what to do. It could be said that he was doing this only because he too had started to look at the young man with something like desire and longing, and possibly even love, but it wasn't well explained and not really shown.

At about 2/3 in, Benedict asks Finch to take his grandmother across the Channel to visit her sister in The Netherlands, for payment, and Finch agrees to play nursemaid for the trip across and a few days in the Dutch countryside, and then catching a flight to London and get there in time for his return to the US. There's an unexpected kiss at the dock. Except things don't exactly go as planned once they've made it across, and Grandma gets herself into a spot of trouble, and then Finch... well, you read this for yourself.

Finch ends up staying longer than initially planned - not that he has a job to go home to - and then there's a bit of a misunderstanding, and an impetuous Finch runs off, thinking he's unwanted.

As this is a romance, we get a happy ending, of course.

I quite adored Finch. He had a really bad relationship experience prior to getting to England, and I don't think he saw himself as someone who was worthy of Benedict, or anyone else, for that matter. He's unfailingly polite, gracious, and always very grateful to everyone who helps him, but also not a complete doormat. He loves animals, he's kind and optimistic, and he doesn't let life get him down. I do believe he was good for Benedict, and helped to loosen the chap up a bit, and maybe pull the stick out of his arse.

Benedict - well, I guess he grew on me by the end, but I didn't like it when he said things that sounded a bit too much like scolding Finch for my taste, or giving me the impression that he was bothered by the young man's presence in his home. Sure, we're told that he doesn't feel that way at all, but it doesn't really come across that way in his actions. I guess I was missing the chemistry here - there just didn't seem to be much passion at all - and while I don't need steam in my romance books, I found it strange that the two men would share nothing but a few hot kisses before the grandiose ending, not even off-page.

YMMV.


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

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review 2017-05-01 22:17
Release Day ARC Review: Stage Two by Ariel Tachna
Stage Two (Dreamspun Desires Book 33) - Ariel Tachna

This is the 3rd book in the Lexington Lovers series, as well as an installment of the Dreamspun Desires titles.

I liked this a lot. A whole lot. It's about family, second chances, learning to trust, and learning how to stand up for what you believe, even if it hurts you. It's about how sometimes teenagers are smarter than you are, and maybe you ought to listen to them.

Blake Barnes is a high school assistant principal and charged with the sophomores. Two of his newest students, two brothers who've recently lost their mother after losing their father when they were much younger, are being harassed by their classmates. When the bullying escalates and the two boys, Kit and Phillip, end up in his office, he comes face to face with Thane Dalton, the boys' guardian/uncle and Blake's teenage crush.

Thane is every bit the badass Blake remembers, but the attraction still burns brightly. Once he unravels his tied tongue after seeing Thane again, Blake goes full assistant principal mode and lays out his plan.

What follows is at once a humorous and poignant romance between two men who are trying to build a relationship against the odds and against many obstacles in their way, the least of which are the two teenage boys Thane has inherited from his late sister.

The book touches on important topics, such as high school bullying, homophobia, bad assumptions, and making rash judgments without having all the information. Yes, Thane - I'm definitely looking at you with that last one. And good for Blake for having a backbone.

As with all the books in the Dreamspun Desires series, there's little steam, but there's plenty of UST, and one mustn't forget that it's kind of difficult to get it on when you have two teenagers living in the same house. The romance between the two men was totally believable and relatable. Neither has had any kind of long-term relationship before meeting again (which is something only Blake really remembers since he didn't actually interact with Thane back in his high school days), but they're both all in pretty much right away, especially Thane. Which made it so very painful when he did that stupid thing he did. Sure, I could to some extent understand his rash reaction, but to not even give the guy he professed to want to keep a chance to explain - yeah, you were dumb, Thane. And your boys suffered for it just the same as you did.

Speaking of Kit and Phillip - I really liked those two. They were grieving their mother, of course, but they stuck by each other and were fiercely loyal to their uncle and Mr. B. I loved seeing the relationships between the boys and Mr. B. develop through the course of the book and watch him go from Mr. B. to Uncle Blake. In fact, the boys really rounded out the plot in this book, and I thoroughly enjoyed it whenever they were on page.

This was a really sweet read, and it met all my expectations, and surpassed them in some instances. For example, Blake's idea of giving the boys a place on the theater stage crew was brilliant, with sound reasoning, even if Thane doesn't buy it at first. The boys plotting to get Blake and Thane into the same room at the end - hahaha, that was fun, and it worked!

I very much enjoyed reading this book, and I think you will too. Recommended.


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

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review 2017-04-16 00:25
ARC Review: Forgotten Paradise by Shira Anthony
Forgotten Paradise (Dreamspun Desires Book 32) - Shira Anthony

This book made lovely use of the amnesia trope - with a twist, albeit one that was (un)intentionally revealed fairly early on.

Adam Preston is a programmer by heart and a computer business owner by trade. Having taken over the company his father built after Dad's untimely demise, he now has Entech, a giant, ruthless company, after his business and his brains. At odds with his younger brother, and stressed from having to deal with a merger he doesn't want, Adam takes his sister's advice and take a week's vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Where he meets Jonah James, who's lived on the island for the last 10 years after washing up on its shore without any memory of his former life. He's managed to become a Diving Instructor, and now leads groups of or individuals tourists on dives around the island. Any time he tries to remember his past, he's hit by massive headaches and mostly doesn't even try anymore. Except spending time with Adam seems to lift the murky veils that cover his past, and Jonah starts to get glimpses of events of who he might have been before.

The first half of the story describes what they presume is just a vacation fling - picnics on the beach, diving, spending time together as much as possible, talking to each other about whatever comes to mind, and realizing that the feelings they're developing may be more than just a fling. On Adam's last night, they finally fall into bed together and burn up the sheets.

The second half of the book deals with the fallout of Jonah regaining his memory (nothing like a night of great sex to get that clarity, amirite), and that changes the dynamic completely.

Adam finds out on the news that what they had joked about during an evening at the beach is actually true, and (view spoiler).

Which brings us to the second trope utilized in this book - getting a second chance. Jonah, upon regaining his memories, and reliving the event that caused him to ultimately wash up on the beach, uses this as a turning point in his life and begins to make amends, realizing that chasing success ruthlessly isn't all that life's about. There's a subplot here too with his business partner that for a while there causes Adam and Jonah's romance to fully derail.

Adam too has a chance to change - especially the relationship he has with his brother - and look at things differently. He's heartbroken, of course, thinking that he's lost Jonah, but deals with the pain as best as he can.

The author did a fabulous job realizing fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters in this book and allowed them to grow as well. Set against a gorgeous backdrop, the romance was absolutely believable, even if Jonah's background story is pretty unrealistic, but I expect that from the books in this series. I very much enjoyed reading this, especially as the author seamlessly weaves in fun facts about diving as well.

Obviously, this has a HEA - it wouldn't be a Dreamspun Desires title without. Recommended.


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

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review 2017-03-31 19:14
Release Day ARC Review: Tall, Dark, and Deported by Bru Baker
Tall, Dark, and Deported (Dreamspun Desires Book 31) - Bru Baker

This is a really cute and sweet romance using the fake-marriage-for-reasons trope, by pairing a young, kind and hard-working immigrant to the US with a somewhat jaded, slightly older businessman with a heart of gold he has protected behind some massive walls.

Hoping to renew his tourist visa by making a quick dash into Canada, so he can stay and help his brother and sister-in-law with their orchard, Mateus is at the airport waiting for his flight, when he happens to meet Crawford, who's waiting for the same flight, having been sent to Vancouver by his boss to help a failing hotel.

When their flight is cancelled, Crawford offers to rent a car and drive the two of them across the border to Vancouver. Knowing his visa is about to expire, and not willing to lose any time, Mateus agrees.

At the border, Mateus is denied entry into Canada since his US visa is about to expire, and then cannot return to the US, because his visa is about to expire. Seeing the young man in limbo and looking so scared to be deported back to Portugal, Crawford impulsively lies and proclaims Mateus his fiance, on their way to be married in Vancouver.


And now they're stuck. Obviously, for both of them to return to the US and not be in huge trouble, they have to get married. And they do. They even share a room, with one of them sleeping in the bed, and the other taking the couch, and the hotel's management giving them the best suite, and Crawford's assholish ex-husband a thorn in his side, and Mateus being ever so sweet and wonderful and supportive of his new husband, and... well, let it suffice to tell you that I had a blast reading this.

And there are some quieter, angstier moments too. Both Mateus and Crawford develop feelings rather quickly, but neither believes the other to return them, and neither has the guts to bring it up. Communication, they're a-lacking.

Of course, upon their return to the US as newlyweds, Immigration has a few questions, and oh don't you know, they're going to make sure that Mateus and Crawford aren't fake-married, but then kissing happens and the border agent is all swoony and happy (which, you know, in the current climate, bwahahahaha, yeah, right), but this is a Dreamspun Desires romance, and of course there's a HEA in which they both get exactly what they never knew they always wanted.

I really dig this author's writing style. Full of emotions, but not purple, and she can really write the UST. The longing. The wanting, the needing - it all comes across in her words. The backstories for both men were well-crafted and believable, and, considering most of the books in this series tend to be slightly OTT, also rather reasonable. I loved Mateus from the start, his strong convictions, and his humble and kind demeanor, and Crawford won me over too eventually.

This was lovely. Super cute, super fun, and super sweet. I just adore this series, and I adored this book.

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-03-14 22:31
Release Day ARC Review: Two Cowboys And A Baby by B.A. Tortuga
Two Cowboys and a Baby (Dreamspun Desires Book 30) - BA Tortuga

On the surface, there's a cute story here. You got cowboys, small town antics, and even an abandoned baby on your doorstep that holds the twisted answer to a long-kept secret. So, I was ready for cute and sweet and lots of cowboys. And I got that, to some extent.

What didn't work for me as well were some parts of the relationship bromance between Hoss (the supposed baby-daddy) and Bradley, two men who've been friends forever and a day, but who had a falling out when Hoss came out to Bradley way back when in high school. I totally believed that Hoss was in love with Bradley, and that Bradley was in love with Hoss - no issues there - and when Bradley confessed to Hoss that maybe back then he was an idiot, and he's regretted that ever since, their bromance became much more and their romantic relationship really took off.

The parts that were harder to swallow had to do with the revelations about the little innocent baby Hoss finds on his doorstep one morning, and how she looks a little too much like Hoss, and how the DNA test shows that .... well, I'll let y'all read this yourself. The drama that unfolds between Bradley and Hoss was, while understandable, a little out of left field. Up until that point, I thought that the back and forth banter between them showcased their relationship, and they truly felt like they'd been friends for a very long time. So it was a bit of a shock for me to see Bradley react the way he did when that twist came about, and while the lack of real communication between them was indicative of their relationship, I would have thought that Bradley wouldn't be such a dumbass and trusted Hoss a bit more than what he did. Yeah, yeah, surely the "surprise" was a shock to them all, but when your man tells you "no, I didn't", then maybe you ought to stop and listen instead of being all Judgy McJudgerson, eh?

I also thought that the twist was a bit over the top, but then I've come to expect that sort of over the top kind of thing from this series, so I wasn't put off by it. I adored Hoss being all awkward with the baby, without a clue what to do, so that part rang true for me. Even if his mama came to help out a bit.

The author really captured the small town Texas feel, and made me feel like I was right there at the rodeo with Hoss and Bradley - well done, that.

Also, if your sheriff's name is Pooter - 'nuff said. I giggled a lot whenever he was on page. Stereotypical small town characters all around, and that part was a lot of fun.

This was an enjoyable read, even if I didn't like some parts. The book works well within the Dreamspun Desires series, and should be read the way it was intended - as a bit of fluff, a bit over the top, and a "love will save the day" kind of romance.


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

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