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review 2014-04-04 22:42
Whiskey and Wry
Whiskey and Wry - Rhys Ford

Posted at Hearts on Fire Reviews 

4.5 stars

Even though I didn’t totally love Sinner's Gin, the ending was such a surprise that I was on pins and needles awaiting the next story. 

Damien Mitchell, guitarist, and one of three band members who died in a car crash, is actually alive and well. Well, not totally well. He’s shut up in a mental institution, pumped up full of drugs, and with no memory of that strange couple that calls themselves his parents. His memories are just starting to return, and now he’s on the run because someone is trying to kill him.

Like Miki St. John in the previous story, Damien is a very damaged character who is wary and distrustful of others. He grew up with a very abusive father and a neglectful, alcoholic mother. The only person in the world he can trust is Miki, and now that Damien knows he’s alive, he is determined to find him. Only Miki will be able to fill in the blanks of his life. 

While searching for Miki, Damien holes up in a dumpy attic apartment while busking at Finnegan’s Pub. The owner, Sionn Murphy, takes an instant liking to him. The attraction is mutual, but I appreciated that their relationship moved along at a slow pace, allowing me to feel the intensity of their growing love for each other. 

Their sex scenes were hot, but one of the hottest scenes in this story for me was the kiss they exchanged while drinking coffee and eating glazed donuts. 

 

“The small piece of paper Sionn used mopped up a bit of crème, and Damien leaned in, angling his chin up. He kept his eyes down, trying not to overtly inhale the woodsy green cologne Sionn wore or stare at the faint stubble scruffing the man’s strong chin. He already knew Sionn’s eyes were flecked by pale sky-blue specks around his pupil with a black ring running around his irises, but Damie didn’t stare into them, not when the man’s breath whispered over his jaw and fingers scraped crème from Damie’s cheek. There must have been a dollop of crème left somewhere, or maybe Sionn had more than a bit of it when he’d bitten into the donut, because when his lips met Damien’s, their kiss tasted of milky sugar and hot cinnamon.”

 

Sigh….

As much as I love Sionn Murphy, I didn’t find him to be as fully fleshed out as Kane was in the first story. Other than owning a pub, he doesn’t seem to have much of a life at all other than to be the perfect boyfriend for Damien. There were only glimpses of difficulties in his past, with details that were fascinating enough, but lacking. I wanted to know a lot more! Even his physical description was vague and I found myself glancing at the cover to help me picture what he looked like. Damien is on the left in full color and sexy scruffiness, while Sionn’s ghostly pallor blends in too well with the background. Just like the cover, Sionn was a little too much in the background for my liking. 

The things that annoyed me in Sinner's Gin were much less prevalent in this story, for which I’m grateful. The Morgan/Finnegan clan was genuinely loving and supportive without feeling annoyingly smothering and intrusive. I also liked the larger focus on Donal, the patriarch of the clan. He’s full of compassion and wisdom and the kind of person one would be proud to call dad. 

The villains were downright evil to the point they were caricatures. They would have been a lot more believable with the nuances and shades of gray that exist in humanity. Their crimes were over the top and I rolled my eyes a few times, but at the same time I found myself holding my breath and unable to stop reading until the very end.

Overall, this is a worthy addition to the Sinners series. I am definitely looking forward to the next two stories and hope that Miki and Damien will soon be getting a band together and making music again.

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review 2014-03-12 20:01
Training Season
Training Season - Leta Blake


Posted at Hearts on Fire Reviews 

Matty Marcus is a very talented figure skater, but poor performance and an injury have kept him out of competition. Now he’s short on cash and in order to be able to compete in the next Olympics, he accepts a six-month housesitting job in Montana for a friend of his mom’s. The natural beauty and tranquil lifestyle allows him time to recuperate from his injury and focus on his training without all the distractions of his friends and city life. 

Rob Lovely is the handsome next-door neighbor and ranch hand that comes knocking on Matty’s door with an armful of firewood. Even though they are attracted to each other, Matty is preparing for competition and doesn’t need the distraction. But the heart wants what it wants and Matty and Rob inevitably fall in love.

I totally loved Matty’s flamboyant style and charming personality, and I loved how attentive he was to Rob’s 12-year-old son, Ben. But there were a lot of things that irritated me about him. His parents made a lot of sacrifices to get his career off the ground, and to me he took them for granted and squandered his talent. At least now he acknowledges his mistakes and is trying to make up for that. 

Rob is a really nice guy, and though I don’t understand his attraction to Matty, he brings stability to their relationship. Their sex scenes, however, left me cold. They were repetitive, lacking in chemistry, and very unromantic. I could have done without the BDSM aspect of this story, as it felt out of character and completely unnecessary. I know Rob wanted Matty to do his best, but I’m not convinced that pain and humiliation is the way to help him achieve his goals or address his self-esteem issues. I also was disturbed that Rob felt he knew just what Matty needed sexually without considering his feelings or getting consent before engaging in high-risk practices. 

On the positive side, there are a number of interesting and well-rounded secondary characters, male and female. I enjoyed reading about the grueling training and physical demands of figure skating and loved the breathtaking descriptions of Montana. The disturbing BDSM scenes detracted a lot from my enjoyment of this story, so I can’t rate it higher than average.

*Book provided by author in exchange for an honest review.

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