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review 2017-08-22 00:43
ARC Review: Textual Relations by Cate Ashwood
Textual Relations - Cate Ashwood

This was a sweet, low-angst, meet-cute novella. 

Henry Hathaway, an evolutionary psychology professor, gets up on his birthday to go to the dentist, because that's apparently what one does on his birthday. Except most people go to get their teeth cleaned twice a year, and a dental assistant isn't interchangeable with a dental hygienist. 

Henry is rather dull and a bit socially awkward. When he gets a text out of the blue from someone named Ash, confirming their dinner plans, Henry goes out of his way to meet Ash, thinking Ash is a woman who's going to be stood up, and he doesn't want her to think her date didn't show. Again, most people would reply by text, stating something like "hey, wrong number", but not Henry.

Except when Henry gets to the restaurant, Ash turns out to be Asher. Who's definitely not a girl. 

Meet-cute, right? Except Asher is gay, and Henry is definitely not. That he knows of. 

Henry is also super oblivious so when he and Ash hang out, he doesn't realize it's a date. 

Matter of fact, our oblivious prof doesn't realize much of anything until Ash kisses him. 

What I liked about this book is that Mr. Oblivious didn't suddenly have an existential crisis after The Kiss and his revelation that "huh, how about that, I may be bi", and Asher is spontaneous and fun, and Henry just goes with the flow, allowing Asher to pull him out of his preconceived notions and routines. 

Okay, so when I said "existential crisis", I didn't mean that Henry is all set to go explore his newfound attraction to Asher. There's a somewhat short time period where Henry doesn't answer Ash's calls and texts, but then, professor that he is, jumps feet first into researching sexuality, and... well, you read this for yourself.

As short as this is, there's plenty of steam, once Henry fully commits himself, and starts taking more risks - the staid professor type in Henry takes a leave of absence.

This is only a novella, so there's not a ton of relationship development, and we don't get Asher's POV, which didn't help explain why someone who's supposedly such a player (as we're told) is suddenly hell-bent on gaining the prof's love. I guess the heart wants what the heart wants? They for sure had sufficient chemistry, so even though this thing between them develops quickly, I didn't find it difficult to believe they had the hots for each other. The epilogue sealed the deal.

So, meet-cute, a clueless professor, and a smitten ex-player - this was a fun, albeit quick read. Perfect for an extended lunch break, amirite?


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

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review 2017-08-21 17:00
ARC Review: Gabriel (Legacy Ranch #2) by RJ Scott
Gabriel (Legacy Series Book 2) - RJ Scott

Gabriel, book 2 in the Legacy Ranch series by this author, was a difficult book to read, primarily because of the abuse Gabriel suffers and has suffered. If you saw my status updates while I was reading this book, you know that I wished a painful and horrific death upon Stefan, the pimp who picked up Gabriel after the trial and who exploited Gabriel's low self-esteem, his weakness and pain, to make him hurt even more.

I'm not sorry for wanting that slimeball dead. 

Gabriel is trapped. While he has escaped the abuse he suffered at the ranch, he's still not free of it. He honestly believes that all he's good for is sex, a lie fed to him repeatedly, constantly, by his pimp, and on those few occasions that Gabriel dares reach for just a little more, like Kyle's letters inviting him to Legacy Ranch, Stefan knows how to keep him down. With fists and dub-con sex, telling him that he's good for nothing else, reinforcing what Gabriel already believes himself to be.

Cameron Stafford, hotel owner, nearly blind from a degenerative disease, just wants his awful, cruel family off his back. His last boyfriend was a no-good thief who stole from him, and Cam has no delusions of finding someone permanent, and he relies heavily on Six, his bodyguard/friend, who's been with him for many years. 

Gabe's latest client has booked a room in Cam's hotel, which is how Cam finds out about Gabe and then decides to hire him as a fake boyfriend. 

It's not as cute as that may sound. Cam's family is ridiculously nasty to him, over the top nasty, to be honest, and Cam's father is trying to take running the hotel away from him, because clearly, someone who's blind cannot possibly run a hotel. Right. Sit down, you jerk.

And Gabe - OMG, he broke my heart. There are a few outs that present themselves to Gabe, ways out of the hell he lives in, but he's too broken, too afraid, to trust and take them, instead returning time and again to his abusive pimp. I cried and cried, and wanted Stefan dead. I don't usually react with such violence to a fictional character, so my reaction to Stefan should tell you how abhorrent his character truly is. There is nothing redeeming about him, and when he meets his demise, I cheered. 

I would have liked to see a bit more development of Cam's and Gabe's romantic relationship - unfortunately, we are mostly told that they develop feelings for each other. Cam tries hard to show Gabe that there is another way, that he doesn't have to stay with Stefan, and I liked that he didn't give up. Sure, he had help from Six, even if it was reluctantly given, but I could see that Six only wanted what was best for Cam, and didn't at first believe that Gabe fit the bill. 

Both characters have experienced pain and hurt, though Gabe's abuse was obviously much more horrific. I felt for both of them, cried at the damage inflicted on them by others, and I wanted them to have their happy ending.

Which, of course, they get. This is a romance, after all. I would have liked that to have been expanded on a bit more, and I felt that the ending wrapped up a bit too quickly. Most of the book also takes place away from Legacy Ranch, and we get only a few scenes there. 

Overall, this book had a very different feel than the first one in this spin-off series. It's a lot heavier, I believe, and on more than one occasion, I wanted to reach into the pages and alternately strangle Stefan, and grab Gabriel and Cameron and shield them both from the people who wanted to hurt them. 

Not an easy book to read, but, I would say, worth your time.


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

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review 2017-08-16 02:06
Release Day ARC Review: Out Of The Shadows by KC Wells
Out of the Shadows (Dreamspun Desires Book 40) - K.C. Wells

I adored this so much! What a sweet romance between one hunky gardener/handyman and one damaged, hiding young man who thinks an accident 8 years ago that left him severely scarred turned him into a monster not fit for society. 

Josh is a gardener/handyman for an apartment complex and has been tasked with modernizing some of the apartments by upgrading the kitchens and bathrooms. The first apartment is the home of a mysterious resident, whom nobody has apparently ever seen. Josh is a really nice guy, easy-going and kind, and he has no preconceived notions about the man who lives in the apartment. Josh feels he's there to do a job, and he plans on doing a good one. He also has a nice group of friends, including two (Nate and Dylan) who may be given the "oblivious men of the year" award. I sure hope the author has a book planned for them as well. 

Christian made a horrific mistake 8 years ago while helping a stranded motorist to jump-start his car and hooked up the wrong side first, resulting in severe acid burns to his face, arms and chest. He moved to Boston to start a new life - if you can call it a life - and cut himself off from friends, family, and everyone. He orders what he needs online, groceries are delivered to his front door, and he only rarely goes outside, and when he does, it's at night, cloaked in darkness. He's afraid of people's reactions to his scars and would rather be alone than see them pity him or recoil from him.

Unbeknownst to Josh, Christian has been watching him work in the flower beds and such, admiring and lusting after him. Of course, Christian has no illusions of getting any closer to Josh than through the window, but ogling is enough. Or so he tells himself.

On the first day of the renovation job, Josh believes that Christian isn't home, but the truth comes out, and Christian has a difficult time believing that Josh's reaction to the scars (and the monster he sees in the mirror) is so calm and accepting.

A mutual love for Harry Potter brings them closer, they share lunch every day while Josh is working on the apartment, and even after he's done and has moved on to the next place, and it was so lovely to watch Christian begin to trust Josh, who starts to draw the slightly older man out of his shell. Shared lunches turn into watching a movie at the theater (late at night, of course), and meeting Josh's friends.

Christian blossoms under Josh's unfailing support, and their mutual attraction fairly quickly turns into real emotions and a desire to be together. Josh helps Christian realize that what he sees in the mirror is not a monster after all, and that while some people may react in a way Christian expects them to (recoiling in horror), the majority of folks do not. 

I would have liked Christian to consider therapy to deal with his self-hatred, because Josh is not a therapist, and while he provided steady support, love, and understanding, I wasn't sure that Christian's rather rapid progression to being comfortable in public spaces (after hiding for so long) was completely realistic. However, considering that this is a Dreamspun Desires title, this did not influence my rating or enjoyment of this book.

The author did a great job with the characters, and their romance was believable within the parameters of this series. Their story is, while definitely on the fluffy side, super romantic and hopeful, and their HEA was well deserved. A quiet, low-key romance, very little angst, and so very sweet - I had a fabulous time reading it.

And I'm serious about Nate and Dylan needing their own book. Please get right on that, Ms. Wells.


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

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review 2017-08-06 23:08
ARC Review: Force Of Nature (Coming About #4) by J.K. Hogan
Force of Nature (Coming About Book 4) - J.K. Hogan

This is Neal Hesse's book. While it's not my favorite in the series (that was Rory's book), I think this was still a solid novel.

I had a couple of niggles, but I would classify them as minor.

The primary location for this book is in the North Cascades mountains; the rugged terrain poses multiple opportunities for the men to get into some serious, life-threatening situations.

Neal Hesse is a harbor patrol officer. After a bad break-up with his partner of 10 years, Neal is a bit adrift, and has been sleeping his way through quite a few one-night-stands trying to deal with the pain and hurt and his broken heart. Since those didn't fix anything, he decides a vacation is just the right thing to get himself back on track, and what better vacation than roughing it in the mountains. Except Neal can barely walk a straight line without stumbling, apparently, so he definitely needs a guide.

Enter Travis McCreary, mountaineer, who goes by Rock. Because, ya know, mountains. An ex-Ranger, he's now a survivalist, taking on guided tours (which he hates doing) while waiting for his big break to come through in the form of a survivalist TV show. Oh, he's also very much in the closet, because clearly mountain men cannot possibly be gay. 

Right.

So Neal gets dropped by helicopter and the two men set out on a trip across the Cascades to the pick-up zone. Seems simple enough, right? Except, no one told Neal about massive rattle snakes lurking under tree branches, or that a lot of rain can make for treacherous terrain, and thus the two men have to use all their wits to make it to the pre-arranged pick up. 

Which may include eating a rattle snake. Foraging for food. Sharing a sleeping bag for warmth. 

As for my niggles... no way is a single rattler, no matter how fat, enough sustenance for two grown man hiking over rugged terrain all day. Their food rations were so minimal that I had serious doubts either one of them would still be walking after the 2nd day without having more than half a cereal bar, with the exertion they were both putting out. Which may explain why Rock... nah, you read this for yourself.

Also, the blurb hints at dub-con - nah, I don't think so. This didn't feel like that to me. It felt more like Rock likes it rough, and Neal likes it rough, and their conversation beforehand was sufficient for me to not consider this dub-con. Now, the reason they had that first time sex was possibly because Neal hated Rock and vice versa, and possibly a bit because Neal felt like he had to be manly-man-assertive, but still not dub-con. YMMV. 

Anyway, after that first time, the two men get it on more often than not, and ew, ew, ew, you haven't showered in three days, and you've wiped your ass with leaves and moss, and ew. Not my kind of sexy, sorry.

I gave this book 3.5 stars for the tale it tells as the two men face adverse conditions time and again, and how both of them work toward a common goal, which is making it out of the mountains alive without any major injuries. Also, how feelings start to develop. And how often I was on the edge of my seat scared for their safety, because holy shit, some of that stuff is a little bit far out of my comfort zone. 

The book kept my interest; I didn't skim anything, and I loved how the two of them bonded. I also liked that Neal grew a pair with the ex-BF, and told him to fuck off. Well done, Neal. I do hope he'd have done that too if he hadn't already fallen for Rock, because Neal deserved better than to be dumped like that.

I do believe this might be the last in this series, and as such, it was a fitting ending. We got to visit with the three couple from the first three books and see them still super happy and in love, so that was nice. 

Solid writing. I enjoyed it.


** I received a free copy of this book via Indigo Marketing and Design as part of a blogtour. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-08-02 01:20
Release Day ARC Review: The Teddy Bear Club by Sean Michael
The Teddy Bear Club (Dreamspun Desires Book 39) - Sean Michael

The blurb sounded fun, and the general idea of this book was great, but the execution left me wanting. I expected more than talk about diapers, and burping, and bottles, and just kids in general from a book being billed as a romance.

Aiden has adopted his sister's two children, since his sister struggles with mental health issues and cannot take care of them. He works from home, mostly at night, and his adult interactions are pretty much limited to his twice-weekly trip to the local coffee shop where he meets with friends.

Devon is taking care of his much younger sister's newborn baby after she left town. He is completely over his head taking take of a baby, even three months in, and he hasn't started any legal proceedings either. Invited to join Aiden and the others at the coffee place, he's glad for some adult company too.

Most of this book is told in dialogue. Most of this dialogue is trite, bland, and non-engaging, and while a romance develops between Aiden and Devon, amidst taking care of the children, there just didn't seem to be any kind of believable spark. 

For a romance to work for me, there has to be more relationship development, and more to the relationship than just the commonality of taking care of kids. The kids just took over this book, and I was often rather bored while reading about their feeding times, their bedtimes, and their baths. While the romance itself was fine (what there was of one), the constant talking about the children was a major turnoff. 

There's some drama with Devon's mother who wants to take the baby from him, but that's also easily resolved, and her role in this book was slightly OTT, as was Devon's reactions to her threats. 

So yeah... this didn't do it for me. YMMV. 


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

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