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review 2017-06-30 00:38
ARC Review: Love And Other Hot Beverages by Laurie Loft
Love and Other Hot Beverages - Laurie Loft

2.5 stars

I wanted to like this, really, I did. I read the blurb and thought this was going to be a drama-filled romance, but it's not.

Oh, there's plenty of drama, alright, but not really the romance I expected. 

Todd Addison is working for a construction company after his last relationship ended with a bad and painful break-up. Having put many miles between himself and his former boyfriend, he's taken the construction job until he finds something better to do or until ex-boyfriend changes his mind. Oh, he's also now in the closet, because construction workers are generally homophobic, according to Todd. 

Sebastian (Sebby) Nye is out and proud and the office manager for the construction company. He is an outrageous flirt, and tries his charms on a very standoffish Todd, plying him with coffee and more. Eventually, Sebby gets what he wants. It's supposed to be healing Todd from heartbreak, and Sebby isn't planning to fall for the guy but he does anyway.

I really didn't like Todd. He exasperated me with his back and forth, and he hurt Sebby more than once. Their relationship is messy because Sebby isn't totally honest, and Todd is still pining for the cheating ex. 

I had a difficult time liking both characters, actually, and their actions and reactions were possibly a little to realistic for me. I don't mind realism in the books I read; I welcome it usually, but here it just got too much for me - I just didn't believe that these two men are going to make it, despite the HEA we get in the end. 

The writing is a bit stilted on occasion, and the dialogue felt off, especially when they were bantering. There are sexy times, but I wasn't super impressed with those either. 

Overall, it was just meh. 

 

 

** 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 2016-09-26 02:17
Book Review: Bashed by Rick R. Reed
Bashed - Rick R. Reed

I don't have a lot of clever words for this one either, other than that it made me angry, so angry, because the gay-bashing within happens still all over the world, and it enrages me to know that people like Ronnie exists, people who hate others simply for who they are.

I cried a lot. Donald's grief and pain, and even his numbness, all rang true.

I wanted to reach in and throttle the young men who commit this horrible crime before it happened, so Mark could live, and he and Donald could be happy.

The afterword from the author about killed me. Thank you to the cop who showed up just in time so his story didn't end like Donald and Mark's.

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review 2016-07-11 15:22
Release Day ARC Review: Son Of Money by Brandon Witt
Son of Money - Brandon Witt

So, this is only my 2nd book by this author. (I suck, I know.) In my defense, though, I was mightily impressed with the first one I read, because it was so awesome, and it made my Best of 2015 list.

Then this came to me via Dreamspinner as an ARC (thank you!!), and I devoured it just the same.

Because, Brandon, man... this was fabulous. Two magnificent MCs, a fantastic romance, holy hot and dirty boysecks, Batman, and a bit of suspense/drama - what's not to love, amirite?

Randall has disinherited himself from his rich and super-controlling family. He's basically the black sheep, works as a photographer and masseur, and some of this clients get extra benefits. While this may sound sleazy at first, I assure you, it's not. Randall doesn't accept payment for sexual favors, and he certainly doesn't give every client those extracurricular activities, but hey, he's single, young, and why the hell not?

He stays in touch with his family mainly because he loves his controlled and emotionally abused sister in law, and his little niece Bailey, whom he adores. He's not rich, but he's happy. Mostly.

It's because of Bailey, sort of, that Randall decides to adopt a dog - if her daddy won't let her have one, Randall can do the next best thing, right?

So Randall is chosen by Harper, who must possibly be the ugliest dog I've ever seen described in the pages of a book. But she loves Randall, and Randall can't help but fall for her.

I myself pretty much fell for Randall from the start. There was just something about him, how he lived by his convictions, and how lonely he felt sometimes, that drew me in.

And then there was Noah. Holy shitballz, people, Noah was amazing. Direct, communicative, supportive, sweet, kind - and totally in love with Randall. He works at the Humane Society where Randall gets Harper, and then is pulled into the suspense plot by association as the story unfolds.

Speaking of the suspense - dayum, Brandon Witt, you had me clueless until the end as to who was behind it. And then utterly shocked when I found out.

I loved, loved the relationship between Randall and Noah, and the one Randall had with his niece and sister-in-law. And I loved, loved, LOVED that - well, read this for yourself. No spoilers here.

As this is a romance, it will not be a spoiler to let you know that we got our HEA, so there's that. Expected that, didn't you?

The writing - brilliant. I was drawn in from the start, laughing, hoping, fearing, and crying with the characters, fanning myself during the sexy times, and on the edge of my seat while they figured out the whodunit. And the author, while writing super hot sex scenes, does so sparingly, and only to further the plot. None of it is gratuitous, and I for one appreciate that very much. The scenes, while definitely requiring cold showers after, are also rather emotional, which is much more important to me in a romance. I want to see the emotional connection more so than how tab A is inserted into slot B, and I got that here in droves.

Fabulous, just fabulous, and highly 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 2016-06-27 02:26
Release Day ARC Review: Anthony (Survivor Stories #4) by JP Barnaby
Anthony (A Survivor Story Book 4) - J.P. Barnaby

As with "Ben", when this book became available as an ARC, I asked the author whether she thought I could handle it. Because I'm a wimp, and I know I can't read "Aaron" or "Spencer", for reasons.

But she assured me I would be just fine, and I was.

Anthony is Aaron's little brother, moved to the basement with the middle brother Allen when Aaron returned home after being rescued from the man who abused and tortured him. There is thankfully no explicit violence in this book pertaining to Aaron's story. But living in the basement changes Anthony profoundly.

For many years now, even though Aaron has long since gone off to college, and is now living with Spencer, Anthony has been basically ignored, neglected, abandoned, and thinks that nobody cares about him. It's all about Aaron. And now Allen has gone off to college too.

So Anthony has resorted to alcohol and pills to numb his pain, and it is thus that we meet him in this book, on his way to another party with his friend Chase. I say friend, because that's how Anthony thinks of him.

Then Chase does a horrid thing to Anthony, and it's the straw that breaks the camel's back. Anthony wants to leave. Leave his crappy town and his crappy life and his dysfunctional family.

But Anthony is still just a dumb and impulsive teenage boy, and then he does a really dumb and impulsive thing. Actually, it's a series of dumb things, out of desperation and pain. I won't go into detail here so I don't spoil things for you.

The author really packs on the teenage angst, from a boy who feels broken and useless and thinks that nobody gives a rat's ass about him. JP Barnaby shows the reader how a single horrible act can have massive ripple effects and can destroy many lives.

Things could have gone terribly wrong for Anthony, but he's ever so lucky when his car dies in front of a liquor store and is found by Patrick Mears, who owns the liquor store with his brother, Brendan.

I liked Patrick a lot. He was straight-forward but kind, and he gave off that great big brother vibe. He seemed trustworthy from the start, and even offers Anthony a job.

There's a history of violence in the Mears family too, you see, the repercussions of which affect both Patrick and Brendan, and I think Patrick saw that Anthony was in way over his head.

I liked Anthony's snark - once he came out of his shell, he was a great kid, and I enjoyed reading him, even though he had a lot yet to learn.

But learn, he does, as time goes by, and as Patrick and Brendan and Anthony figure out how to deal with their individual pain, and start to realize that working together makes them stronger, not weaker.

The author does a fabulous job letting us see into all the main characters' heads, and their actions and reactions make sense within their characterizations. It turns out that Anthony and Patrick have something in common - they both live with the repercussions of what violence has wrought upon their families. They share the exhaustion of walking on eggshells around their brothers, the constant fear that the slightest thing might set them off. In some way, they bond over that, as strange as that may sound.

I also wondered if Patrick didn't see Anthony as a way of redemption, someone whom he could help when he couldn't help his own brother. He helps Anthony build a life for himself, find friends, carve out a niche that fits him.

When Brendan and Anthony get closer, there's a lot of miscommunication and jealousy in play, something that in romance books often is overdone, but in this case totally worked. It fit their characters, especially Brendan, who hates that he can't leave his house, another ripple effect from the aforementioned violence, and doesn't think that Anthony would want him.

At this point, I was rather upset with Brendan and Anthony both for being stubborn and emo. I could understand why they acted the way they did, but man, it made me mad.

The author definitely kept me on my toes throughout, even with the mystery of "Jay" - I expected that outcome, and was glad Patrick was there with Anthony. I did cry when the truth comes out, but only because I know that while this may be a fictional account, this kind of thing happens more often than we realize. It's a terrible, terrible thing, and I would have liked to personally punch the fictional villain repeatedly in the nether regions for what he did.

I disliked the family drama at the end even though I realize it was necessary. Well, I strongly disliked Anthony's mother for thinking that after abandoning her youngest son to the basement she would have any say in how he lives his life. And since I haven't read Aaron's story, and don't understand the character as well as I maybe should, I disliked him too initially, but then he redeemed himself. I guess he heard what Anthony was saying, for once. I actually cheered for Anthony when he finally tells his family exactly how he feels and it clears the air. And Anthony gets what he wants.

While this book hints at a HEA, I would classify this more as a HFN, considering Anthony's age, and how fresh the relationship with Brendan is.

There is a supporting cast as well, even if they weren't as three-dimensional as the main characters, but they all had their purpose.

Overall, I thought this was a great story. I was engaged from start to finish, fearing for Anthony, smiling when he stops being so emo, and happy for him when he finally gets what he's wanted - something who sees him.

Well done, JP, well done.


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

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review 2015-07-27 17:51
ARC Review: Get Your Shine On by Nick Wilgus
Get Your Shine On - Nick Wilgus

Nick Wilgus doesn't write romance. I knew that going in, so I didn't expect this book to be all romantic. If you're not familiar with Nick's books, read the first sentence again, and then read all of his books anyway!

What Nick writes are Southern stories pulled from real life. The characters he creates are real. They exist, somewhere, in similar fashion, in some small town in Mississippi. You've met them. You've heard them. You've seen them, in churches, in schools, in all the places.

So, romance, this is not. Oh sure, it features two men in love, in an established relationship, living together, facing all the homophobic crap the good Southern bible thumpers are wont to dish out, because, you know, the bible says so, without ever really thinking about how cruel they are to others.

You know, if you use the bible to hurt someone, you're doing religion wrong.

Anyway, in this book, which is somewhat similar to Nick's Sugar Tree series, we have Henry Hood, who, a few years after losing his parents in a tragic indicent, is suddenly faced with having to take care of his 7 yo nephew Ishmael (Ishy for short), after the boy's mother disappears. Henry's BF Sam, who runs the local grocery store owned by his family, is all for taking care of Ishy, and after a few mishaps, they establish a routine.

Of course, this happening in a small Southern town, the good folks in town are not impressed. Henry's sister is labeled white trash, Henry is kicked off the music group from church, he's labeled a pedophile (because, obviously, that's what gay men are), and there's some blackmail from the good sheriff who wants to figure out what really happened when Henry's parents died.

Henry's sister, the drug addict, is also a homophobe, who doesn't want Henry and Sam to take care of the boy. Not that she has much choice, seeing how she's in jail. And will be there for some time.

As always, Nick Wilgus includes some difficult themes in his book, but despite those difficulties, there is one shining light.

Love.

Love for a child, love between two men, love for your parents, your church, your town. Love for you from others, love that supports. Love that isn't always easy, love that faces hardships and bigotry, love that wins in the end.

Yes, there's heartbreak too. Nick Wilgus ripped my heart into pieces, and then he patched it back together.

His stories are so amazingly real, with such realistic characterizations, and while I ranted against the unfairness of all the things in this book, I also rejoiced at the good people at the core of it.

We must, WE MUST, seek the goodness in people. We must seek to understand their motives and their reasons, if we want to forge relationships built on acceptance and trust. We must remember that at the end of the day we are all only human, imperfect in our words and deeds.

Nick Wilgus allows his characters to do that.

There were tears, of course. Dark secrets come to light and open a chasm of pain. There is unfairness and bigotry, and you just want to scream in anger at it all.

But there is love, so much love, too. And love always wins.

This is not a romance. But it is a book you should read.

Highly recommended.


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

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