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review 2018-07-08 23:54
ARC Review: Life Of Bliss by Erin McLellan
Life Of Bliss - Erin McLellan

I read this without realizing it was book 2 of a series, but that didn't really hurt my enjoyment of it. 

Frenemies-to-lovers is a fabulous trope, and the author made fine use of it in here. However, that's not the only trope in here, because frenemies lead to fake boyfriends to oops, we got drunk married. 

Victor and Todd hate each other, but love to hate-fuck each other when their friends/couple Rusty and Niles aren't looking, except they really don't, because Victor hides a massive crush on Todd behind his snarky sarcasm, and Todd only sort of hates Victor because of guilt and shame over almost screwing with Dusty and Niles' HEA (which apparently happened in book 1).

At the beginning of this book, Todd, Rusty, and Niles are coming back from vacation and stop over in OK City, before going home to small town Oklahoma. Victor lives in OK City, so they meet him for dinner. Todd is already counting the minutes until the end of dinner so he and Victor can sneak off for sexy times. 

While coming down from the orgasmic high, and noticing a strange shift that seemed to have happened during sex, Victor tells Todd about attending his sister's upcoming wedding solo, and hating that, and somehow Todd agrees to be Victor's fake boyfriend at the wedding.

Alcohol comes into play, and they wake up the morning after the wedding married. 

From there, the book turns into a bit of an angst-fest, with both men keeping the marriage secret while agreeing to see if they can make it work, Todd making up stories (lies) when Rusty and Niles inquire of his whereabouts, Victor wondering if this marriage will last the summer, and whether it should, Todd and Victor NOT talking about how they really feel, feelings getting hurt, Todd coming clean to his family, which is a bit... shall we say... rough, Victor feeling like giving up, and two men who love each other being almost too damn proud to confess their true feelings.

The writing is fabulous. There are one-line zinger that had me giggling, and some humorous moments, such as Victor's box of sex toys being labeled "important documents". 

What I also really appreciated is that the author went beyond what could have become simply a rom-com and actually dug deeper into both characters. Todd especially suffers from a lack of confidence in his relationship skills, considering that he blew it with Rusty, and doesn't quite know how to navigate the waters between his feelings for Victor, his desire for something permanent, and his fears of screwing up again. Victor too isn't just all snark and sass, and there are worries keeping him up at night, specifically how to make enough money to keep paying rent, and whether his job will still exist after the summer. 

So while there are giggles and snickers to be had, and while the sexy times are hawt, there is more to this story than just those. Add a sweet HEA, and you have yourself a fine romance. I had a grand time reading this book, even without knowing anything about these folks from the first book, and I think you would too. 

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

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review 2018-03-17 06:44
Life Of Bliss - Erin McLellan

Todd is in a place where he feels like he is both in a rut, and ready for something new.  He needs to decide if he is going to keep his current affair a secret.  Will he be able to meet his new guy halfway to a new future?


Victor is all in if Todd even gives him a hint.  They have been secretly hooking up for a while now.  Then something happens that puts how they feel to the test.  Secrets have a way of getting out......


This was such a fun read.  The characters had such heat!  I loved the banter and angst between them.  I hope to see them again in future stories.  I give this book a 4/5 Kitty's Paws UP!



***This ARC copy was given in exchange for an honest review only.

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review 2017-09-18 22:01
Review: Controlled Burn by Erin McLellan
Controlled Burn - Erin McLellan







This book.... For me this book had the potential of being great. But sadly it wasn't.



I do love angsty emotional books but dammmmn being in Joel's head was too much. Maybe it was the first-person-writing, the continuing POV of Joel. There was no escaping from it. No light. I don't like feeling like that. The story may have needed Paulie's POV. I thought he was awesome. The light in Joel's life.....

Thank heavens Joel got to his senses at the end. The lucky SOB. Honestly, he drove me mad.


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review 2017-08-28 21:16
I'll just be over here in my box, with a few of my friends...
Controlled Burn - Erin McLellan

This was another awesome buddy read with my besties...Josy, Christelle and Simone and made even better when the lovely Dani joined us...sadly this didn't turn out to be an awesome story for any of us...but, hey that's just us. A lot of people who read this book...well, they loved it and I'm not here to say they're wrong because this is yet another case of differing opinions and while I just couldn't get into this story I'm also not here to say it's bad...just that it didn't work for me.


Unfortunately there was a big chunk of this book that we all found didn't work. So if you've read Simone or Christelle's reviews I'll apologize now if things occasionally feel repetitious and also add that I will do my best to be somewhat original at least, ok?


Let's start with what I liked as my friend Christelle said the start was fairly good. We were drawn in fast and got to meet the MCs both Joel and Paulie fairly quickly and I liked that we were there when they met. Joel's roommate, Travis was one of my favorite characters and I have to admit if he got his own book I'd be seriously tempted. Even more than Travis though I liked Paulie.


Paulie was what many would term effeminate in the world of men but more than this Paulie was incredibly brave and strong. His life was for sh*t and still he found the good in the world and he continued to put himself out there and be positive, he just kept trying...now don't get me wrong he wasn't 'Mr. Perky Pants' but given the life he had trust me...he was pretty damned awesome...not perfect. There was actually a point at which I was a little frustrated with how he'd behaved but all things considered it was one moment that even he recognized as a moment of 'a$$hattery' and owned up to it and that quite possibly made me love him a tiny bit more.


I was also pretty taken with Paulie's aunt...she was wonderful and the mom that Paulie should have had, Paulie's sister while she had a raft of her own issues I wanted to hug her and feed her milk and cookies. She adored Paulie and that alone got her brownie points in my world.


The other thing that worked fairly well for me was the ending and by that I mean the last 20 - 25% of the story. It was definitely the best part of the book, mostly because after the first part and by this I mean maybe 5% my tickity boo was was on hiatus. 


Ok, so the first 5% got us off to a reasonably good start and the last 20 - 25% was also fairly good...mmmmm....that leaves us with 70 - 75% of 'what the hell?' and this mostly revolved around Joel which that wasn't the problem...because Joel was one of the MCs. The main MC, if you will.  


Take 2 on this part of my review because...whoa!!! Way to ramble Karen. It was epic...no actually I thought it was tedious so I scrapped it and I'm going to attempt to share what the issue was with this book for me using a lot less verbiage.


Hopefully in fewer words I'll try and explain why for me it was a matter of 'less is more'. For a big chunk of this book we were in Joel's head as the entire story is told from his perspective and if I'm going to be in someone's brain for that long I need them to make progress to move forward and while Joel may have been doing that externally. Internally  it felt like he was wallowing in the past and I finally hit the wall on how many feelz I had to give. Trust me when I say I am truly not a cold hearted biotch. I can empathize and sympathize with the best of them. I can give you a list of books that have reduced me to tears practically from cover to cover...hell, I can give you a list of television commercials that repeatedly reduce me to tears...30 seconds that's all it takes.


With Joel unfortunately I felt him wallowing in his grief and guilt and going nowhere for too long and even when it seemed like he'd started to move on, it didn't feel like it. It wasn't about him loving Diago, that never bothered me although I did question how much his love was reciprocated but at this point that's water under the bridge and that Joel would always have a place in his heart for his first love...well anything else would have been just wrong. 


My other problem became...the sex. Sorry, it was at times over the top and some of the descriptives well I have to admit I might have held out a little longer than the rest of my buddy read gang, along with my eye rolls there was a face-palm or two going on. I understand that Joel and Paulie are college age and libido's are in good working order but I have to admit a few of their encounters could have been off page or fade to black and I would have been fine with it and probably appreciated what happened on page a bit more. So really, it was once again a case of less is more and I fully acknowledge that this is entirely a personal preference issue as well.


Once again ladies thanks for sharing the adventure...but at the end of it all...I found myself frustrated by what should have been an 'I loved it' story for me written by a new author who in spite of all my ramblings here I do sincerely believe has the ability to write a story that will either reduce me to tears or have me over the moon with joy...or who knows maybe both. I look forward to finding out.



An ARC of 'Controlled Burn' was graciously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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review 2017-08-12 00:00
Controlled Burn
Controlled Burn - Erin McLellan Originally reviewed at Sinfully.

What a wonderful debut from Erin McLellan. Centering around 21 year old Joel and 23 year old Paulie, both juniors at college who have so much more in common than just winding up in the same class. Like any good New Adult story should be, it’s romantic and heartbreaking and has its fair share of angst and sex.

Joel is wracked with guilt over the death and subsequent outing of his first love Diego three years ago and he can’t break free from his memory and the loyalty he still feels to him. He blames himself for the accident that killed Diego, for outing their relationship and for all the horrible things that resulted. He has moved away from Kansas to Oklahoma and changed his name in an attempt to run from it all. Joel’s parents really dropped the ball after the accident and media circus that descended upon Joel when he was eighteen. Instead of offering him support and counselling, they piled on the guilt and accusations, lashed out at his homosexuality and pretty much blamed him for their divorce. Though his mother technically chose Joel over his father, she makes it clear that she is not happy about it. His father seems to be the typical bully and even when he seems to be offering an olive branch, his motives can’t be trusted.

Paulie grew up in a fringe religious community and at fourteen, his parents happily got rid of their disappointing sinner of a son, doing him a favor and delivering him to his Aunt Ruth and having no contact since. She has been a mother to him since, is loving and understanding, but that doesn’t erase the damage his parents have done and the slight hope that he may someday be a part of his family. I couldn’t help but fall for Paulie’s character from the first time he speaks.

As Joel and Paulie start spending time as friends and eventually as lovers, Joel can’t help but compare his relationship with Diego. Paulie is the opposite of Diego, out and a bit flamboyant, open with his emotions and proud to be with Joel. Paulie is full of optimism and light where Joel is constantly fighting the little voice in his head reminding him of how he is betraying his love for Diego with every new step he takes with Paulie. Joel has romanticized things with Diego even as he acknowledges that things were far from perfect.

Told from Joel’s POV, there is plenty of angst and the majority of the struggle is from within Joel. He is still severely suffering from the grief and trauma of Diego’s death and its aftermath. He is a character that desperately needed grief counselling, but instead got nothing but blame, guilt and shame thrown at him from everyone involved. The guilt still consumes him and his growing love for Paulie is feeding the flames. As if that isn’t enough, Joel’s mother is pushing for a family reconciliation over the holidays. There were some times where Joel’s thoughts were repetitive, but overall I enjoyed the way bits and pieces of his past came out in his thoughts.

There is a lot of sex in this book (some of it is quite steamy too!) but then again, both are in their early 20s and Joel uses it as a way to deflect questions, express the love he feels but can’t talk about and calm the turmoil inside. But that only works for so long. Paulie is smart and as Joel’s truths come out, Paulie sees more than Joel is willing to let on. I could feel the hurt of Paulie realizing bit by bit that he’s not the only lover in Joel’s heart and mind and how he sees it every time Joel pulls away. When the inevitable blow up of Paulie and Joel’s relationship occurs, it certainly didn’t happen the way I expected it to. When it does occur, it was painful and the hurt cuts so deep on both sides.

While there is plenty of angst there was also a lot of lightness and fun. Joel and Paulie get along so well both before they hook up and after and Joel’s roommate Travis is a delight whenever he’s on page. Paulie’s aunt and sister welcome Joel with open arms and he is able to let himself really relax around them, something he would never have been able to do with either his own or Diego’s family. There are so many layers to each character, not just the main ones, but Joel’s parents and Paulie’s family as well. Nobody here is perfect (except maybe Aunt Ruth) and they all felt very real. The Midwest landscape comes alive in the writing as well.

The story ends quite happily after all that pain. I’ll be on the lookout for the next book from Erin McLellan, and I certainly wouldn’t mind if it happened to be about Travis and the red headed cowboy he’s been pursuing.

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