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review 2018-01-22 00:23
Book Review: The Rules by Jamie Fessenden
The Rules - Jamie Fessenden

I normally avoid reading M/M/M stories, because I'm usually worried that jealousy will seep in and tear things apart, but the blurb of this book made me perk up and put it on my wishlist, for a kind soul to gift to me. Totally worth the initial anxiety. This was wonderful. I read it in one go. Put this on your list, if you haven't yet.

The author does a fantastic job exploring the intricacies and potential pitfalls of a poly relationship in this book, with fully fleshed out characters in Boris and Thomas (a married couple), and Hans (their housekeeper-cum-third), and doesn't shrink away from including realistic conflict, vulnerabilities, and hurt feelings. Theirs is not an easy journey, but it's one I was happy to follow along.

So well done.

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review 2018-01-10 11:00
ARC Review: Forever With You by Londra Laine
Forever With You - Londra Laine

First off, trigger warning - there is a detailed flashback to sexual assault in this book that happened when Kelly was a teenager. Proceed accordingly if this might be a trigger for you.

I'm of two minds about this novel. On one hand, I liked the characters and most of the plot, and the romance between the two men progressed at a reasonable pace, once Drew pulled his head out of his ass. There was good, believable chemistry between them, and the relationship had little angst - other than Kelly's traumatic experience, which he still grapples with, and Drew keeping a secret he shouldn't have. On the other hand, some of the plot felt a little OTT - there was a homophobic father and blackmail and attempted coercion and a marriage pact that all seemed a bit too much for my taste. In addition, during the first 15% or so, I felt that a lot of the writing was info dump and superfluous. For example, I didn't need to be told multiple times that Kelly's little brother Jaylen has asthma and required breathing treatments, which are expensive. I didn't need to be told multiple times that Kelly has chosen to be an admin assistant at this company because it comes with medical benefits for his brother. Most readers, including myself, will remember if being told information once. Twice is okay. More than that, I get irritated. 

Drew is Kelly's boss, and because Drew has a crush on the younger man, he's been treating him coldly and rudely, which - what? Considering that Drew is supposedly in his 30s, I would assume that someone of his age had a better grip on his emotions than that, and could act in a professional manner - which he didn't. Kelly doesn't understand why his boss is nice to everyone else, but cold with him, especially since Kelly has a bit of a crush on the older man too. I wouldn't have understood either, and Drew's behavior pissed me off.

After Kelly's office birthday celebration, Drew's tenuous hold on his self-control snaps, and the two men share a hot and heavy kiss in his office. Something triggers Kelly, and he freaks out and runs. Confused and worried, Drew attempts to find out what happened. He comes on super strong at first, but when Kelly has a another freak-out due to his trauma, Drew reins it in, thankfully so. He was actually a very caring guy, and I appreciated that.

I did have some concerns about the realism of their office demeanor - nobody seems to have questioned their changed behavior, really, and nobody seems to have any suspicions. Additionally, there were some occasions early on where Drew is a complete ass in making himself sound as if Kelly's job may be on the line if he doesn't comply - which, hello, harassment.

Kelly has a great support system in his friends, and dances at a gay bar on weekends. He also has custody of his much younger brother after his mother and step-father died when Kelly was but 19. Having put himself through college and looking after his baby brother is quite a feat. He had a lot of backbone, which I appreciated, and he didn't let Drew push him around. Much.

Once Drew finds out more about Kelly's background and really takes the time to get to know the other man, lending support when the little brother ends up in the hospital with asthma attacks, and generally being there for Kelly, their romance truly started to flourish, and I could see that Kelly started to trust Drew.

There were many emotional scenes that were either heart-breaking or heart-warming, and plenty of sexy times that thankfully didn't feel gratuitous, and I enjoyed reading this story for the most part. I could have done without the explicit flashback - I didn't feel that was necessary to bring Kelly's trauma across, and it felt somewhat exploitative. Again, heed the trigger warning.

Overall, for a debut novel, this was a good read, and I would be inclined to read more of this author's books as they are published.


** I received a free copy of this book from Gay Book Promotions as part of a review tour in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-01-09 02:12
ARC Review: Before You Break by K.C. Wells and Parker Williams
Before You Break - Parker Williams,K.C. Wells

I'm ridiculously overdue with this review - my apologies to the authors. 

This book is the first in the series called Secrets, which is a spin-off from Collars & Cuffs, which I loved. At the end of book 8 of C&C, Eli and Jarod (from book 7) have decided to move to London to purchase and revamp an existing BDSM club, which they rename Secrets. 

I was excited to see Eli and Jarod again, and how the authors would set this new series apart from their first one. 

Wayne and Ellis are both members of London's Specialist Firearms unit and best friends. In recent months, Wayne has noticed Ellis behaving erratically, angering quickly, and being generally sleep-deprived. So far, Wayne has covered for Ellis and prevented any fuck-ups, but he realizes that this cannot go on. Thus, Wayne, a member of the club Eli and Jarod bought, invites Ellis to the Grand Reopening, in hopes that Ellis will see what goes on in Wayne's world for himself, and perhaps be more agreeable to a proposition Wayne has for him.

As I expected, Ellis has a freak-out. 

I had a difficult time understanding how Wayne thought that his straight best friend would be amenable to what Wayne was proposing, and that he thought this would be best for Ellis. At no time had Ellis ever given Wayne any kind of indication that he was a) not straight, and b) interested at all in the lifestyle. That whole situation felt forced to me early on, even if Ellis eventually agrees. I also was a little exasperated with Wayne's constant BDSM lectures, even though they made sense within the plot, since Ellis has zero experience in the lifestyle and possibly some preconceived false notions. 

The angst in this book comes mainly from Ellis and the messy relationships he has with his family, primarily his sister. It was clear to me that she was emotionally manipulating Ellis at all times, and that he bent over backwards to keep her happy. For someone in such a high stress job, I was wondering if there weren't psychological evaluations required at certain intervals, and whether an experienced therapist wouldn't have figured out that Ellis was at breaking point. Not even Wayne, his supposed best friend, really had any idea what Ellis was dealing with.

Once Wayne and Ellis set off on their BDSM journey though, I could see the relationship flourish, and there were many emotionally charged moments between them as Ellis learns more about Wayne's proclivities, and opens himself to being not so straight after all. These emotional moments are what keeps me coming back to these authors - they really have a knack for writing hardcore explicit kink with hardcore emotional impact. 

The ending was well done, even though there are some edge-of-your-seat moments that had me with my heart in my throat. Still, all's well that ends well, and this was a good start to this new series. I can't wait to see what else they have in store. 


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

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review 2018-01-05 01:45
Book Review: All I Want by Stella Starling
All I Want - Stella Starling

Utterly adorable Christmas story that I snagged when it was offered for free on Amazon. Excellent story-telling, and such a sweet romance. I adored Elliott - he was such a sweetheart, and so very kind to everyone, always believing only the best of people. And I loved watching Ash grow throughout this book and believe that he could be more than what he had been.

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review 2018-01-02 01:46
ARC Review: Saint And The Sinner by Sam Burns
Saint and the Sinner - Sam Burns
In this 4th book in the Wilde Love series, we finally get Owen and Mickey's story. I had an inkling in book 2 that they would eventually get their own book, because when I read Keegan's book (Sins Of The Father), there was an undercurrent of want I could see from Owen and Mickey toward each other, so I hoped. And the author delivered.

This book can be read as a standalone, though why you wouldn't read the whole series is beyond me, and it also feels as if this is the last book, as it seems to wrap up any leftover questions and open issues.

Mickey Martin is Owen Quinn's father's 2nd in command, more or less, having worked for Brendan Quinn since he was fifteen years old, owing his life and his livelihood to the man, and is basically a member of the family by now. Brendan is ill, and it looks as if Mickey will be asked to take over to run the Quinn mob syndicate. Mickey, who is also best friends with Keegan, has had the hots for Owen for a long time, but he also knows that nothing will come off it, as Owen is out of his league, and he's been fighting his feelings for the younger man for a long time. A string of girlfriends led to nothing much, because Mickey can never fully commit himself to anyone,since Owen unknowingly holds his heart. Even if he knows the boy deserves so much better than a thug like himself. Or so he thinks.

Owen is in love with Mickey, and has been since he was but a teenager. He doesn't think that the older man will ever love him, and he's basically resigned himself to not ever getting the man he wants. Owen still lives in his father's house, but is not involved at all in the criminal business side, though he reaps the fruits of that illicit labor since it pays for his education and lifestyle. He's disdainful of his father's thugs, except for Mickey, of course. He knows that his dream of joining the FBI will never come to fruition because of who his father is. 

At the core of this book is the juxtaposition of these two characters - how can Owen love a man who represents all that he abhors, and how can Mickey pursue a romantic relationship with the son of his employer, his best friend's little brother? There is angst and drama, of course, though little of it stems from the criminal activities - while there is some of the crime aspect present, it's not the focus of this book. Most of the drama within is based on the two men's differences and their different stations in life, their assumptions and inability to see a future in which they can be together. There is never a question of the veracity of their feelings or the strength thereof - they love each other wholeheartedly - but neither sees a way to overcome what stands in their way.

What is also remarkable about this series is how well the author fleshed out her characters. Not just the main ones, but also all the secondary and supporting characters, and how carefully she has crafted their individual relationships and contributions to the plot. The deep love of a father for his sons, despite misunderstandings, hard feelings, and controversies, permeates this book, and Brendan's sacrifice at the very end only cemented my admiration for him - even if he can be ruthless and cold in his business dealings, I always knew he loved his children, no matter what. 

If this is truly the last book in this series, it is a fitting ending. I closed the book on my e-reader with a smile on my face and happiness in my heart. 

Read this series - I implore you. While Sam Burns may be a fairly new author, her books have a fascinating cast of characters, with complexities and flaws that make them realistic and relatable. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its author in exchange for an honest review. **
 
 

 

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