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review 2018-10-05 01:11
Book Review: A Springful Of Winters by Dawn Sister
A Springful Of Winters - Dawn Sister

It's not easy to write a compelling story about a neuro-divergent character that at once rings true and never veers into stereotypical territory.

It is clear early on that Kit is not neuro-typical. A bit socially awkward, as most social norms don't make sense to him, he has come to rely on a plethora of lists and contingency plans that allow him to venture into the world without becoming entirely overwhelmed. 

The book opens with a quick introduction to Kit, where we find ourselves seeing the world from his POV. The past year has been difficult for Kit. He lost his mother, who was his champion, and then his boyfriend, who was a bit of a jerk. And now Winter isn't quite done yet, even though the calendar says Spring has sprung, and Kit just cannot with the snow that's falling on this first day of Spring. 

I immediately loved Kit - his sweet and gentle nature, his love for his dog, his sadness, his outrage at the betrayal of snow in Spring, all served to make me want to hug him and tell him it would all be okay. 

Kit's neuro-divergence (he's on the autism spectrum) is never presented as a hindrance. It is, it exists. He makes it work for him, he tries to find reason and sense in an unreasonable and non-sensical world. He relies on Bessie, his service dog, and Yenta, an older woman who's his employer/landlord, and who treats him as the treasure he is. It is immediately clear that Kit loves Yenta, and Yenta loves Kit. 

Early on, a scene involving his service dog, who mostly listens, but in this scene doesn't, brings Kit to a location for which he has no contingency plan. This particular adventure serves as the catalyst to Kit meeting the man with eyes like the Spring.

And then he meets him again, during an unfortunate accident involving Kit's bike and the man's car door, and a bruised backside. 

While both incidents are humorous, they never felt as if we're expected to laugh at Kit. I giggled at the situations he finds himself in. He gets flustered because he's intrigued by the man with the eyes like Spring, and all of his contingency plans didn't prepare him for falling in love. The book gives insight into what may be termed the struggle neuro-divergent people have to deal with - not only because they have to make sense of a world that doesn't, but also because the world doesn't usually accommodate that what is not typical. 

Stephan, the man with eyes like the Spring, isn't portrayed as a hero who saves poor Kit - not all all. I think Stephan recognizes the beauty within Kit, the amazing person he is, and he falls just as hard. He rolls with the punches, he fits himself into the world Kit has created for himself, he listens intensely, and he celebrates Kit as a person. 

It's a poignant story, at novella-length, and I enjoyed it immensely. The writing is superb, and the author packs a fabulous story into a few pages. It's a quick read, but it stayed with me long after I closed the file on my e-reader. 

Fabulous, just fabulous. Recommended.

 

 

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

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review 2018-09-28 23:24
ARC Review: Liam For Hire by A. Zukowski
Liam For Hire - A. Zukowski

This was my first book by this author, read and reviewed upon request. 

I liked it for the most part. The tropes used are not new, but the age-gap, baby-gay, and falling-for-your-escort themes worked for me. Ali, the older of the two Mcs is at mid-forty nearly 25 years older than Liam (he of the title), when he hires Liam to teach him about gay sex. 

See, Ali (short for Alastair) has been married, and his late wife never knew that he was gay. It's obviously something that Ali has suppressed for a long time, and he's only recently realized his true sexuality. 

Liam, having left Ireland and his farmhouse home at 16, makes his living as an escort in pricey London after having kicked his drug habit. He rents a room in a shared flat, and still struggles not to relapse into addiction. When Ali hires him, he's initially somewhat taken aback at Ali's request that they "make love" instead of simply having sex. But hey, money is money, and rent needs paying, so Liam gives Ali what he's asking for.

I like that the author didn't flinch at showing the reader what's going on in Liam's head and Ali's head. Their struggles, individual and specific as they may be, felt realistic and believable. While this book isn't full of drama, there is enough of it to earn itself that shelf - for both Liam and Ali. 

The sexy times were, while plentiful for me, not gratuitous. Obviously, there is sex in this book. Liam is an escort, and Ali hires him for sex, however the author made a point that Liam realizes early on that sex with Ali isn't just sex.

I liked Ali a lot. I liked Liam too. Ali is a nice guy. Even as he and Liam deepen their relationship, there is never any pressure from Ali for Liam to quit escorting. He respects Liam's means of income, and never makes him feel cheap or trashy for earning his living that way. And I think that had a lot to do with Liam beginning to trust Ali more and more, and start to believe that maybe they have a chance of making things last.

This was a good book. I enjoyed reading it, and I think you would too. I'm definitely willing to check out more of what A. Zukowski has written. 


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

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review 2018-09-17 01:59
Book Review: Truth & Betrayal by K.C. Wells
Truth & Betrayal - K.C. Wells
This was a tearjerker, for sure, but also a book that tackled some big issues.

Jacob is a young man living in a small town in Eastern Tennessee (close to Knoxville) and working for his daddy's construction company. His older brother Caleb left for Atlanta a few years ago and only returns home sporadically, having forged a life for himself in the big city. Jacob knows he's gay, but has no desire to come out to his parents, because he's sure of their negative reaction. He's been taking a few steps to distance himself from their church, but he knows that coming out in such a small town isn't going to go over well. His group of friends are more like acquaintances at this point, since he no longer has anything much in common with them, and the secret he's keeping isn't conducive to a close friendship anyway. Small-town bigots don't make for good friends. 

Then Jacob and his parents get word that Caleb has died in a car accident, while riding in a car with another man who was also injured. And Jacob's whole world crashes down around him.

The author does a fine job describing his grief and his anger at losing Caleb, while slowly coming to the realization that he lost his big brother long before his death. 

Liam is the friend who was driving the car at the time of the accident. Injured himself in the crash, he nonetheless shows up at Caleb's funeral, fully realizing that he's probably not welcome, but needing a bit of closure for himself. The reader is at this point likely aware that Caleb and Liam were more than friends, even if Jake and his parents are not. The scene at the grave - gah, that felt as if plucked from real life, and my thoughts were drawn to Shane Bitney Crone (if you don't know who that is, google his name), and how he must have felt visiting Tom's grave all alone after the fact because he wasn't welcome at the funeral either. 

Going to his late brother's apartment to clean out his belongings brings Jake face to face with the secret Caleb has been keeping. And slowly Jake comes to terms with what he finds out. 

This could have been icky, obviously - one MC feeling attraction to his late boyfriend's little brother, who also happens to be gay, would usually make me feel really squicked out, but the author did a fine job laying out how the relationship between Liam and Caleb wasn't one of true and lasting love, so Liam slowly falling for Jake and vice versa didn't feel weird to me. The fact that it's a super slow burn also helped with this. At first, Liam takes the place of a friend, giving Jake a glimpse into Caleb's life, meeting his friends, visiting his favorite places, and such. He becomes a confidante of sorts as Jake gets more comfortable with who he is, and who he's attracted to. It didn't feel as if falling in love with Jake was what Liam had planned for - it simply happened.

Both Jake and Liam are really likable characters, and the author drew them with complexity and flaws. Their actions and reactions made sense within the overall plot, and the dialogue felt authentic for the most part. What grated after a while was Jake's accent - he often sounded a bit too much like a country bumpkin for my taste, but that's on me, I'm sure. Jake has quite a few hurdles to clear, before he can ride off into the sunset, his mama's machinations being the least of his worries. Jake finds his backbone - and that was a wondrous sight to behold when he told off the bigot preacher. Liam's family is made from a different cloth - fully supportive, warm and welcoming, and embracing Jake for who he is. 

KC Wells always delivers with the emotions in her writing, and this book is no different than what I'm used to from this author. There are heart-wrenching moments of grief and pain that made me cry, but there are also moments full of love and light, and those made me cry also. There is passion between two young men who finally found what they've been looking for, there is courage and strength in the face of adversity, and there are surprise reactions you didn't expect. 

I couldn't stop reading until the very end, and this is no surprise to me at all, really - It's a KC Wells book, after all.

Recommended.


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

 

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review 2018-08-02 02:30
ARC Review: No Regrets by Alex Jane
No Regrets - Alex Jane

This is a really short book, but it definitely packs a punch. 

Ryan is an ex-soldier, working in a diner in a small town, keeping to himself. He stays mostly in the kitchen, and when he's not working, he's in his camper behind the diner, keeping the nightmares at bay with alcohol.

Lucas is barely twenty, quiet and shy, a regular at the diner who's caught Ryan's eye - mostly because Ryan recognizes something in the young man, primarily in the haunted eyes and the bruises on his skin.

Both men are damaged, though not beyond repair. Their relationship builds slowly, so slowly, and trust doesn't come easy, but it comes. 

The story is dark, by design, and rather angsty. The author cleverly peels back Ryan's layers one at a time, and it's not immediately clear why Ryan reacts so strongly to Lucas' plight.

The diner's owner knows of Ryan's back story, and she realizes that Lucas is in some danger, but both she and Ryan also know that they cannot step in unless Lucas asks for help. Which is why boss lady encourages Ryan to befriend Lucas to build a level of trust. She has another motive which is clear to both Ryan and this reader.

Initially, this book reads as a regular hurt/comfort kind of story, but then it takes a really dark turn with an unexpected twist. I was a bit surprised at Lucas' reaction, but I also understood that he might react that way. Yeah, I know this is vague. Deal with it by reading the book. 

I didn't like the ending. Well, let me rephrase that - I liked that Ryan and Lucas got their HEA. What I didn't like is that Ryan thinks this thing (which I'm not going to spoil here), and it sounded as if that was his reason for proposing, and if that's the case, WTF?

I enjoyed this overall, even if the ending left me scratching my head a bit and definitely sort of ruined their HEA for me. YMMV.


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

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review 2018-07-28 03:33
ARC Review: Denim by K.C. Wells
Denim - K.C. Wells

Harry is thirty-five and thinks he's no longer desirable. A bit pudgy around the middle, he has no illusion that anyone might still be interested in him. He likes his job alright, and convinces himself he's content with his life after moving back to his hometown to look after his mother before she passed away. Still living in her house, still unable to pack away her things, Harry is letting life and love pass him by.

Tony, a construction worker of similar age, sees the somewhat staid Harry and immediately perks up. Or, well, one of his appendages does. But Harry is oblivious, and Tony has to pull out all the stops to convince the other man that he's truly interested.

The author weaves a fabulous tale of two ordinary men living ordinary lives and falling extraordinarily in love. 

As the story unfolds, we learn more about the two men - Harry who has let himself go after his mother's death, who likely has low-grade depression, who has basically given up on finding anyone to love him, and who cannot believe that the hunky construction worker is actually whistling at him, and Tony, a hard worker, a good bloke, a kind man, who didn't get that memo and who thinks that Harry is the most delicious bear he's ever come across. 

Obviously, someone with low self-esteem such as Harry would be reluctant to start a relationship with a hunky bloke, and their relationship starts off very slowly. And while Tony pulls out all the stops to woo the other man into bed and into his life, Harry looks at himself and decides that eating is overrated and that he should lose a bunch of weight so he's worthy of Tony. Obviously, that doesn't go over too well, and there's a bit of drama but they actually talk about things, like mature men should, and it's not a huge stumbling block. 

KC Wells has crafted two realistic characters, and I loved how their romance unfolded. I loved how steadfast Tony was in his beliefs, how freely and courageously he put himself out there to win Harry's heart, and how Harry starts to blossom under Tony's capable hands.

There are sexy times, of course, but all of them repeatedly drove home the point that these men are falling in love, and each bedroom scene was high on their emotional connection. And with each passing day, Tony pulls Harry a bit more out of his shell, away from his safety net, into the light. 

Sweet and romantic, with little conflict and honest communication, this was a gorgeous story. I enjoyed every minute reading it, and I think you will too.

Oh, the denim from the title - Tony loves to wear jeans. To work, to dinner, to having a pint, to going dancing, Tony wears denim. And by the book's end, Harry loves to peel Tony out of his denims. 

Fabulous.


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

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