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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 2017-07-28 02:34
ARC Review: Scrap by Josephine Myles
Scrap (The Bristol Collection Book 3) - Josephine Myles

This third book in the Bristol Collection is about Grant (Mas' asshole cheating married ex) and Dare, who had a thing for Perry, but didn't succeed.

There's a scene in Stuff where Grant shows up at Perry's store in hopes of winning back Mas, a little on the drunker side, and gets doused with wine, courtesy of Perry, and then escorted out by Dare, who also attended the 'grand re-opening' of Perry's store.

You see, Grant was married with children when he carried on an affair with Mas, but he's come clean to his wife, divorced, and now doesn't know how to move forward. He's gay, he knows it, but still closeted. His boss, a sleazebag first class, sends him on a fact-finding mission, which brings Grant to Dare's scrap yard, where Dare rebuilds travel vans (and lives in his "office" trailer), while taking care of his junkie brother who lives in Dare's house. 

Dare is out and proud, straight-forward, and doesn't take shit from anyone, especially not some real estate developer's minion who's rude and snobbish and looks down his nose at him.

Of course, to the wanna-be posh Grant, Dare's motor oil perfume isn't what he's looking for, but while he's busy looking down his nose, he cannot help but notice the other man's body and lust for what seems to be a sizable endowment. 

Dare remembers Grant from the store reopening and feels kind of sorry for the guy. They get physically close quickly, but Grant is an idiot and selfish and scared, which nearly costs him the one good thing he's found since he fucked over Mas and his wife and kids. 

With her typical charm and style, Jo Myles made me care even about someone like Grant, even though I usually cannot abide cheaters in my romance novels. I felt sorry for him, really. He sucked, sure, but I could see that he didn't really want to be a bad guy. He tried to do the right thing in the end, even if it cost him. 

This book was probably the angstiest of the three in this series. Dare's situation with his brother's addiction does have a positive ending, even if it didn't look like it would, for a while there. I liked Dare a lot - his no-nonsense attitude combined with his deep love for his brother, and his steadfastness when it came to people he cared about made him a lovable character and a good guy in my book. 

The author teases at the end that there might be another book forthcoming. Possibly a new character not yet introduced, or possibly a book that revisits all three couples in the future. I'd read it either way.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the re-release. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-07-28 02:06
ARC Review: Stuff by Josephine Myles
Stuff - Josephine Myles

In this second book from the Bristol Collection, we meet Mas (again, sort of) who was Jasper's sometime fuck-buddy, suddenly out of a job and suddenly homeless. And nevermind the nasty security dude following him and accosting him in the store about the bottles of perfume Mas might be smuggling out in his backpack. 

But Mas runs fast, and then slips into a small store while trying to hide from the big bad security dude.

Fortuitously, Mas ends up in a Vintage shop owned by Perry, who's a bit (okay, a lot) more posh than Mas. And quite startled at the young man popping into his store.

With her typical Britishness and fabulous sense of humor, Jo Myles lets their story unfold one vintage garment at a time. Mas is a quirky and often exasperating character, and Perry, much more sedate, doesn't quite know what to do with the quivering and bouncing slip of a boy. 

I adored them both so much! Perry doesn't know what hit him, never thought of himself as gay, but holy hot boysecks, there's not a single thing he lets stand in his way once he allows Mas to sex him up. Except maybe for his belief that he's not good enough for Mas.

All the while, Mas has a similar issue thinking that he's not good enough for the very posh Perry in his vintage vests and shirts.

Of course, neither one of them has the guts to talk about their self-doubts so they just dodder along until - well, you read this for yourself.

A fitting continuation of book one, we also get to revisit with Jasper and Lewis, and their oh so happy ever after. 

Utterly charming and adorable, this book made me smile and giggle and awww a lot. Perry is wonderful, Mas is slightly crazy, but together they just fit perfectly. 

Recommended.


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of the re-release of this series. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-07-28 01:48
ARC Review: Junk by Josephine Myles
Junk - Josephine Myles

I can always count on Jo Myles to write a very British book, and this first one in the Bristol Collection has all the usual charm and style I expect from this author. 

Jasper, he with the dull librarian job at the university and the unfashionable somewhat dowdy clothes, is a hoarder. Of books, magazine, newspapers, pamphlets - anything printed, really - and the immense collection in his house is preventing him from really living his life. 

The book gave some great insights into what it must be like to live with this disorder (and it is a disorder, let's face it), and how it can impact a person so very detrimentally. 

Intellectually, of course, Jasper realizes that he has a problem - unable to use most of the rooms in the house he inherited from his mother, he is cognizant that one day, and likely one day soon, one or more of the stacks of books and other printed materials will collapse and bury him. And yet, he cannot stop himself from bringing home ever more material, because he cannot allow books etc to be just thrown away. His home is a prison, more or less, but he just cannot stop. Even when he tries to remove a single book from his house, his mind simply shuts down and refuses to cooperate. Anxiety is trapping him, in more than just one way.

In a moment of clarity while in the clutches of an anxiety attack, Jasper reaches out to a brother-sister declutter/organizer team and soon meets Lewis and Carroll. 

Lewis knows Jasper from long ago, when they were both in still in school, even though Lewis was a few years behind Jasper. Nursing a crush way back when, Lewis still feels the attraction when coming face to face with Jasper.

Jasper remembers Lewis too, and the admiration he had for the younger, but out and proud boy a few years below him. 

At 30, Lewis still lives with his parents, dealing with unhappily falling in love with men he wants to change, and a bit of a shopping addiction, which explains his usual lack of funds and having to live with his somewhat eccentric mum and dad. 

But attraction is burning brightly, and if it weren't for the dilemma of not dating a client, and Lewis' history of falling for men not good for him, he'd be climbing Jasper like a tree. As their relationship begins to change from a business transaction to friendship to lovers, some of Lewis' demons make him doubt and question his feelings and his motives, and he tries to set boundaries time and again, and breaches every single one himself. 

Jasper is a complex and flawed character, full of shame for his hoarding, not willing to allow anyone into his home because of the hoarding, which has cost him what few friends he had, with occasional one-night-stands with his fuck-buddy Mas (he of book 2) the only real human contact he has. It is immediately clear how very lonely Jasper is, and how deeply he yearns for friendship and love. He's shy, but kind, and also has a bit of a backbone when pressed, and I really adored him. I wanted him to get help. I wanted to hug him. 

It was fascinating to watch this story unfold. It's pretty quiet and sedate overall, and the romance between Jasper and Lewis grows ever so slowly, which made perfect sense within this plot, but you can see with every passing day how much stronger Jasper gets, how he and Lewis work not only on cleaning out the clutter but also on chasing away their respective demons. 

A beautiful story, complex characters, a great supporting cast; this is a book definitely worth your time. 


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost Promotions as part of a re-release tour for this series. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-07-24 03:04
ARC Review: The Garden (Lavender Shores #2) by Rosalind Abel
The Garden - Rosalind Abel

I may have asked the author for an early copy. Possibly.

Oh, who am I kidding - I shamelessly begged as soon as I saw CrabbyPatty reading it. 

And I would beg again, if given the choice, because this book was fabulous. Gorgeous. Rapturous. Captivating. Brilliant. If my 15 status updates didn't convince you to pick up a copy of this as soon as you can, hopefully my review will.

Where book 1 was a mostly easy love story between Andrew and Joel, book 2 isn't like that at all. In this 2nd book, the author created a much more emotional and pain-filled plot, giving both of the MCs past hurts and some big issues they must overcome.

Gilbert Bryant (Andrew's cousin who sold him the cabin), a member of one of the founding families of Lavender Shores, has escaped his hometown as soon as he could. He designs one of a kind jewelry for the rich and famous, and he's perfectly happy in his cabin above Lake Tahoe, having no illusions that he'll ever be as happy as his cousin. Not that he thinks he deserves to be. Except he's having to go back for family get-togethers every so often, one of which is Andrew and Joel's engagement party.

Walden Thompson has recently moved to Lavender Shores, a place he visited once as a kid and dreamed of making his home ever since. He's a teacher and running from a past he's not proud of. It's clear early on that Walden keeps mostly to himself, and also doesn't have any aspirations of finding someone to love. 

The two meet at the gym, where Gilbert is on a treadmill behind Walden on a Stairmaster. Lusting for the well-formed ass in front of him, Gilbert thinks Walden is a tourist. Attraction is immediate, and after some steamy times in the steam room, they spend a hot night together. Their specific kinks line up pretty well, and that first bedroom scene was .... uh, well... let's call it rough and rowdy. I don't think I've ever read a scene like that in an M/M romance novel... not even in one that I knew would be kinky. 

I might have fanned myself.

Moving on.

Then Gilbert and Walden meet again at the engagement party, and Gilbert finds out Walden is a teacher. Immediate recoil by Gilbert makes things a bit awkward for Walden. I was scratching my head as to why that would be an issue for Gilbert, since no reason is given at that time.

Still licking his wounds, Walden ends up in a resort kind of place on a short vacation near Lake Tahoe, unaware that Gilbert lives in the area. While being propositioned by a Gilbert-lookalike, the real deal shows up, and the attraction still burns brightly. Also, Gilbert might be a little jealous. Possibly. Even if he tells himself that he shouldn't be, because he's no good for Walden.

And Walden fears being hurt again, and possibly falling down that rabbit hole of pain and shame once more if he lets himself get close to Gilbert. Sex is easy (and super hawt) - feelings are not welcome here. 

I really liked that the author didn't make things easy for them. There's a lot of angst here, and both men have pasts that still haunt them. No, I'm not going to tell you what those pasts are, but let it suffice that they both struggle, in their own ways. They're both still hurting, and while they don't immediately share their deepest and darkest secrets, they are both honest about being troubled, and how those troubles are impacting their views and actions. 

Of course, true love will not be thwarted, no matter how hard they both fight it. This is a romance, after all. 

What I really loved is how Gilbert and Walden help each other come to terms with their pasts. Even as Gilbert believes he doesn't deserve Walden, believes the things hateful people have told him in the past, even as he confesses his fears, his depression, his attempts at ending things when the pain got too much, all of his darkness, it is clear that Walden doesn't judge Gilbert for his past. And when Walden comes clean about his own past, he realizes that Gilbert isn't judging him either. 

The author created two complex, flawed, and yet strong characters, with histories that still shape their actions, but also allowed them to grow, to realize things, and to forge a new path - together. Their story isn't without pitfalls, and for some time, it's two steps forward, one step back, but as the plot progresses, their relationship goes from hot animalistic sexy times to real intimacy. Their fears don't disappear overnight, there's no magical healing here, but they face their fears, they move forward, they learn, they grow. 

This is hurt/comfort/healing at its finest, and I didn't want to put this book down until I had finished their story, only stopping for such pesky reasons as work and sleep. Absolutely heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. A fantastic supporting cast rounded out this novel, with many of the characters making repeat appearances in this book and its predecessor. 

While this book could easily be read as a standalone, I would personally recommend you read the first one too, because a lot of the history of the town, as well as the intermingled family history, is explained in that first one.

 

What I also want to mention are the titles. The Palisade and The Garden are both places that are important to the stories and to the characters. I thought that this was rather clever on the author's part, since both places play a huge role in the plot lines of their respective stories. I imagine that a veranda will be prominent in the third book, which is Donovan's story.

That's next. I'll be begging for a copy, for sure. 

This is one series you do not want to miss. Read it!


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

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