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review 2017-09-25 00:56
ARC Review: Pins And Needles by A.J. Thomas
Pins and Needles - A.J. Thomas

This is only my 2nd book by this author. The title is apt - I was on pins and needles for most of the time while reading this excellent story of suspense, intrigue, and romance among the ruins. 

Okay, so that latter part is a bit hyperbole - there are no actual ruins, per se. What is in ruins however is a promising career, a father/son relationship, and an invention that could revolutionize a part of the oil industry.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

This is a complex story, and it would behoove the reader to read slowly and carefully, much in line with the slow progression of the story. As it is so often the case, all is not what it seems, and it takes some time to untangle the many threads that make up this particular plot.

The book begins by introducing us to Nate Delany, a young lawyer working for his father's well-known company, who is basically the do-boy for another lawyer, and whose briefs, as eloquent and well-researched as they are, are not getting credited to him, but the "supervising" attorney. Nate is frustrated, especially as his father doesn't seem to realize that the brilliant briefs "written by" the supervising attorney are actually his son's work and believes that Nate is just a slacker, unable to run the company himself. At the end of his rope, Nate quits. 

On his way out, his assistant gives him the name and number of a man who had an appointment with the supervising attorney, but who was apparently deemed too rough, with too many tattoos, to warrant the jerk's time. 

Nate makes a call. Nate makes a visit to the hospital where he meets Sean Wilkinson, whose former foster father Hawk was the man rejected by Nate's father's lawyer. As Nate hears what happened to Sean, he can't help but be intrigued by the young man who after a terrible accident lost not only his leg, but also his livelihood and his career as a petroleum engineer.

Hounded by his employer's lawyers to agree to a ridiculous settlement after the accident, Sean needs someone in his corner to help him navigate these new rough waters. And Nate is just the guy to do that.

Both MCs have their own personal struggles and rather different personality-wise. 

Sean, with his difficult early life and rough upbringing, isn't quick to trust anyone and plays his cards rather close to his chest. He's not only a brilliant engineer, but also a fantastic tattoo artist, who learned the craft in his foster father's shop. Hawk is perhaps the closest thing to a real father Sean has, and their relationship is very close and supportive. He doesn't have any close friends; in fact even the people with whom he spent months at sea don't really know him at all, including his boss, with whom Sean has had an affair since he interned with the company at 19. 

Nate, on the other hand, had a rather normal, if affluent, childhood and appears to most people as someone who had everything handed to him - with his last name being so well-known and the assumptions which come with that. His personal struggles aren't as obvious, but they're just as real. Nate has to prove himself repeatedly at his father's company, more so really than any other newly minted attorney would have to, because he's his father's son. In addition, his parents have more or less forsaken him because their older son is a bigot and doesn't want his children or his wife anywhere near Nate. Since, you know, homosexuality clearly rubs off and we must think of the children. For years, Nate hasn't been able to spend holidayrs or any quality time with his family; it's as if he's been erased. No photographs of Nate are displayed at their house - it's as if he doesn't even exist. His name isn't ever mentioned around the older son, and his brother's kids have zero relationship with him. 

Taking on Sean as his first client after quitting his father's firm seems like a great idea at the time, even if it's just fighting for Sean to get the biggest possible settlement for the accident that cost him one of his legs, but there's a lot more to their case than just that. See, Sean invented something that's been used on the ship, and the case now also involves intellectual property rights. 

And someone may be out to kill Sean to silence him.

The romance that develops between Nate and Sean is by design a super slow burn. Not only is Sean seriously injured and still recovering from the accident, but he's also Nate's client, and there are a bunch of ethical issues to consider before the two of them can be together. As an added detriment, when Nate tries to find another law firm to represent Sean and remove the ethics issue, he finds that many firms will not even consider taking him on, because of who Nate's father is. No matter how brightly the attraction burns between them, Nate must first and foremost consider that any romantic relationship they might have could adversely impact Sean's day in court. 

Underneath all the suspense and intrigue, the point this book drives home time and again is that of family. Not necessarily the one you're born into, but the one you choose, the one you make for yourself. And for that, Sean had a great example in Hawk, his mother's ex-boyfriend, who took him in, no questions asked, when Sean was kicked out at home for being gay. A man who never asked for anything but was there time and again when Sean needed him. A man who not only gave him a home but also a way of paying the bills, when he taught him the fine art of tattooing. Nate has an example too, really - that of how NOT to treat your family. While I believe his parents loved him, they never even considered how hurtful their behavior was when they excluded Nate to appease their older son's homophobia and bigotry. 

My only niggle came toward the end of the book, during the big reveal as to who was behind all the bad things that happened. It felt a little over the top, and the villain really came out of left field, to be honest. Sure, the explanation made sense, but the way it all went down was a little... too much, I guess. 

Still, this was definitely an enjoyable read, with a satisfying HFN, and I would recommend you give this book a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


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

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review 2017-03-14 22:31
Release Day ARC Review: Two Cowboys And A Baby by B.A. Tortuga
Two Cowboys and a Baby (Dreamspun Desires Book 30) - BA Tortuga

On the surface, there's a cute story here. You got cowboys, small town antics, and even an abandoned baby on your doorstep that holds the twisted answer to a long-kept secret. So, I was ready for cute and sweet and lots of cowboys. And I got that, to some extent.

What didn't work for me as well were some parts of the relationship bromance between Hoss (the supposed baby-daddy) and Bradley, two men who've been friends forever and a day, but who had a falling out when Hoss came out to Bradley way back when in high school. I totally believed that Hoss was in love with Bradley, and that Bradley was in love with Hoss - no issues there - and when Bradley confessed to Hoss that maybe back then he was an idiot, and he's regretted that ever since, their bromance became much more and their romantic relationship really took off.

The parts that were harder to swallow had to do with the revelations about the little innocent baby Hoss finds on his doorstep one morning, and how she looks a little too much like Hoss, and how the DNA test shows that .... well, I'll let y'all read this yourself. The drama that unfolds between Bradley and Hoss was, while understandable, a little out of left field. Up until that point, I thought that the back and forth banter between them showcased their relationship, and they truly felt like they'd been friends for a very long time. So it was a bit of a shock for me to see Bradley react the way he did when that twist came about, and while the lack of real communication between them was indicative of their relationship, I would have thought that Bradley wouldn't be such a dumbass and trusted Hoss a bit more than what he did. Yeah, yeah, surely the "surprise" was a shock to them all, but when your man tells you "no, I didn't", then maybe you ought to stop and listen instead of being all Judgy McJudgerson, eh?

I also thought that the twist was a bit over the top, but then I've come to expect that sort of over the top kind of thing from this series, so I wasn't put off by it. I adored Hoss being all awkward with the baby, without a clue what to do, so that part rang true for me. Even if his mama came to help out a bit.

The author really captured the small town Texas feel, and made me feel like I was right there at the rodeo with Hoss and Bradley - well done, that.

Also, if your sheriff's name is Pooter - 'nuff said. I giggled a lot whenever he was on page. Stereotypical small town characters all around, and that part was a lot of fun.

This was an enjoyable read, even if I didn't like some parts. The book works well within the Dreamspun Desires series, and should be read the way it was intended - as a bit of fluff, a bit over the top, and a "love will save the day" kind of romance.


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

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review 2016-03-15 05:00
ARC Review: Trial By Fire by B.A. Tortuga
Trial by Fire - B.A. Tortuga
Oh, this was an epic story. It has a bit of everything - two men who are different but not, heartache and pain, meddling parents, kidnappers who are bumbling fools, sacrifice, and even a baby.

It's a sweeping grand story of two men from different corners of the globe, united in grief, divided by what they think they must do, lusting after each other (holy hot boysecks, batman), and fighting for what they want.

I read this epic tale while on the edge of my seat for the most part, crying and laughing with them, fanning myself when they finally get it on, and biting my nails when... well, read it for yourself.

Of course, this being an installment of Dreamspun Desires, it's a bit over the top, as expected. Lachlan rides into Texas on a rather high horse, grief-stricken and wanting to bring his niece home to Australia, because she's all he's got left of his sister, who ran off some years back because life on her parents' rather large sheep station was stifling her.

Except what he expected to find on the Sheffield ranch (deplorable living conditions, a bunch of rodeo clowns) isn't quite what he encounters when he arrives. Lachlan also doesn't expect Holden, brother-in-law to his late sister, nor did he see the punch to his face coming his way when he strides in, all haughty, and demands they turn over his niece, Chloe.

Confronted with the truth of the situation - no squalor, no clowns, no traveling from one rodeo to the next - Lachlan focuses his attention on how to solve his dilemma. He's got no legal foot to stand on, as Holden was named guardian of the little girl by his late twin brother and sister-in-law. While Holden is willing to allow Lachlan and his parents to visit the little girl, that'll only happen when and where he says.

But oh, lust sets both men aflame, and the UST is killer for a long while. Just when you thought they'd finally get together, something terrible happens that nearly derails the budding romance.

I really liked this, no matter how much it was OTT, what with the foolish kidnapping plot, and the ranch hands, and Lachlan's parents blowing into town, and Holden's parents finding out that their remaining son doesn't swing the way they thought. It was oh so romantic in that special cowboy way, and it swept me off my feet, leaving me breathless for most of the time but smiling happily when it ended.

A worthy installment to this series. Recommended for all Harlequin romance lovers!



** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **
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review 2015-08-18 01:56
ARC Review: Nowhere Ranch by Heidi Cullinan
Nowhere Ranch - Heidi Cullinan

 

I read this book twice, because once wasn't enough. High on the kinky parts, taking me out of my comfort zone, it still is a grand romance, and that's what I loved.

Roe Davis is a ranch hand who never stays long in the same place. Running since he got out of prison, after being outed by his snooping mother and basically kicked out of the family for being gay, he's built up the walls mile high, and there ain't nobody getting in.

When he takes a job at Nowhere Ranch in Nebraska, he plans much the same as he has been doing - stay for a while, and then move on.

Nowhere Ranch is owned by Travis Loving, older than Roe, who's been married and divorced. Roe's gaydar is broken, so it comes as a huge surprise when he stumbles across Travis in a gay bar, three hours away.

 

Incidentally, their kinky streaks line up really well, so they spend a night in Travis' hotel room, after figuring out they're both after the same thing.

 

Roe likes to be used, you see, likes it rough, and Travis likes to dish out that particular kind of sex. Offering to have at it again at home, saving themselves the drive, it still takes Roe quite some time before need outweighs the rule that doing the boss is bad. He wants to run, but can't, not only because he promised Travis that he wouldn't but also - and this is the bigger part - because Travis gives Roe that what he never had before.

 

Acceptance.

 

Initially, sex is all they share. But there are cracks in Roe's wall, and love always finds a way.

 

This story is told entirely from Roe's limited 1st person POV, so we don't get a whole lot of insight into what drives Travis, but there's sufficient information in the dialogue and in Roe's somewhat unreliable narration to get a fairly clear picture.

 

They are exceptionally well suited to each other, each providing exactly what the other needs and seeks, and they don't stand a chance against love. It creeps in quietly, softly, without giving notice, until Roe finds it bursting out of him.

 

While Travis may struggle at first to figure out how to pursue Roe without making him run, he figures it out eventually, and what it comes down to again and again is simply accepting Roe for who he is, letting Roe lean on him, and making the voices in his head stop.

 

There are some rough times while they find their footing, but the overall lesson here is love.

 

Super kinky, yes, but super intense and emotional too. Hot, sweaty, and dirty, but this book is what Heidi does best - she gives you the holy hot boysex, Batman, and before you know what's happening, she's drawn you in, made you love the characters, and then she gives them exactly what they need. Just when your eyes are bugging out because, HOLY CRAP, they're doing what? - she reels you back in with a scene that is as filthy as it is emotional. It's masterful, I tell you!

 

Loved the supporting cast at the ranch, especially Haley, but didn't care so much for Roe's family, even if they do come around at the end. Hated Kayla and Pastor Tim, and cheered when they got the tongue-lashing they deserved.

 

The book raises some heavy themes too - homophobia, religious nutcases, hate and bigotry. I may have sniffled a few times, especially when the voices in Roe's head get too loud, when he's convinced he's nothing but crap, when he thinks he doesn't deserve love.

 

The narration is realistic, fitting the rough, gruff Roe, and the character took shape before my eyes. It flows well, with believable dialogue and organic growth, and while this may have been kinkier than most of the books I read, the romance between these two hardened men is what made this such a joy to read.


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

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review 2015-08-07 01:34
ARC Review: Roughstock: Blind Ride - Season One by BA Tortuga
Blind Ride - B.A. Tortuga

Jason Scott, aka Mini, and Andy Baxter, aka Bax, two bull-rider cowboys touring the rodeo circuit, have been bestest friends for years. There is underlying attraction between them, but neither is willing to act on those feelings. Lots of UST in this one. They joke and push each other to perform at their very best, competing against each other, with lots of friendly ribbing, but are also each other's support system.

Andy gets injured early on, and knows he won't be winning this time around, but Jason is riding high. Until a terrible accident with a wicked bull robs him of his sight. Andy takes Jason home to heal, while still having to travel to the rodeos. This is a pivotal point in their relationship, and neither handles it very well.

Jason loses all hope, and his will to live. His overbearing mother, with whom he's staying, doesn't help the cause. It's all looking very bleak for him - a blind cowboy can't ride any bulls. Compounding this is the fact that they've kept Jason's blindness a secret for now, so he doesn't immediately lose his sponsors.

Andy is worried about his best friend, obviously, but either doesn't have the brains or the means to reach out to medical professionals to help with Jason's transition and relearning how to do things without seeing. There is tension between them, and Andy doesn't know what to do, how to help Jason. The situation sort of meanders for a while, until Andy has a brilliant idea, rounds up their friends, and prods and pushes Jason out of the hole.

I loved the relationship between the two men. I could tell from early on that there were strong feelings between them, feelings that only get stronger, the closer they get after Jason's injury. They rely on each other heavily, and the UST kicks up a few notches until they finally give in. I completely believed in their relationship.

The writing felt a little bland - for lack of a better word - and I wish there had been more showing rather than telling. I also had a difficult time dealing with Jason's mother. She was treating him like a child, her grown son, and made him feel as if he was incapable of doing anything himself, now that he's blind, instead of helping him to find his way around. She exacerbated his feelings of uselessness.

What also bothered me is that this book didn't feel complete. First off, there's a lack of back story for them both, and most things in their past are only mentioned in passing. I wanted to know whether this was a case of gay for you, or if they were both actually gay, whether there had been other men in their lives previously, since they apparently hadn't been with each other, despite the mutual, long-term attraction. While we get the progression of their relationship into a full blown love story AFTER Jason's accident, I would have liked to see Jason get on a bull while blind. There's no resolution to his situation, even though there are hints that his blindness may be temporary. While I realize this is a the first of a series, I feel that every book should still be complete in itself.

I liked both main characters well enough, and the banter between them and their friends is often humorous, with lots of manly snark, but it's easy to see that they all like each other. It was an enjoyable read, for sure, but missing something for me. But I did like it, so I'll probably read the next one too.


** I was provided with a free copy of this book by its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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