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review 2017-08-16 02:06
Release Day ARC Review: Out Of The Shadows by KC Wells
Out of the Shadows (Dreamspun Desires Book 40) - K.C. Wells

I adored this so much! What a sweet romance between one hunky gardener/handyman and one damaged, hiding young man who thinks an accident 8 years ago that left him severely scarred turned him into a monster not fit for society. 

Josh is a gardener/handyman for an apartment complex and has been tasked with modernizing some of the apartments by upgrading the kitchens and bathrooms. The first apartment is the home of a mysterious resident, whom nobody has apparently ever seen. Josh is a really nice guy, easy-going and kind, and he has no preconceived notions about the man who lives in the apartment. Josh feels he's there to do a job, and he plans on doing a good one. He also has a nice group of friends, including two (Nate and Dylan) who may be given the "oblivious men of the year" award. I sure hope the author has a book planned for them as well. 

Christian made a horrific mistake 8 years ago while helping a stranded motorist to jump-start his car and hooked up the wrong side first, resulting in severe acid burns to his face, arms and chest. He moved to Boston to start a new life - if you can call it a life - and cut himself off from friends, family, and everyone. He orders what he needs online, groceries are delivered to his front door, and he only rarely goes outside, and when he does, it's at night, cloaked in darkness. He's afraid of people's reactions to his scars and would rather be alone than see them pity him or recoil from him.

Unbeknownst to Josh, Christian has been watching him work in the flower beds and such, admiring and lusting after him. Of course, Christian has no illusions of getting any closer to Josh than through the window, but ogling is enough. Or so he tells himself.

On the first day of the renovation job, Josh believes that Christian isn't home, but the truth comes out, and Christian has a difficult time believing that Josh's reaction to the scars (and the monster he sees in the mirror) is so calm and accepting.

A mutual love for Harry Potter brings them closer, they share lunch every day while Josh is working on the apartment, and even after he's done and has moved on to the next place, and it was so lovely to watch Christian begin to trust Josh, who starts to draw the slightly older man out of his shell. Shared lunches turn into watching a movie at the theater (late at night, of course), and meeting Josh's friends.

Christian blossoms under Josh's unfailing support, and their mutual attraction fairly quickly turns into real emotions and a desire to be together. Josh helps Christian realize that what he sees in the mirror is not a monster after all, and that while some people may react in a way Christian expects them to (recoiling in horror), the majority of folks do not. 

I would have liked Christian to consider therapy to deal with his self-hatred, because Josh is not a therapist, and while he provided steady support, love, and understanding, I wasn't sure that Christian's rather rapid progression to being comfortable in public spaces (after hiding for so long) was completely realistic. However, considering that this is a Dreamspun Desires title, this did not influence my rating or enjoyment of this book.

The author did a great job with the characters, and their romance was believable within the parameters of this series. Their story is, while definitely on the fluffy side, super romantic and hopeful, and their HEA was well deserved. A quiet, low-key romance, very little angst, and so very sweet - I had a fabulous time reading it.

And I'm serious about Nate and Dylan needing their own book. Please get right on that, Ms. Wells.


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

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review 2017-08-06 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 02:06
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 2017-07-25 02:44
ARC Review: What The Cat Dragged In by B.A. Tortuga
What the Cat Dragged In (Sanctuary Book 2) - BA Tortuga

Whoever said cats and dogs don't get along hasn't met the feline and lupine shifters of this series. 

What a fun follow-up to the first book! Also, while this could be read as a standalone, you'd miss out if you didn't read about Sam (a panther) and Gus (a wolf) getting together in the first one.

In this book, we have Connor Ragbone, a bobcat shifter, and Brock Herman, a wolf shifter like Gus. 

Connor finds things. Something inside him pulls him in a certain direction, calling to him, even though he never knows what he might find when he answers that call. He never thought he'd have a permanent home base, being a bit of a loner, but he's found a place to come back to with Sam and Gus and their awesome family. 

His current call leads him to Brock. 

Brock Herman is self-sufficient, self-reliant, and basically also a loner. He's working undercover, trying to break up a poacher ring. He has no time for the bobcat that suddenly shows up in the middle of his ops, but the cat just won't leave him alone, dammit.

I laughed out loud so many times reading this book. Connor is a unique character, and I really enjoyed how much he trusts that inner voice calling him to his next find, and how laid back he was, never questioning whether following the call might end up with him in trouble or not.

Two loners - what could possibly go wrong, amirite?

Turns out Connor and Brock are mates, feeling that inexplicable pull toward each other, even if this doesn't fit with Brock's plans at all. The author did a great job not forcing the mating call, but letting Brock ("I work alone, dammit") come to terms with Connor's presence, despite his annoyance, and the romance develops slowly. Sure, UST and sexy times come fairly quickly, but the emotional bond takes time to grow. Well done, that. 

Connor was utterly adorable - I loved him from the start. He's quirky, funny, snarky, and super laid-back, but also quick to lend a hand, smart, and definitely loyal and courageous. His easy-going personality was well contrasted with Brock's more serious and focused personality, and I thought that the two men complemented each other rather well. They worked well as a team, which comes in handy when... nope, not gonna spoil this for you.

The story has action galore, what with the poacher ring, and bears in cages, which culminates in an edge-of-your-seat sequence of events that leaves Connor seriously injured, help from an unexpected source, and the villain... nah, you read this for yourself. 

The author did a fantabulous job with world building in this book and its predecessor, and the specific shifter mythology employed here worked really well for me. There's no magical healing, no mating bond compulsion, and no instant ILYs, but the book sure delivers what it promises - a feel good shifter romance. 

I can hardly wait for the next book in this series. 


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

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