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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 2018-09-04 02:47
ARC Review: Wight Mischief by JL Merrow
Wight Mischief - J.L. Merrow

I'm super late with this review - my apologies to the author and publisher.

The pairing in this book was a bit unusual - one a somewhat slow but super nice guy, and the other mysterious and vulnerable.

Will is visiting the Isle of Wight with his friend (I use the term loosely here, because I didn't like the guy - a self-absorbed user who didn't seem to care about Will much at all, but kept him by his side to warm the spot when nobody else was available) Baz, a wannabe journalist, helping to research a book on ghosts. Will is a nice guy - reliable, dependable, and slowly coming around to the fact that Baz isn't as good a friend as Will thought, and definitely not worthy of the shine Will's taken to him for years. He's intrigued by Marcus, whom he initially thinks a ghost (!!) when he first sees him on the beach below Marcus' mansion. 

Marcus is a recluse author, orphaned after his parents' violent deaths as a teenager, and having been raised by his creepy controlling guardian, a family friend, he doesn't venture outside of his manor much. Born with albinism, he avoids the daylight as much as possible and only goes outside at night. Marcus has built some massive walls around his heart - partially mortared by his guardian's controlling manner. 

The mystery/suspense was well done, even though it was clear to me early on who the villain was - I didn't mind; I enjoyed the journey to the final revelation (that was a bit of a shock) and dramatic climax. 

The author's writing style just works for me, and there hasn't been a JL Merrow book yet that I didn't like. Vivid descriptions of the island transported me directly to the location - I could feel the moonlight on my face, I could smell the salty ocean breeze. It may be a small island, but it sure sounds like a spot worth visiting - tons of history set amidst a rocky, rugged landscape. 

The romance is by design slow-burn but also fast - feelings develop quickly - as Marcus is torn between wanting to trust Will, wanting to experience what it would be like to be loved by a man such as Will, but also fearing his guardian and opening his heart to love. 

I adored Will. I wanted him to be happy, and I feared for his safety as the plot progresses. I don't want to give too much away here. Just know that this is a lovely story, with wonderful MCs, and totally worth your time. 


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

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review 2018-07-07 00:38
ARC Review: Stag And The Ash (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #5) by Sam Burns
Stag And The Ash - Sam Burns

This is the 2nd book for Jesse and Sean, continuing shortly after where Hawk and the Rowan ended. Jesse still struggles with his place on the town council, with being the Alpha wolf, with having to be in charge of things, and he's finding it equally difficult to help Sean grieving the loss of his mother and finding his stride in dealing with his powers as a succubus.

There were some humorous moments to lighten the mood, which is mostly somber throughout the book, which was to be expected after the events of book 4, as well as considering what we find out in this book.

At around 30% or so, I had an inkling on how this would unfold, after finding out who sent the troll that killed Sean's mother, and the three young wolves showed up in town. 

The book is told entirely from Jesse's POV, and he's a somewhat unreliable narrator, as his perception of how people feel about him isn't entirely accurate, something that he's starting to learn. His guilt stemming from mistakes made in the past, and how they are affecting the present, is obviously not helping him see himself clearly, and he continues to feel as if he's not good enough and can never measure up. 

I would have liked to find out more about what makes Sean ticks, but perhaps that's still to come. I wish Jesse could see himself as others do, and it seems that by the end of this book, he's starting to get there. Their relationship gets a chance to grow in this book also, as Sean towards the end forces some honest conversations with Jesse instead of both of them fumbling with what needs to be said. 

As the focus of this book is mostly on the new wolves in town, and Jesse struggling with his guilt and his keeping secrets from Sean and others about the true reason for the troll attack, we don't see a whole lot of the townsfolk in this book, at least not as much as we did in previous ones. Of course, all the main players make an appearance, and everyone contributes to the plot unfolding, but this book felt to some extent as a transition, a bridge, a set up for the next one. It also felt shorter than the previous ones, but certainly covered what it needed to cover. 

Of course, the writing is as awesome as always, engaging and entertaining, and I continue to be fascinated with this series. Fletcher's 2nd book is next, and if the first chapter is any indication, it'll be a wild ride. I can hardly wait!

Please note: These cannot be read as standalone books and must be read in order. 


** I received a free copy of this book from Signal Boost promotions as part of this tour in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-05-25 02:35
ARC Review: Bad To The Bone by Nicki Bennett
Bad to the Bone - Nicki Bennett

This was for the most part a sweet second-chance romance between two men who were friends in high school and could have been more if it weren't for small town bigots and needing that scholarship.

Back in high school, Alex was going to be a big shot football player at college until an injury put an end to that dream. But that injury didn't happen until he had already lost his heart to Ricky Lee, a boy his age from the wrong side of the tracks, who shared his love of books. 

So Ricky Lee left town, and Alex stayed. He's now working at his hardware store he co-owns with his sister, his marriage has failed, and his life hasn't turned out at all how he imagined it would.

And then Ricky Lee comes back into town because of their high school reunion and makes it very clear from the start that he's never forgotten Alex. Ricky Lee now lives in Portland and is some kind of technology genius. He wants Alex and he starts his pursuit from the time he arrives back in town. 

This being a Dreamspun Desires title, the plot and happenings inside are deliciously OTT, the characters are slightly too perfect, and the supporting cast is a bit one-dimensional. I liked Alex's sister a whole lot - she seemed to have a good head on her shoulders, and I liked his cop friend as well. I liked Alex and Ricky Lee, and Ricky Lee's somewhat flamboyant friend/business partner. 

As the romance gets its second wind, the small town bigots do their very best to try to put a cork in it. This is where the plot leaves realistic territory and veers dramatically into what the hell just happened. 

I was entertained, of course, and the scenes where Alex and Ricky Lee are on page together without others are really well done. I believed that they still had feelings for each other after all these years, and that those feelings were easily rekindled into a raging fire. 

This is a feel good book. It's an easy read for a day at the beach or curled up in your favorite chair with your favorite beverage. It's not deep, it's not memorable, but it's definitely enjoyable.


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

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review 2018-04-21 03:17
ARC Review: Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy
Somewhere Over Lorain Road - Bud Gundy
Please don't let the cover confuse you into thinking this is purely an M/M romance. It's not. While there is a love story inside, this book is at its core a mystery with gay characters. It's a book about secrets, and unsolved murders, and old wounds, and family pain. It's about coming home to help your aging mother take care of your father in his last days, it's about giving an old man his dying wish. It's about terrible, horrible secrets kept for 40 years, and confronting the ghosts of your past.

Don Esker has come home to North Homestead, Ohio, where his father lies dying, and his mother and older brothers need help with the palliative care. Don has done well for himself in San Francisco, working in marketing, and is in a position where he can work from anywhere. Coming home isn't easy, as the family name is still talked about in hushed voices in connection to an unsolved crime that happened 40 years ago in 1975, when a little boy, the neighbor's and Sheriff's son, mysteriously disappeared, and two other little boys were found brutally murdered. Don's father was a suspect in the disappearance of the first boy, if only for one evening, and while he was never charged with anything, his good name has never been fully cleared. The suspicion alone shattered Don's family, and when he came out as gay, staying in town became impossible for him. Small towns and small-minded people will not forgive and not forget, and the townsfolk certainly wouldn't accept a gay man. 

In a lucid moment, Don's father asks for just one thing before he dies - to have his name cleared once and for all. Don, obliging son, begins a journey that not only brings him to Bruce, the love interest, but also face to face with his childhood friend, the brother of the missing boy, who still lives with his father, the ex-Sheriff across the street from the Esker home. It forces him to confront things of his past. Thick as thieves when they were young, Don and his friend haven't spoken in many years, longer than Don has been gone from North Homestead. There is history there. And hurt, anger, and hate. 

As the story unfolds, we are given pieces of the past, set in the 70s and 80s. There's an incident with an old fridge. There's the moment in which Mr. Esker is hauled from his home to answer questions about the disappearance of the neighbor's son. There's the moment in which Don's brother... no, I won't spoil this for you. Just do yourself a favor and read this book.

There is a moment when I knew, just KNEW, who the culprit was, thought I knew who had committed these crimes. 

And there is a moment when the truth comes out, and I was proven wrong. Except, not entirely. 

The romance between Don and Bruce doesn't really begin until the 2nd half of this book, and it's never in the forefront of the tale. There are no explicit scenes, and there didn't need to be any. It unfolds quietly, organically, and peacefully, just as it should have. These are grown, mature men, and there are no games to be played. No contrived misunderstandings. A love story. Simple. Quiet. 

Obviously, Don is not a skilled investigator, and it's often just sheer luck that he is able to find a piece he needs to solve the decades-old crime. He fumbles more often than not, which is to be expected, but he does persevere. 

The mystery is eventually solved. The truth comes out, as it always will, no matter how much time passes. I wasn't prepared for this truth. I wasn't expecting this truth. Though, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go that route, and I must applaud the author for taking this road. It humanized the perpetrator, and though it doesn't offer forgiveness, it offers a believable motive. It does also shine a bright light on deep dysfunction within a family, on emotional and psychological and physical abuse. Facades crumble under such light. Cracks appear. Truth will out.

This book, with its tight narration and unexpected turn of events, kept me glued to its pages until the very last one. It's riveting - a page turner, and masterfully written. 

Give this a try, I beg you. This isn't a romance. It's a mystery with a gay MC. It's a story about family. But it is also a love story. Absolutely worth your time.


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

 

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