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review 2017-10-03 01:59
Release Day ARC Review: The Bunny And The Billionaire by Louisa Masters
The Bunny and the Billionaire (Dreamspun Desires Book 43) - Louisa Masters

This is such a Harlequin-esque book. I mean, seriously, this one lays it on super thick, and as such fits the Dreamspun Desires series to a T.

Here we have Ben Adams, a nurse from Australia, who recently inherited a large sum of money (and when I say large, I mean LARGE) from the old lady whom he looked after for some time, and whom he still misses. Never having known wealth, Ben decides on a tour of Europe but still counting his pennies and saving money where possible. 

While in Monaco, he meets Leo Artois, the billionaire from the book's title, who's never known a day without wealth, seeing how his mother is a princess and his father is not only fabulously wealthy but also almost French royalty or something of the sort. 

Why Leo insists on calling Ben Bunny all the time escaped me. Leo, as well as his circle of friends, come across as the sort of people who never had to work a day in their lives and who think nothing of spending money whenever they please. 

Ben only planned to stay in Monaco for a few days before heading to Italy, but after meeting Leo, and the instant attraction he feels for the man, he decides to stay a while longer. 

What I liked about this book is that Ben isn't shy about pointing out to Leo how wasteful spending isn't impressive to him, and that Leo make concessions for Ben's point of view on money issues, but also teaches him that some things are worth the money they cost and introduces him to some of the finer things in life that most mortals will never be able to afford. 

Ben, despite his substantial inheritance, is still a normal guy and tries to impress that normalcy on Leo. 

I believed their holiday fling. Their attraction burned brightly from the start, and I bought that Leo was fascinated with Ben, and vice versa, but their HEA romance - nah. Didn't believe it. They had so little in common, and despite Ben's new wealth, their social circles and life experiences didn't really mesh for me at all. Ben was too normal whereas Leo was way more sophisticated and often came across as someone whose illusions of entitlement were showing. Ben came across as uncomfortable with the OTT displays of wealth Leo and his circle found normal, and that doesn't make for a life-long romance. I mean, obviously with this series, disbelief must be suspended most of the time anyway, but the romance should still be something that resonates. And here, it sadly didn't, for me. YMMV.

The writing was pretty good; the dialogue was believable (with some snark, yay) for how the two men were characterized, and I'm interested in reading more by this author.



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

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review 2017-09-25 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 2017-07-24 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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review 2017-07-19 01:12
ARC Review: Satin by KC Wells
Satin - K.C. Wells

The 2nd in this fabulous series, Satin can be read as a standalone. 

Joel Hunter is a DC (Detective Constable) on a surveillance job with his partner Trish, in a bar/lounge, hoping that the owner comes by so he can be arrested.

The stakeout is going fine, but then Joel is rather distracted when Satin takes the stage - a beautiful singer whose sultry voice nearly puts Joel under a spell. 

Shortly thereafter, with the bar owner locked up and the stakeout over, but unable to get Satin out of his mind, the smitten DC goes back to the bar to listen to Satin again. 

And Satin makes her move.

Except, Satin is really Ross Dauntry, a female impersonator and aspiring ballet dancer. Joel gets over his shock pretty quickly and agrees to meet Ross for coffee, as friends. Joel has until now identified as straight, and any previous attraction to a man has never been acted upon. He is confused at the attraction but also doesn't feel any shame or massive angst. He is willing to explore this thing with Ross, even if they only end up as friends.

Obviously, Joel isn't as straight as he thinks he is. Things get steamy pretty quick, and there's very little angst in this book, other than Ross wondering if Joel is attracted to him or to Satin, and Joel taking a bit of time to make peace with his attraction to Ross. The sexy times are not only steamy but seriously sensuous, and I contemplated taking a cold shower after each scene. There's one in the ballet studio where Ross trains... holy hot boysecks, Batman!

Of course, there's a bit of a conflict there too, and Ross' roommate didn't do him any favors with her interrogation of Joel, but I understood where she was coming from. Joel struggles with how to be in a relationship and his feelings for Ross, while Ross falls quickly but also realizes that he might set himself up for heartbreak. 

Trish was a great character - supportive and not afraid to call Joel on his bullshit when he needed it.

There's a scene towards the end - gah! Nope, not gonna tell you what happens. You should read this for yourself and experience the same kind of swooning I did. 

KC Wells' personal brand of magic shines through in every word in this book. This was fabulous, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I'm pretty damn sure you will too.

Recommended.


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

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review 2017-06-25 03:19
Book Review: Shadows On My Soul by Leigh Jarrett
Shadows On My Soul - Leigh Jarrett

First off, trigger warning - there's is on-page male on male rape in this book. Be aware. The blurb hints, but doesn't spell it out. It's thankfully not drawn out, and done with sensitivity toward the subject matter.

This was my first book by this author. I liked the complexity of the characters in this book, but they exasperated me as well.

Supposedly best friends as well as business partners, Justin has kept a huge secret from Derek, and Derek has a secret of his own. Neither of them has the emotional maturity to discuss things honestly and openly, and their relationship was highly dysfunctional. Even at the end, which is supposedly a HFN/HEA, I didn't believe they will make it. There was a ton of unnecessary drama that could have been avoided if Derek wasn't so emotionally stunted and hadn't make such stupid assumptions, and if Justin hadn't lied for so long. Both of them needed therapy after the trauma (Justin for being violated, and Derek for having seen the violation first hand) to help them cope, but neither got that.

Their inability to read each other's facial expressions and emotions also threw a big wrench into their relationship, so much so that it made no sense considering that they had been best friends since their high school days. They just didn't really seem to know each other at all.

In addition to this, the two of them are also apparently completely oblivious to how their friends perceive them - Justin pretends to be straight and not in love with Derek, and Derek has one-night-stands to distract himself from being in love with his supposedly straight, supposedly best friend, but to everyone around them, they appear to be a couple.

The writing itself was perfectly fine, but the characterizations and the constant back and forth drama between the two main characters who have lied to each other, by omission or directly, for years, in a story that was billed as a romance, didn't work for me.

YMMV.


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

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