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review 2018-06-13 01:51
ARC Review: His Leading Man by Ashlyn Kane
His Leading Man - Ashlyn Kane

Well, this was utterly adorable. Extremely likable characters, even if Drew can be a bit of a diva, inside a mainly angst-free romance on a movie set between a famous Hollywood actor and the brand-new screenwriter whose first screenplay was just optioned and who's sucked into playing one of the leading roles in the movie, falling in love on set and off, and character growth wrapped in a fluffy, feel-good novel - yeah, I'm all for that.

Add some fun supporting characters, like Steve's mom, and Drew's agent, and you have yourself a well-rounded book with which to curl up in your favorite beach lounger for a sunny afternoon.

The meet-cute happens at the auditions where Drew rejects more than a few candidates to star in the movie opposite him, until he sees the cute screenwriter and decides on the spot that this is the guy who should be cast. Steve, the screenwriter, may not be a complete stranger to Hollywood but he values his privacy and would prefer to remain out of the spotlight. But who can possibly deny Drew?

Both of them are rather normal outside of the set, and they communicate with each other. There's a date and slow-dancing, and sweet kisses, and even a bit of steam. We see them on set making the movie Steve wrote, and we get to laugh with them when things don't go as planned. We get to see Drew get all frustrated, and we see Steve call him on that foul temper. Thankfully, there are no horrible miscommunications or stupid assumptions, and they even weather the media storm quite well when their budding romance is outed unexpectedly. 

With a lovely epilogue, this book held me enthralled from start to finish, cute dog included. Also, could someone please make this movie from the book? It sounds fabulous, and I want to watch it! 

Recommended. Buy this book and get yourself to your nearest beach or lakefront to enjoy this sweet romance. 

** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher 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 2018-05-17 01:12
ARC Review: Bad Attitude by K.A. Mitchell
Bad Attitude - K.A. Mitchell

Well, then. This was at times a frustrating read, because both Gavin and Jamie had some issues. I mean, issues. Like, ISSUES. 

This book gave me whiplash from the constant hot and cold and yes and no, much like that Katy Perry song. 

Gavin is rebelling to some extent against the expectations of his wealthy family. He's supposed to show up at events, look good in a tux, and behave. Which has stunted his emotional growth by a large degree. He's starved for affection but too chicken shit to admit that to anyone including himself, so he postures and prances and performs because who the fuck needs feelings. 

Jamie has a massive chip on his shoulder, because all his friends are paired up, and that's just fucking fabulous, because Jamie wants nothing to do with a ball and chain on his ankles, no, sirree. He's just fine with the wham, bam, thank you, Sam, and he sure as hell doesn't need a boyfriend. Or love. Also, he's a redhead, so that's another strike, amirite? No, no, Jamie is a man's man and feelings are for pussies. 

So, both of these men have a really bad attitude towards love and making themselves vulnerable. They fuck, they fight, they dance around each other, neither capable of asking for what they really want but are too afraid to face, and so we are treated to a weird sex party, and accidental dives off a bridge, and feeling uncomfortable at a social event, and generally being too damn emotionally stunted to get a clue. 

Eli and Quinn from book 2, as supporting characters, really steal the show, especially Eli. I've adored this character ever since I first read Bad Boyfriend, and I enjoyed seeing him in this book. 

It took me some time to warm up to Gavin and Jamie, but I was on board about halfway through the book. Jamie comes around a little faster than Gavin, but both of them hide their true needs behind macho alpha male behavior, using sex to avoid intimacy, and displaying bitterness about their lot in life to mask their loneliness and vulnerability. 

Gavin's friend Beach - yeah, I found zero redeeming qualities in him in this book, and knowing that book 5 is about him... well. While part of me is looking forward to seeing what the author does with this character, another, albeit smaller, part wants to simply forget he exists. The only good thing I can say about Beach at this point is that he serves as a catalyst for Gavin to get his shit together and finally tell Jamie the truth. 

So, whiplash. Be prepared for that. Be ready for an at times frustrating read that delivers flawed characters who still have a lot to learn, despite thinking they know it all, and a romance that almost crashes and burns before it even begins. 

But it is a romance, so there is a happy ending. In case you were wondering. 


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

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review 2018-05-17 00:36
ARC Review: Fourteen Summers by Quinn Anderson
Fourteen Summers - Quinn Anderson

The book opens with a wedding ceremony. Yes, you read that right.

Okay, so, fine, it's a pretend wedding ceremony, and the boys are but 10 years old or so, but it establishes from the start what dynamics may be at play.

Max and Aiden are identical twins, with Max being the older brother by a few minutes, which has shaped their relationship for a long time. Max was always the more outgoing, and Aiden, much more introverted, was happy to stand in his brother's shadow while they were younger. Now, with both of them at college, Aiden wants to be more than just Max's brother.

Oliver was their childhood friend until divorce meant leaving with his mother, and his father moving away as well. But now his father has moved back to their old town, and Oliver has come home for the summer. The family dynamics, with loud, overbearing uncles and with parents that still can't seem to stand being in the same room together, has Oliver not wanting to spend much time at his father's house, so he's real happy to run into Max and Aiden again. Introverted like Aiden, Oliver is perfectly content to let Max plan their get-togethers, especially since that allows him to moon over Aiden, his childhood crush.

For the most part, this read like a YA/NA novel, with lots of mooning and crushing and blushing, and not a whole lot of on page action, and characters who on occasion sounded younger than their purported years, but maturity is a sliding scale so I was mostly fine with their portrayals.

What I really liked is that the author primarily explored the dynamics at play between two twin brothers who have been joined at the hip most of their lives, and a boy coming between them when Aiden and Oliver get romantically involved. I loved how Max's jealousy was explored, how it realistically became a roadblock, and how it forced honesty and open conversation between Aiden and Max and allowed them to experience real growth in their relationship. In fact, the book, told from the POVs of all three of the young man, really focuses more so on the relationship struggles between the twins than the developing romance between Oliver and Aiden. While the crush/romance serves as a catalyst to the struggles Max and Aiden go through, it's not the the only focus of this book.

The characters, their portrayals, felt realistic to me for the most part, other than their maturity levels, and that's probably more so on me than the author - I guess I expected a bit more from 20 year olds even if they're twins. Out of the three of them, I would say that Oliver is probably the most mature, which is potentially due to him being a child of divorce, which tends to make you grow up a little faster, and also because he's an only child.

There are some interesting supporting characters as well. The twins' parents welcome Oliver back with open arms, and make him feel like he's part of the family again. They were perhaps slightly too perfect, but meh, I didn't care. I liked them. Oliver's parents are supportive of him, but also don't necessarily create an environment for him in which he feels free, on either side. His uncles and extended family on his father's side are a loud bunch, which introverted Oliver doesn't like so much, and his mother, while supportive, seemed to struggle somewhat with wanting her child have a relationship with his father, and also not realizing that the divorce affected Oliver much more than she thought.

The book ends with a super sweet epilogue, and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Quinn Anderson has proven once again that she can write fully fleshed out characters, with realistic, convincing characterizations, and a believable plot and timeline.

Highly recommended.


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

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review 2018-05-02 02:01
ARC Review: Hard Line by Sidney Bell
Hard Line - Sidney Bell

Tobias is a consummate good boy. The perfect people pleaser. After announcing at a young age that he would become a doctor like his Papa, he's now stuck in premed classes he hates, but can't tell anyone. Struggling with abandonment issues all his life, after being found in a dumpster as a baby and having been adopted by a Haitian couple who provide a loving but strict home, he has tried and tried and tried to be the perfect son, the perfect friend - because if only he's perfect, people won't leave him. He remembers what happened the last time he tried to break free of his parents' expectations. It earned him a trip to the Woodbury Center, where he met Ghost and Church (whom we met in the first book). Yes, Tobias is a good boy. 

Until he isn't. 

When Ghost goes missing and Tobias realizes that he may be in trouble, he will do whatever it takes to find his friend. Including blackmailing a PI to help him.

Sullivan is that PI. He's working an old case that his boss took over from the previous owner of the firm, and he is pursuing a new trail that puts him in Tobias' path. Blackmailed into helping the younger man find his friend, he reluctantly begins to spend time with Tobias while gathering clues.

It becomes clear quickly that Sullivan possesses a quality Tobias craves. He craves it without knowing what to call it. Soon, they spend their days searching for clues and their nights exploring their mutual kink. 

This book is really a character study wrapped in a mystery/suspense plot. The author cleverly weaves Tobias' growth as a person, as an individual, as someone who figures out his own needs and wants compared to what he's been told to need and want, into the plot and provides Sullivan as the key to give Tobias wings to fly. 

Of course, standing up for yourself isn't an easy thing to do when you've been indoctrinated all your life to do for others, to sacrifice your own wants and needs, to stay the course laid out for you by someone else, while grappling with crushing guilt and fears of abandonment. All too often, we attempt to change ourselves, only to be told by those we love to change back. To revert to who and what we were, because change is hard. It's difficult, not only for the person changing, but also for the people in your lives who may not understand your need to become someone different. Some people will withhold their affection because you've decided to become a truer version of yourself, and if you fear losing them, if you don't meet their expectations - well.... That takes a lot of strength to overcome.

Tobias learns that people don't always leave because he's not perfect. Tobias learns to trust himself. Tobias learns to trust Sullivan. 

And Sullivan learns to trust Tobias. It takes him a bit longer to see the younger man clearly, but eventually, he does. 

The mystery/suspense - yeah, not going to give anything away here. I will say though that it had some twists and turns I didn't expect, and it kept me glued to the pages until the very end. 

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it even more so than the first one. While it could be read as a standalone, I think it would make more sense to someone who's read the first one - there is some background info that should be present for this book to have the full impact. 

And, honestly, why wouldn't you read both? Sidney Bell has written a fabulous follow-up to the first book, and they are both well 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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