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review 2018-08-11 02:24
ARC Review: Drumbeat (Notes From Boston #3) by A.M. Leibowitz
Drumbeat - A. M. Leibowitz

This is Jamie's book. If you've read the other two books in this series (Anthem and Nightsong), you may remember Jamie as one of the roommates who shared a house with Trevor and Nate before both of them got their happy ending. He currently shares the space with Mack, but they're looking for a roommate since Trevor is all moved out and Nate spends most of his time at his fiance's place. 

Both Jamie and Mack are in a band (Jamie playing drums, evocative of the title of this book, though drumbeat has another connotation, but we'll get to that in a bit), but Jamie also works in a restaurant to make ends meet. Oh, and he's still working on coping after years of living with an abusive ex-boyfriend. Who's still contacting him all the time, and harassing him, and trying to convince him to come back. Sage, the ex, is a real piece of work, and I would have liked to wring his neck. Repeatedly. 

Jamie struggles with his past, Jamie struggles with food, and Jamie struggles to not get caught up in Sage's web again. Years of abuse have taken a toll on him, and there were moments when he's still getting caught up in expecting the worst of others, expecting others to act the same way Sage did. It's probably a form of PTSD that manifests itself in what's stored in the box underneath his bed. Vague? Yep, I know - just read the book! 

The other MC in this book is Cian, a dance instructor/teacher, who works with deaf and hearing children, one of whom is his little sister, using ASL to communicate and his cane to tap out the drumbeat (the other connotation of the title). He's an outlying part of a triad (two women, one man) who live outside of town, and while they've invited Cian to join them permanently, he's not ready to take that step. He's torn between wanting to stay in town for Jamie to see where their relationship may go, but also conscious that with the dance studio closing, he may not have a choice but to move. 

The author weaves telling us about the characters into the storyline seamlessly, and as we learn more about Jamie's and Cian's situations, the two of them meet again, as their paths cross occasionally. There's also some history between them, and their initial stance toward each other is a bit antagonistic. They have a mutual friend, Brandon, who's trying to play a bit of matchmaker, but that doesn't initially work.

Jamie also knows ASL, for reasons I won't divulge here, because you should read this book and find out.

This author has a real knack for writing real people with real issues and real problems, looking for real solutions. They are complex and flawed, with a variety of sexuality. While the two main characters are male, only Jamie is gay - Cian isn't. They felt real and relatable, and their relationship developed slowly, over time, over misunderstandings, over misgivings, over realizing that they perhaps have more in common than they initially thought. 

There are trials and tribulations, and both men need to forge paths of their own that then eventually converge and thus allow them to travel the road to their happy ending together. 

This isn't your typical M/M romance, and I knew that going in. While there is on-page sex, it's not limited to happening only between the two MCs - that's another thing you should know. I don't consider those sexual encounters cheating, as Jamie and Cian aren't together for a long while, and those encounters happen primarily before they do. Still, if you don't like your MCs getting into bed with others, this book probably isn't for you. 

Jamie has some serious issues that are far beyond the lingering problems with the abusive ex, and those issues are the cause for what becomes the climax in this book, where all the doors are flung wide open and all his secrets are shared with Cian. 

There is no happily ever after in this book (and there couldn't be) but a strong HFN and a commitment to work through their issues, to be honest and open with each other, and to deserve the trust they put into each other. Considering what this author put their characters through, I couldn't really ask for more than that.


So, recap - not your typical M/M romance, sex outside of the main relationship, realistic, flawed, complex characters, and a well-rounded plot that allows both MCs to grow - yeah, I'd recommend it. 


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

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review 2018-08-08 02:52
Release Day ARC Review: The Missing Ingredient by Brian Lancaster
The Missing Ingredient - Brian Lancaster

About a year ago, Marcus, a busy chef in London, lost his best friend Raine in a car accident, and in one fell swoop, Raine's husband and their children as well, due to being asked to "give them time to grieve".

Marcus respected Tom's wishes, though he misses his two "nieces", never mind the grief of losing his friend and ersatz family. 

But then he runs into them by chance and realizes that Tom doesn't look like's holding it together at all, and it's obvious that Marcus is needed. He immediately steps up despite Tom's feeble protests, and soon, he's caring for the girls and taking care of Tom as well. Obviously Tom is straight, and any resurrected attraction Marcus may be feeling mustn't be acted upon. Because Tom is straight.

Or is he?

This is by design a slow burn romance, covering almost a year's worth of time, and the relationship between the two men develops realistically and organically, as Marcus and Tom and the girls start to mesh their lives together, with Tom relying on Marcus, and Marcus giving more and more of himself to prop up his late friend's family. 

There's also a bit of a side plot with the mystery of why Raine was in the location of the accident, with someone not her husband in the car. This side plot's resolution also serves as a point of conflict between Marcus and Tom, as Marcus relays to Tom what he found out, and as Tom has a hissy fit when he does. 

Tom struggles with his feelings for Marcus, and even goes so far as to attempt to deny that part of himself by showing apparent interest in dating a woman. This leads to him using Marcus' revelation of the mystery behind Raine's travel that fateful day to break off their budding romance, and mostly cut off communication. I really, really didn't like this Tom at all. I felt for him while he was coming to terms with his feelings for Marcus, but he then treated Marcus abysmally, and the man didn't deserve that at all. 

Despite the slowly developing romance, the book is actually quite fast-paced, and the pages just flew by. Marcus forgives Tom's behavior time and again, the fact that Tom is hiding him, until Tom does a really hurtful thing and Marcus has had enough. 

And then Tom comes to his senses, finally, realizes what's he lost, and makes the "grand gesture" to regain the man he loves. That scene had me a wee bit choked up. 

The epilogue - OMG! For a few moments there, I was in utter shock, not quite believing what I was reading, because seriously the epilogue is supposed to be where we get their HEA, and it just didn't seem to start out that way at all. I was all like "WTF?" and "WHY?" and then I turned the page and about died laughing. Clever, Brian Lancaster, real clever. 

The supporting cast was well-rounded, with Tom's parents, Moira and John, Tom's two daughters who were front and center but never overshadowed the relationship building, Tina, who's Marcus assistant... even some of the more minor characters who all played a role in moving the plot forward.

The book is told entirely from Marcus' third person POV, and we thus don't get a whole lot of insight into what makes Tom act the way he does, but we do see them both grow, retreat, and grow some more. In many cases, due to the circumstances, Marcus felt like the more mature of the two, even though he's 10 years Tom's junior. 

I enjoyed reading this book, and I think this would be a good choice for anyone who loves the hurt/comfort stories. Incidentally, while Tom's wife dies at the beginning of this book, it never feels as if this is simply a plot device to clear the way for Marcus and Tom - it's more that Raine's death leaves them both adrift, and they honor her memory in a myriad of ways, always mindful that they are in each other's lives because of what she meant to both of them - a wife to Tom, and Marcus' best friend, the person who's stood by him since their school days. 

Recommended.


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

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review 2018-07-23 02:28
ARC Review: Bad Influence by K.A. Mitchell
Bad Influence - K.A. Mitchell

This is Silver's book. You may remember Silver from Bad Boyfriend (he's one of Eli's oldest friends). Silver hasn't had an easy life. Fleeing from a gay conversion camp, selling himself on the streets to survive, after having suffered a massive betrayal by someone he loved - yeah, Silver is done with allowing anyone to get close enough to hurt him. 

While I could appreciate him as a character, I never really connected with him, beyond feeling sorry for him for all that he had to endure. And I didn't connect with Zeb either, because we only get to see Zeb through Silver's eyes, and those eyes are biased as fuck. Which made me biased against Zeb too, to some extent. Silver is prickly, standoffish. Zeb is... I don't really know how to describe Zeb. Bland. Wimpy. Wet noodle. He tries, but he sounds judgmental off and on, and he had no right to judge Silver for the choices he was forced to make. 

There was no grand romance, there was no believable attraction, there was nothing that made me think these two men were really in love. Silver is angry at Zeb and pushes him away, understandably so. Zeb's pursuit of Silver felt more like a guilt trip to me than any kind of real romantic emotion, and the story spends too much time on the other couples from previous books. I already know them, and while the author may have written so much of them into this book to make it work as a standalone, that only served to bore me - because I already know these people. 

So, out of the series, this is not my favorite book at all. 


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

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review 2018-07-08 23:54
ARC Review: Life Of Bliss by Erin McLellan
Life Of Bliss - Erin McLellan

I read this without realizing it was book 2 of a series, but that didn't really hurt my enjoyment of it. 

Frenemies-to-lovers is a fabulous trope, and the author made fine use of it in here. However, that's not the only trope in here, because frenemies lead to fake boyfriends to oops, we got drunk married. 

Victor and Todd hate each other, but love to hate-fuck each other when their friends/couple Rusty and Niles aren't looking, except they really don't, because Victor hides a massive crush on Todd behind his snarky sarcasm, and Todd only sort of hates Victor because of guilt and shame over almost screwing with Dusty and Niles' HEA (which apparently happened in book 1).

At the beginning of this book, Todd, Rusty, and Niles are coming back from vacation and stop over in OK City, before going home to small town Oklahoma. Victor lives in OK City, so they meet him for dinner. Todd is already counting the minutes until the end of dinner so he and Victor can sneak off for sexy times. 

While coming down from the orgasmic high, and noticing a strange shift that seemed to have happened during sex, Victor tells Todd about attending his sister's upcoming wedding solo, and hating that, and somehow Todd agrees to be Victor's fake boyfriend at the wedding.

Alcohol comes into play, and they wake up the morning after the wedding married. 

From there, the book turns into a bit of an angst-fest, with both men keeping the marriage secret while agreeing to see if they can make it work, Todd making up stories (lies) when Rusty and Niles inquire of his whereabouts, Victor wondering if this marriage will last the summer, and whether it should, Todd and Victor NOT talking about how they really feel, feelings getting hurt, Todd coming clean to his family, which is a bit... shall we say... rough, Victor feeling like giving up, and two men who love each other being almost too damn proud to confess their true feelings.

The writing is fabulous. There are one-line zinger that had me giggling, and some humorous moments, such as Victor's box of sex toys being labeled "important documents". 

What I also really appreciated is that the author went beyond what could have become simply a rom-com and actually dug deeper into both characters. Todd especially suffers from a lack of confidence in his relationship skills, considering that he blew it with Rusty, and doesn't quite know how to navigate the waters between his feelings for Victor, his desire for something permanent, and his fears of screwing up again. Victor too isn't just all snark and sass, and there are worries keeping him up at night, specifically how to make enough money to keep paying rent, and whether his job will still exist after the summer. 

So while there are giggles and snickers to be had, and while the sexy times are hawt, there is more to this story than just those. Add a sweet HEA, and you have yourself a fine romance. I had a grand time reading this book, even without knowing anything about these folks from the first book, and I think you would too. 


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

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review 2018-06-20 01:39
ARC Review: A Little Side Of Geek by Marguerite Labbe
A Little Side Of Geek - Marguerite Labbe

Morris Proctor is a self-proclaimed geek and comic book artist, really tall and lanky, and African-American. Somewhat lonely living by himself, but no interested in his family's attempts at match-making, he spends time with his niece, who's in a wheelchair since an accident, but who features prominently as the heroine in one of his comic series. A somewhat recent relationship with a non-geek who tried to change him has left Morris a bit wary of finding love with someone who's not into the same things he is.

Theo Boarman, short, white, has only recently moved into the apartment above Morris with his younger brother Lincoln, who's still a minor, after both their parents died. Theo is a chef and now co-owns his parents' restaurant with one of his sisters, and relations are somewhat strained with another two of his siblings. Theo is a busy man - there's not much time in the day for dating, while working a full shift at a restaurant, taking care of his little brother, and the responsibilities that generally come with being the oldest of the siblings.

Since they're neighbors, it's inevitable that they meet. Morris can't keep his eyes off the man playing basketball with his younger brother, and Theo is enchanted with the tall dude in a kilt. 

This book is high on geeky references and talks about comic cons and it's very clear that Morris and Theo inhabit two very different worlds. But opposites attract, and neither is unwilling to participate in a little summer fling, because surely that's all it ever can be. 

Except then stuff happens, and their worlds collide and mesh and it surprises both of them how easily they can fit into each other's worlds. There are plenty of supporting characters from Morris' and Theo's side of the aisle, and while there is a bit of angst and some minor misunderstandings, the reason the relationship is slow to come to fruition (frustratingly so at times) is for a couple of reasons - Morris' doubting that a non-geek like Theo will not try to change him or eventually start complaining about how much time Morris spends drawing the comic books or a cons, and Theo just putting too much on his plate and trying to carry the world on his shoulders. 

I didn't entirely buy the romance, to be honest. I didn't feel that they were truly falling for each other for quite a while, but then eventually went with it. Maybe that's on me, and you'll feel differently reading this book. It was nice watching Morris' world through Theo's eyes, and vice versa. Also, some good food being mentioned, though it would have been great to see some recipes at the end of the book. I liked the dynamics between Theo and Lincoln, and see Theo interact with his employees at the restaurant. When he eventually learns to give up a bit of control and trust the people he's worked with for so long, and that it doesn't mean neglecting his parents' heritage, I could even see some growth in him. 

Morris too has to learn to trust, not only his instincts, but another person who sneaks into his heart and thus has the ability to really hurt him. Merging two very different and separate lives isn't easy, but all good things are worth a bit of sacrifice, right? 

I did enjoy reading this, with all his geek speak, and all the references about so-called geeky things.

Bonus points if you know what movie the final quote in the book is from. "Take Me To Bed, Or Lose Me Forever." (Put your guess in the comments, maybe?)



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

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