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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 2018-09-04 02:08
ARC Review: Love At First Hate by JL Merrow
Love At First Hate - JL Merrow

While this is the 11th book in the loosely connected Porthkennack series, it's book 3 for the Roscarrocks; this one being about Branok (Bran) who was a real git in the first two books, and whom I'd basically written off as a jerk not worth my time.

Boy, was I wrong.

It could theoretically also be read as a standalone, though the characters from the previous two books make an appearance, and it would probably be best to read both of them before reading this one, to fully grasp the layers of Bran's misunderstood character. 

Bran was a real a-hole to his nephew Devan (from book 1) when he came to Porthkennack to search for his birth mother, though it's not clear why until this book. 

Bran showed some contempt for his little brother Jory (from book 2), and again, the reasons aren't clear until this book.

Living with a huge burden on his shoulders, his late father's voice in his ear, Bran has locked himself into the closet all his life, never feeling free to be who he really is. His twin sister Bea (Devan's mother) and he have spent most their adult life on their family estate, setting themselves apart from the general populace as what would 500 years ago be similar to feudal overlords. 

And Bran has for many, many years kept a massive secret from his sister and brother. 

Sam Ferreira is an old friend of Jory, whom he met while at university. Trusting someone he thought he could trust turned out to be detrimental for Sam's academic career, and, in some debt from gambling, he's now in dire need of a new job. When Jory comes to him about helping with an exhibit Bran is funding, about The Black Prince, Sam jumps at the chance to prove himself and says yes.

And thus Bran and Sam meet. The romance between them is slow burn by design - and when I say slow, I mean slooooooooow. There's a lot of UST and longing, but we're more than halfway in before they first kiss. To be honest, the slow burn was necessary - both men have baggage, and it takes some time for Bran and Sam to trust the other. 

The romance is quiet, almost taking a backseat to the rest of the plot, which is basically an exploration, a study of Bran's character. The man, outwardly sensible and hard and difficult to read, is in reality vulnerable, insecure, and scared. He hides his true self. He's taken on the responsibility of carrying the family legacy. He's jealous, he's demanding, and he barks at others. But he puts family above all else, he's generous, and he desperately wants to be loved. Even if he's loathe to admit that to anyone, including himself.

I'm not one who needs a lot of on-page sex, and this book doesn't have a lot of it, which suited me fine. What passion there is felt genuine. We leave Bran and Sam with a HFN, but one that I can absolutely see turn into a HEA, possibly in a future book in which we get to revisit these characters.


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

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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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