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review 2017-07-19 02:23
ARC Review: Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys #3) by Brandon Witt
Mascara & Bandages (Mary's Boys Book 3) - Brandon Witt

This is the 3rd book in the Mary's Boys series, all set in and around a Hamburger Mary's in Denver, CO.

On his way home from Hamburger Mary's after a performance as his drag queen alter ego Ariel Merman, while still dressed as Ariel, Zachary Cooper becomes the victim of a gay bashing. 

I was already crying when he comes to in the hospital, in pain and worried that the homophobic assholes who attacked him messed up his face and that he won't be able to perform anymore. 

In walks Teegan Chau, his doctor, and things suddenly look up.

Teegan has only recently come out as gay, and while he's divorced from his wife, they share a little girl and have a great friendly, supportive relationship. Teegan has had some hook-ups with other men, but has never been on an actual date with a man. Instantly smitten with the younger, somewhat femme guy in the hospital bed, Teegan and Zachary agree on a date. 

While the story had the potential to be really angsty, it actually wasn't, and there's a lot of inner strength to Zachary. He has a steely interior, and while he struggles a little with the trauma from the attack, he doesn't allow it to destroy him. 

I loved that the author didn't rush the developing relationship. Teegan's adorkable awkwardness on their first date was super cute, but neither he nor Zachary jumped into a commitment - they took their time to test the waters and really build a foundation.

As Ariel, Zachary is free to be himself, instead of worrying about meeting expectations other men might have of him. I loved that the author wrote about a femme man and the misconceptions that come with that. 

This book is the most heart-breaking and also most heart-warming of the series so far, as Zachary and Teegan, and the whole Mary's chosen family, deal with societal expectations, homophobia, the bashing, immediate family issues, and how to forge their own way.

There isn't a lot of steam here, and I for one don't need that in a romance novel to believe the relationship. Zachary grows into himself here, and Teegan finds exactly what he never knew he always wanted. 

So well done. 


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

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review 2017-07-16 02:58
Release Day ARC Review: All In (Wild Cards #3) by Ava Drake
All In (Dreamspun Desires Book 38) - Ava Drake

On his way back to NYC to attend the meet-sees hoping for a job or three, Zane Stryker, fashion model, nearly 30, is detained at the airport because his suitcase was flagged for possible contraband. Inside the interrogation room, Zane meets Sebastian Gigoni, formerly British Special Forces, who asks that he opens the suitcase.

Inside are two metal tablets and a suit - none of which belong to Zane. 

From there, the story takes off as Sebastian and Zane try to work together, though their goals may be at odds, in foiling the plan of the international crime syndicate from the previous installment of this loosely connected series, with a little help from one of Zane's friends, Sebastian's brains, Zane's ability to think on his feet, and the super-sekrit British organization for which Sebastian now works. All while falling in love, because this is a romance, after all. 

The reader needs to suspend disbelief for most of the novel - realistic, this is not. However, it's definitely a fun ride, in and out of the bedroom. There's intrigue, mystery, an inside look at a fashion shoot, bad mob-like dudes with guns, good dudes with guns, a couple of major crime bosses, and a super hawt romance as well.

The attraction between Zane and Sebastian burns brightly from the start, and this book is probably one of the raunchier titles in the Dreamspun Desires series. I'm not complaining, hahaha. The sexy times were hawt! 

Seriously, I had a blast reading this, and I think you will too. This can be read as a standalone, no problem, but I think to get the full impact, you'll want to read the first two books as well. The writing is crisp and well-suited to the story, and there wasn't a dull moment to be found within. 

Nicely done! 


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

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review 2017-07-10 01:36
ARC Review: Straight From The Heart by Sam Burns
Straight from the Heart (Wilde Love Book 1) - Sam Burns

Very impressive debut novel! 

We are first introduced to Alex, 23 and a little naive, who has just defied his mother and dropped out of college, after which she has kicked him out to couch-surf with his friends from his band and cut off his cash-flow. Undeterred, Alex takes his box of things and his guitar and his last bit of cash to celebrate his freedom in the local bar. While there, a little drunk, he's almost mugged but saved by a hot hunk named Liam, and Alex has an epiphany while being pressed against Liam - yep, he's gay. 

As his Liam. Alex wastes no time wallowing in angst, embraces what he's feeling, and goes home with Liam. Who's a perfect gentleman and doesn't take advantage of the slightly younger and much drunker man. 

And that's basically the first couple of chapters. From there, the story takes off, and the author does a great job mixing the suspense with the budding romance between Alex and Liam. Except Liam isn't exactly who he says he is, but he's mostly honest with Alex about all the things he can be honest about.

The relationship between Alex and Liam develops quickly, and love is rather insta, but I didn't care, because the two characters just made me want them to succeed. And the drama/intrigue plot is action-packed and had me more often than not on the edge of my seat. 

I suspended disbelief on occasion, but the unrealistic moments didn't bother me all that much. What felt real are the complex characters. Not only in Alex and Liam, but also the supporting cast. Alex's bandmates (one of whom will also get a book, I'm told), the crime-boss Liam works for, and his son were fully fleshed out and not just cardboard characters. The villain was perhaps slightly over the top, but that was to be expected. 

Alex as a baby-gay was well done, and I suppose I chalked it off to his age and lack of romancing girls before that there was little angst for him when his body reacted to Liam's hot bod saving the day. He just accepted it, though I would think he had to have had some inklings before. Jumping feet first into exploring his sexuality, with Liam as a willing subject, burning up the sheets - oh yeah, that was fun to read.

Alex's best friend and bandmate Jake has a confession too, and there's a little bit of drama when they come out to each other, but Jake definitely has Alex's back, and is a bit suspicious of Liam at first. 

I don't want to give away the plot itself, and don't want to spoil the experience for anyone, but I will say this: If you like romance mixed with suspense and action, and you like when two men just completely fall for each other and make it work against the odds, this book is for you.

I cannot wait for Keegan's story - that's coming next. Sign me up!!


** 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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review 2017-06-13 00:03
ARC Review: Arrows Through Archer by Nash Summers
Arrows Through Archer - Nash Summers
"One morning I woke, but the two halves of my heart did not."



I don't have adequate words to review this book, or tell you how it slayed me, or how hard I cried and grieved and wailed for Archer and for Mallory, or how impressed I am with this author's writing skills.

I'm sorry, Nash Summers. I'll buy a copy when it comes out because I just cannot write you a review - I don't have the words.

"Leaving me there in a million broken pieces, Archer walked out the door."



If you're reading this review, dear people of Booklikes, just do yourself a favor and buy a copy of this book on June 14, when it comes out, hide yourself away in a comfortable corner and read it. Have tissues, wine and chocolate ready. Yes, there is a HEA, if that's something that worries you, but their journey there is what makes this book so outstanding, so raw, and so real.

That is all.


** I received a free copy of this book from its author. A review was not promised in return. Good thing too, seeing how I can't adequately review this brilliant book. **

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