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review 2018-01-16 01:04
Release Day Review: The Hockey Player's Heart by Jeff Adams and Will Knauss
The Hockey Player's Heart (Dreamspun Desires Book 50) - Jeff Adams,Will Knauss

I liked this story about an out hockey player who in his teens nursed a crush on his older sister's best friend who was also his geometry tutor. Who's now a teacher at the same school where his sister is the principal. 

After an injury, hockey player Caleb Carter returns to his home town of Foster Grove to recuperate and hang out with his sister before going back to NYC to play for the Rangers. He doesn't realize that his one-time teenage crush Aaron Price now works as a teacher for his sister, but is shook when he finds out. That teenage crush he thought he was over - yeah, not so much. So Caleb pursues Aaron - inviting the slightly older man on a date and makes his interest clearly known. 

Aaron is a bit gun-shy to date another athlete after one broke his heart back in California, but Caleb is persistent, and every argument Aaron brings up that a relationship between them wouldn't work, Caleb counters. And obviously, there's a spark for Aaron too. 

The plot doesn't have any big misunderstandings nor any obvious miscommunications, and both men are open and honest about their interest, even if Aaron isn't convinced this thing between them will be anything more than a short-lived romance. 

We get a glimpse into Aaron's life as a teacher, and Caleb's life with his hockey team (gotta love Dimitri, what a great friend), and also the school's hockey team. The kids were an added bonus, and I enjoyed watching Caleb and Aaron interact.

The drama in this story comes primarily from Aaron, shy, cautious Aaron, who doesn't think he fits in with Caleb's life as a star hockey player, so he finds excuse after stupid excuse to not fully give the relationship a real chance. 

I liked Caleb a lot. He was so honest and straight-forward, and so open about how he felt and what he wanted, but also not pushy - he gave Aaron time to come around to his way of thinking. And really, three hours drive isn't a deal-breaker for most people, especially since there's an off-season to consider. Aaron is just gun-shy, which I could understand, but I also didn't think it was fair of him to think that all athletes are alike. Aaron had some self-esteem issues too - again, understandable, after being treated like so badly by the California jerk. 

There is definitely chemistry between the two men, and we are treated to some steamy yet emotional scenes between them. This being a Dreamspun Desires title, I expected a grand gesture toward the end - and yeah, I got that. Lovely scene, that.

The entire story and relationship development takes place in just a few weeks' time, which might be too fast for some, but in this case, I believed the timeline from meet-cute to HEA, because the two men knew each other from high school, and both had a bit of a crush on each other - it was easy to see how that spark might be kindled to burst into flame. 

This was my first read by this author team, even though I own the Hat Trick series by Jeff Adams in paperback, which obviously I need to read. Apparently, there will be another book which will be about Dimitri, Caleb's friend and teammate. And judging by how Dimitri feels about romance and long-term relationships in general, I cannot wait to read that one!

Give this a try. While there's a lot of hockey in the book, the romance and relationship take center stage.


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

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review 2018-01-13 03:03
ARC Review: Worth His Salt by Ofelia Gränd
Worth His Salt (Tattooed Corpse Stories) - Ofelia Gränd

Quirky is the word I'd use to describe this book. Quirky, with a large dose of paranormal and magic, and such an adorably odd character in Eldred. 

I didn't read the first book in this series, but I had no issues following the plot, so I would definitely classify this as perfectly doable as a standalone.

Eldred Henstare is a not so powerful witch responsible to help the lingering spirits in his city move into the light. His twin brother is his anchor, as we find out. Eldred is also a shameless flirt, something that he does without even really thinking about, and a bit of a smartass, but in a good way. The latest spirit is calling him to the old lighthouse where he meets Mo Vin.

Mo sees the younger man and has no idea what's happening. Befuddled but intrigued by Eldred, he kind of just follows along, pulls the wet and bedraggled man from the shore into his small cottage, and offers him the couch for the night.

Then things get weird for Mo, because he sees stuff that doesn't seem to be real, but maybe is. Or maybe it isn't. Mo still has no idea what's happening, but Eldred says what must be done, so Mo just kind of stumbles along. Eldred's shameless flirting certainly helps. 

As I said, this is a quirky story with magic and salt circles, and I had fun reading this. Not my usual fare, but certainly something I might want more of. It had witty dialogue, fun characters, and a nice paranormal plot. My only complaint is that this wasn't long enough to let me see what happens after Mo becomes Eldred's anchor and how that will play out going forward. 


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

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review 2018-01-11 03:09
ARC Review: Only You by Kay Doherty
Only You - Kay Doherty

Holy Insta-Love, Batman! And holy magic dick, Batman!

I took a chance on a new-to-me author, because the blurb of this book was intriguing. Rich party-boy/man-whore seeks new life away from the six maybe-boyfriends who'd only use him for his money and runs to his aunt's house in small-town Clover City, where he meets older, grumpy, closeted sheriff, who's still nursing a broken heart and carrying some massive guilt after his PD partner/secret lover died, back in Denver, during a domestic disturbance call gone very wrong.

I liked Case(y) initially - I could see that he was tired of being used and adrift, not sure of his way, and I hoped that he would find what he was looking for. He was immature to some extent (breaking up with his many boyfriends via text is just one example) and in desperate need of some direction in his life, something that would make it meaningful. But then, one of Case's ex-BFs tracks him down and instead of sending the guy back to where he came from, he puts him up in a hotel and pays the bill? Where was his spine? It's not like this happened shortly after Case's arrival - no, ex-BF shows up when he's already deeply involved with the sheriff. What gives?

Rawley, the closeted sheriff, is still mourning the loss of his partner, a death for which he blames himself, though he has built himself a quiet and mostly content life in Clover City. He's lonely, of course, even though he'd deny that if asked. Rawley takes one look at Case and wants. Grumpy sheriff wants the younger man, and after dragging him away from a barbeque to his house and sexy times, the sheriff is completely in lurve with the younger man, wants to keep him always, but also wonders if Case's man-whore past is not entirely a thing of the past. Jealousy is an ugly thing. 

There were some sweet moments too, and this book is entertaining. The plot flows well, I liked Case's aunt Sylvia (she was a sweetheart), and the townsfolks were nice too. 

Rawley just came on too strong sometimes, and I thought that the age gap was actually hindering them. Many times, Case acted like a doormat, and I wondered if he saw Rawley as a father figure too, instead of only a lover and an equal. Rawley had some hang-ups about Case's age as well and a bit of a dominant personality that, while it suited Case's character, was for me a bit too much. I like equality in the relationship, equal standing from a maturity perspective as much as possible, and I didn't get that here so much. 

Some of the plot points had me scratching my head, such as the rapidity with which Rawley stops grieving his ex-lover after meeting Case and their first bedroom encounter. Not only that, he also quickly gets over his guilt, a guilt that he's carried with him for two years and that he's worn like a shield to keep everyone out. Similarly, Case has one encounter with our grumpy sheriff, gets fucked through the mattress, and suddenly swears off anyone else's dick - never again will he have sex with anyone else, because... well, I guess because Rawley's dick is magic too. It's so magic, actually, that Case willingly puts up with Rawley's jealousy and distrust in his statement that he's done being a party-boy/man-whore and came to Clover City for that reason - to be done with that life. 

The ending felt a little too abrupt to me. I still had questions. What is the punishment Deputy Ted promised at the end? Is Jordan, the ex-BF, going to get that talk Case wants to have with him, and why, oh why is he still in town when the book ends? 

So, this wasn't a great read, but it did keep me entertained. Case and Rawley had some good banter going on, and while the relationship smacked of insta-love, they do get a rather nice HFN that will likely lead to a HEA, even if that must happen off-page. I could see Rawley open himself up to new beginnings and a second chance at love, and I could see Case find what has eluded him so far - someone who cares for him not because of what he can do for them, but for who he is. And don't we all want that, too?


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

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review 2018-01-10 11:00
ARC Review: Forever With You by Londra Laine
Forever With You - Londra Laine

First off, trigger warning - there is a detailed flashback to sexual assault in this book that happened when Kelly was a teenager. Proceed accordingly if this might be a trigger for you.

I'm of two minds about this novel. On one hand, I liked the characters and most of the plot, and the romance between the two men progressed at a reasonable pace, once Drew pulled his head out of his ass. There was good, believable chemistry between them, and the relationship had little angst - other than Kelly's traumatic experience, which he still grapples with, and Drew keeping a secret he shouldn't have. On the other hand, some of the plot felt a little OTT - there was a homophobic father and blackmail and attempted coercion and a marriage pact that all seemed a bit too much for my taste. In addition, during the first 15% or so, I felt that a lot of the writing was info dump and superfluous. For example, I didn't need to be told multiple times that Kelly's little brother Jaylen has asthma and required breathing treatments, which are expensive. I didn't need to be told multiple times that Kelly has chosen to be an admin assistant at this company because it comes with medical benefits for his brother. Most readers, including myself, will remember if being told information once. Twice is okay. More than that, I get irritated. 

Drew is Kelly's boss, and because Drew has a crush on the younger man, he's been treating him coldly and rudely, which - what? Considering that Drew is supposedly in his 30s, I would assume that someone of his age had a better grip on his emotions than that, and could act in a professional manner - which he didn't. Kelly doesn't understand why his boss is nice to everyone else, but cold with him, especially since Kelly has a bit of a crush on the older man too. I wouldn't have understood either, and Drew's behavior pissed me off.

After Kelly's office birthday celebration, Drew's tenuous hold on his self-control snaps, and the two men share a hot and heavy kiss in his office. Something triggers Kelly, and he freaks out and runs. Confused and worried, Drew attempts to find out what happened. He comes on super strong at first, but when Kelly has a another freak-out due to his trauma, Drew reins it in, thankfully so. He was actually a very caring guy, and I appreciated that.

I did have some concerns about the realism of their office demeanor - nobody seems to have questioned their changed behavior, really, and nobody seems to have any suspicions. Additionally, there were some occasions early on where Drew is a complete ass in making himself sound as if Kelly's job may be on the line if he doesn't comply - which, hello, harassment.

Kelly has a great support system in his friends, and dances at a gay bar on weekends. He also has custody of his much younger brother after his mother and step-father died when Kelly was but 19. Having put himself through college and looking after his baby brother is quite a feat. He had a lot of backbone, which I appreciated, and he didn't let Drew push him around. Much.

Once Drew finds out more about Kelly's background and really takes the time to get to know the other man, lending support when the little brother ends up in the hospital with asthma attacks, and generally being there for Kelly, their romance truly started to flourish, and I could see that Kelly started to trust Drew.

There were many emotional scenes that were either heart-breaking or heart-warming, and plenty of sexy times that thankfully didn't feel gratuitous, and I enjoyed reading this story for the most part. I could have done without the explicit flashback - I didn't feel that was necessary to bring Kelly's trauma across, and it felt somewhat exploitative. Again, heed the trigger warning.

Overall, for a debut novel, this was a good read, and I would be inclined to read more of this author's books as they are published.


** I received a free copy of this book from Gay Book Promotions as part of a review tour in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-01-09 02:53
Book Review: A Very Wilde Christmas by Sam Burns
A Very Wilde Christmas (Wilde Love) - Sam Burns

This book cannot be read as a standalone. If you haven't read the 4 books in this series, this will spoil things for you, so don't do that.

4 short stories comprise this Christmas book, and we get to visit with all 4 couples. 

 

Possible spoilers below...

 

 

 

 

 

 

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