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review 2018-10-31 01:17
ARC Review: The Academy by Quinn Anderson
The Academy - Quinn Anderson

This was a not so stereotypical college romance, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It had some issues, on which I'll elaborate further down.

Nick arrives at The Academy for his senior year after having taken a year off due to the death of his father. Starting over a tiny Catholic college wasn't the plan, but here we are. Nick plans to focus on his studies, maybe making some friends, and then getting his diploma and go home. Still struggling with grief, and on a tight budget, Nick knows that he's dependent on the scholarship he got, and has no plans whatsoever for a college romance or any such nonsense. 

Sebastian is the college campus player. When he spots Nick, he makes a bet with his two oldest friends, Dante and Theo, on who can kiss the new guy first - with the provision that the new guy has to initiate the kiss. Sebastian is the proverbial spoiled rich kid. Or so it seems. 

Nick doesn't want to give Sebastian the time of day at first, but slowly the ice melts a bit. 

With the premise as it is, Nick and Sebastian don't spend a whole lot of time together on page to begin with, though that time becomes more and more as the plot progresses. As Sebastian develops real feelings for Nick, he's terrified of the bet coming out. The author attempted to show us that despite all the material things he has, Sebastian is still yearning for something money can't buy, something that he lost and cannot get back; his insecurities are hindering him, and causing him to covertly lash out and hurt others before they can hurt him.

There are some clever plot twists here as well, which I didn't see coming, so I was pleasantly surprised toward the end. 

What didn't work so much for me is that Sebastian and his friends often sounded and acted a lot younger than their actual presumed ages - they read a lot more like moody highschoolers (especially Sebastian seemed very much a jerk) than college juniors. The poor little rich boy trope is a little overused here also, and while Sebastian's background makes for a good explanation of his behavior, I didn't buy the rapidity with which he falls for Nick, especially considering the fact that Nick and Sebastian have no more than maybe 10 or 15 actual conversations with each other over the course of the book. I wasn't sold on there being an actual romantic relationship between them - it felt more like lust than love.

Dante and Theo, Sebastian's friends - those two had their own issue to work out, and they did, and while they're supposed to be side characters, they actually felt more real to me than the MCs, probably because we see them spent more time together on page than Sebastian and Nick.

The author does a fine job writing the steam, and while there are but two steamy scenes in this book, they were pretty damn hot, but also continued to lead me down the path of believing in their lust, not their love.

Probably not my favorite by this author, but a good effort, and an enjoyable read. 


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

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review 2018-10-23 02:37
ARC Review: Adder And Willow (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #6) by Sam Burns
Adder And Willow - Sam Burns

This series just keeps getting better, with every new book the author releases.

Adder And Willow is the 6th book in the series, and the third book of the 2nd trilogy, in which we catch up with Fletcher and Conner, whose relationship is still growing.

Now Conner's mother and step-father are coming to visit, and Fletcher is dreading meeting them. Not because he doesn't want to meet his boyfriend's parents, but because he's a terrible liar, and he knows that he's no good at keeping secrets. And the supernatural parts of himself and Rowan Harbor must be kept secret from outsiders.

Fletcher is also having meetings with Oak, the Dryad, who have been working with Fletcher to continue the training his mother couldn't. It is during one of these meetings that Fletcher finds out something he may have already sort of known, but that might put his future with Conner in danger.

And, as if that isn't enough on his plate, he also stumbles across two strangers in a stranded car, a mother and son, who are intrinsically linked to Rowan Harbor.

I just adore this series. The characters are complex and fully fleshed out, and each one is so different. There is never any confusing one character with another, because they all have different personalities. Fletcher may be one of my favorites, because while he's timid to some extent, and not assertive, he has much more steel in his backbone than he realizes. 

Conner is still growing into his new powers (you'll have to read the previous book to find out about that), and he's going to be tested here.

What also stands out about the characters is how they're all connected - not only because of their supernatural powers, but also because they feel like family, and they treat each other that way. They stick together, they stick up for each other, and they work together for the common good. 

The book is alternately humorous and serious. There is action, there is danger, and there are sweet moments between Fletcher and Conner that really cement their relationship. 

This series cannot be read out of order - each subsequent book builds on its predecessor - however, each book does end in a satisfying way. There are no cliffhangers. 

The writing style of this author really works for me, and I flew through the pages. 

Recommended! 



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

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review 2018-10-18 00:20
ARC Review: Lincoln's Park by Parker Williams
Lincoln's Park - Parker Williams

I read this book, finished it, and then immediately read it again. That basically NEVER happens, but with this book, I couldn't help myself.

Noel is a young man who was kicked out of his home by his ever so loving parents when he told them he was gay. He was lucky in that he found a place at a local shelter, where he's been living and helping out for the past three years. In need of a job, any job, he stops in Lincoln's diner.

Lincoln is quite a bit older than Noel, with a very different backstory, which we find out as the book progresses. He loves cooking and taking care of people, and he treats his employees like family. One look at the forlorn young man asking for a job, and Lincoln can't help himself - the need to pull the young man into the folds is immediate. 

Noel has no idea what hit him - surely nobody can be that decent and kind to someone they don't know at all, right?

I liked both characters immensely, and also the supporting cast - the other employees at the diner, especially Katy, and Robert who runs the shelter where Noel has been staying. However, Lincoln's brother and father - I wanted them to hurt, and badly, but obviously I wasn't supposed to like them. 

Noel is still young, and despite the last three years being really rough, he hasn't lost his sweet kindness, his youthful innocence, his positive outlook. He's fascinated by the older Lincoln, but also has no intention of falling for his boss and being out of a job. Except he doesn't realize that Lincoln feels the same, and that they are well matched despite the age difference and the difference in their life experiences. Lincoln's history plays a huge role in who he became, and he's reluctant to reach for Noel, scared to some extent that he's no good for the younger man. Thank goodness for Katy who gives them the push they both need. 

What struck me most here is that the author created complex and fully developed characters - Lincoln had some layers that ran much deeper than I initially expected, and Noel has an inner strength I didn't expect from someone so young. 

There's a moment toward the end of the book that may be confusing for some - without giving away the plot, I can't really say much about it, but suffice it to say that if you pay attention to what comes before, you will not be confused at all, or even wonder what just happened. 

The BDSM-Lite aspect of the relationship was well done and rang true, and I liked that the author utilized it as a source of some conflict that the two men have to work out, which actually strengthened the relationship.

What is emphasized time and again is family - the one you're born to and the one you choose and make for yourself. Family, even if not by blood, is what binds Lincoln and Noel and Katy and Jesse and Robert and all the others. Even Lincoln's brother, who by book's end seemingly has second thoughts about how he's been acting. I have it on good authority that his story will be told in a future book. I cannot wait! 

But what really permeates this book is love. There is so much tangible, obvious love in every word on every page, and you are cocooned by it, warmed by it, embraced by it. 

I think it's that feeling of love that prompted me to read the book twice in a row, and I highly recommend that you get yourself a copy as soon as you can.

It's available now.


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

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review 2018-10-05 01:11
Book Review: A Springful Of Winters by Dawn Sister
A Springful Of Winters - Dawn Sister

It's not easy to write a compelling story about a neuro-divergent character that at once rings true and never veers into stereotypical territory.

It is clear early on that Kit is not neuro-typical. A bit socially awkward, as most social norms don't make sense to him, he has come to rely on a plethora of lists and contingency plans that allow him to venture into the world without becoming entirely overwhelmed. 

The book opens with a quick introduction to Kit, where we find ourselves seeing the world from his POV. The past year has been difficult for Kit. He lost his mother, who was his champion, and then his boyfriend, who was a bit of a jerk. And now Winter isn't quite done yet, even though the calendar says Spring has sprung, and Kit just cannot with the snow that's falling on this first day of Spring. 

I immediately loved Kit - his sweet and gentle nature, his love for his dog, his sadness, his outrage at the betrayal of snow in Spring, all served to make me want to hug him and tell him it would all be okay. 

Kit's neuro-divergence (he's on the autism spectrum) is never presented as a hindrance. It is, it exists. He makes it work for him, he tries to find reason and sense in an unreasonable and non-sensical world. He relies on Bessie, his service dog, and Yenta, an older woman who's his employer/landlord, and who treats him as the treasure he is. It is immediately clear that Kit loves Yenta, and Yenta loves Kit. 

Early on, a scene involving his service dog, who mostly listens, but in this scene doesn't, brings Kit to a location for which he has no contingency plan. This particular adventure serves as the catalyst to Kit meeting the man with eyes like the Spring.

And then he meets him again, during an unfortunate accident involving Kit's bike and the man's car door, and a bruised backside. 

While both incidents are humorous, they never felt as if we're expected to laugh at Kit. I giggled at the situations he finds himself in. He gets flustered because he's intrigued by the man with the eyes like Spring, and all of his contingency plans didn't prepare him for falling in love. The book gives insight into what may be termed the struggle neuro-divergent people have to deal with - not only because they have to make sense of a world that doesn't, but also because the world doesn't usually accommodate that what is not typical. 

Stephan, the man with eyes like the Spring, isn't portrayed as a hero who saves poor Kit - not all all. I think Stephan recognizes the beauty within Kit, the amazing person he is, and he falls just as hard. He rolls with the punches, he fits himself into the world Kit has created for himself, he listens intensely, and he celebrates Kit as a person. 

It's a poignant story, at novella-length, and I enjoyed it immensely. The writing is superb, and the author packs a fabulous story into a few pages. It's a quick read, but it stayed with me long after I closed the file on my e-reader. 

Fabulous, just fabulous. Recommended.

 

 

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

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review 2018-10-05 00:23
ARC Review: The Nerd And The Prince by B.G. Thomas
The Nerd And The Prince - B.G. Thomas

It's a very romantic notion, isn't it - you're a small-town nerdy bookstore/cafe owner, and a prince-in-hiding comes to town and sweeps you off your feet, whisking you away from your mundane life into a world of castles and royalty and legends, to live happily ever after. 

Adam/Amadeo Montefalcone, Prince of Monterosia (a tiny fictional kingdom somewhere bordering Italy), has come to the small town of Buckman, MO, where Jason, nerdy bookworm, lives. Adam is running from his responsibilities as the Crown Prince, and from being married off to some poor unsuspecting woman for whom he would hold no love or desire. Because Amadeo is gay, and after being almost caught in flagrante on his knees in a dark alley, he feels that he just needs to get away.

His younger brother has helped him escape to the US, obtaining a small house that just happens to be next to Jason's bookstore/cafe/apartment. Jason Evander Brewster has no illusions of grandeur, and while he's not exactly flaunting his sexuality, he's not exactly hiding it either. He had a clandestine thing with Timothy who's deep in the closet, but that's long over, and Jason is still nursing a bit of a broken heart. His dreams are traveling the world, finding adventure and a love like a fairy tale.

This is a sweet, almost too sweet romance. Jason's personality is a bit underdeveloped, especially when viewed against Adam's larger than life joviality and worldliness. The romance is obviously rapid and swept-off-your-feet, and the emotions just drip off the pages. Adam is a perfect human specimen, with a god-like physique and model looks, and Jason is your stereotypical small-town nerd with expressive eyes, who doesn't believe he even has a chance at such a perfect creature. It's just enough over the top to not veer into ridiculous territory, and none of it feels realistic - but then most of the books in this Harlequin-esque series aren't to be taken super seriously. They're grand romance fairy tales, fantasies, and should be read as such - a way to spend a few joyful hours, forgetting about reality. 

The book also contains a plethora of information about Greek mythology, which was delightful, and a bunch of Italian phrases that I mostly understood, which was not so delightful. For most of them, a translation is readily provided as part of the narrative or dialogue, and I suppose it fit Amadeo, as that is his primary language, but it became slightly too much after a while. It's never easy to include a foreign language; surely appropriate when one of your MCs is a native to that foreign country, but it can also be tedious for the reader. 

While there is a wee bit of drama/angst, it's minor, and only really happens toward the end - the romance between Jason and Adam is completely angst-free - the two spot each other, fall in lust and then in love. I did appreciate that the author did allow them to get to know each other, instead of simply jumping into bed for a romp in the sheets. 

The finale and the subsequent HEA (obligatory in this series) in the epilogue were both well done. The solution to Adam's dilemma was rather obvious, so I wasn't surprised at all when that came to pass. The way of getting there however was interesting.

I enjoyed reading this book. It's a sweet, easy romance, with two likable MCs, a good supporting cast, and a lovely way to spend a few hours of your time. 


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

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