4 Stars, Loose Id, Madeleine Ribbon, Reviewed by Kim, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Faire Diviner by Madeleine Ribbon

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Title: Faire Diviner

Author: Madeleine Ribbon

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 234 Pages

At a GlanceI must say that I’m quite taken with the author’s storytelling.

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Rosewood, the magical Renaissance Faire’s psychic and one of the business partners, has been single for over ten years—ever since he accidentally revealed his psychic abilities to the love of his life and lost him. He has devoted himself to the Faire and the magic within ever since. The last thing he expects when hiring a new business manager is for Oscar—the “one who got away”—to walk back into his life as the most qualified applicant.

While Rosewood tries to deal with Oscar as his new business partner, his abilities start going haywire. He senses danger coming, and it’s somehow tied to Oscar’s dark past. They will have to work together to recover Rosewood’s abilities, help Oscar heal, and save the Faire itself.

And if they can do that, then maybe, possibly, the “one who got away” will become his greatest catch.

Dividers

Review: Faire Diviner is the second book I’ve read by Madeleine Ribbon, Death by Dragon being the first, and I must say that I’m quite taken with the author’s storytelling.

Basically, Faire Diviner starts out with Rosewood using his psychic abilities to look for a potential replacement to fill his Uncle Jorvik’s job as head Manager of the Faire. He’s shocked to discover that the interviewee with the most potential is his first love, Oscar Moreno—The One the Faire wants for the job.

Now, after reading both sides of the story about how these two didn’t stay together when they were younger, I wouldn’t exactly call this a story about “the one who got away” as much as it’s that they both bolted from each other and went their separate ways. And, it would seem they were both at fault for what happened. Youth and inexperience strikes again!

I liked Anthony Rosewood. His character came off as somewhat lonely because of his isolated life from others outside the Faire, and his sensitivity caused by feeling others’ emotions. There’s an innocence about him that is quite charming in itself. As a teen, his mother hurt him deeply when, after his father died, she wanted to commit him to a mental institution because of his abilities. Running away before she could carry out that deed, he ended up at the Faire and under the protection of his Uncle Jorvik.

Vin is someone who Rosewood considers a friend-with-benefits, someone he turns to when he needs a cuddle, which I thought was kind of cute. Oscar is also someone I liked as a character, but he did come with a bunch of his own emotional baggage. He’d just escaped from an abusive long-term relationship. But there was one episode that I thought him quite the AH after he and Rosewood hooked-up. Again, I have to give him a little leeway since both men seem to have a communication problem with each other.

Now that I’ve read Faire Diviner, I went out and purchased the two books that preceded this one. I’m sure I’ll get more perspective on how the Faire operates, but Faire Diviner can be read as a standalone. It just made me want to read more about this alternate universe, and I’m looking forward to reading future stories by Madeleine Ribbon. I think I’ve found a new author to enjoy!

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5 Stars, Astrid Amara, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Crash Plus Expenses by Astrid Amara

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Title: Crash Plus Expenses

Author: Astrid Amara

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 94 Pages

At a GlanceI love these types of romances!

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Dan Lewinski would follow his subject Connor Katz to the ends of the earth. It’s what he’s paid to do. Apparently this also includes following his subject Connor Katz as they plummet to earth, because their plane is going down. And Dan likes living so that’s a problem.

It’s also a problem because he knows there’s a secret behind Connor Katz’s past, a reason the man’s sister is paying beaucoup bucks to have him followed, a reason Connor appears so quiet on the outside, yet seems lit like a fire from within. Dan needs to know Connor’s secret.

But if they survive the crash, how on earth can Dan get to know the mysteries of a man he’s been in love with from afar without admitting he’s a private eye who’s watched his every move?

Dividers

Review: I’m a big fan of Astrid Amara’s contemporaries. I love her brand of humor and the way her MCs are thrown together so that they have no choice but to get to know each other. Crash Plus Expenses doesn’t waste any time, starting as the plane is about to crash. This part was kind of intense and reinforced the very reason why I avoid flying in planes. But, as the plane prepares for its quick downward landing, there’s a brief summary as to why Dan is on this particular flight. He’s also got a bit of a crush on the man he’s been paid to follow for the last year.

I’m going to spoil things by saying, “Yes, they both survived the crash,” buuuuut now comes the fun part—surviving the wilds of Alaska as they wait for rescue.

I love these types of romances! I loved Dan’s character and how human he was when he let the cat out of the bag about things he shouldn’t know about Connor (oops). Dan really has it bad for him, and the letter he eventually writes to Connor had me giving it a great big aaaaaaah, how sweet.

As for Connor, Dan is his hero…until he learns more about Dan and why he was on that flight (that was an interesting fall out). Connor did have some pretty good secrets from his past, and it’s quite understandable why he was suspicious in nature.

I had trouble putting Crash Plus Expenses down. It just hit all the right buttons for me, and I made the mistake of starting this one before bedtime, then ended up going to work the next day, tired! I will add, if you’re one who doesn’t believe in coincidences (because there are some things that are a little unbelievable that occur throughout the story), this may not be your cup of tea.

I definitely see a sequel…and, lo and behold, as I was getting ready to start this review, I found out there is one (Hanukkah on Retainer)! Guess who went to ARe and bought it without hesitation?

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2.5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Dawn Flemington, Loose Id, Reviewed by Jennifer

Review: Naked Mailman by Dawn Flemington

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TitleNaked Mailman

Author: Dawn Flemington

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 121 Pages

At a Glance: Interesting concept, but too much packed into a novella.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: Mailman Ken Lane is bored with his life. Nothing exciting ever happens to him. That is, until a nude man attacks him and leaves him bound and naked in the back of his mail truck. After all the excitement, Ken can’t stop thinking about the man, especially when he ends back up in Ken’s life and turns it upside down.

Correctional Officer Devon McLaren is a BDSM Dom non-shifting werewolf whose personal life has gone abruptly to hell. The subject of a non-consensual drug experiment, Devon is trying to get to the FBI with information regarding a drug cartel that would really rather he didn’t. On top of that, he’s consumed with lustful thoughts of the mailman he attacked and longs to do many kinky things to him.

Despite the danger, Devon takes Ken on the run with him, hoping that a trusted friend will help them out (and give them a place to do some of those kinky things). But when said friend proves to be a part of the problem, they’ve got to get out of the jam together, before Devon’s pack is destroyed. But can they, or will their obsession with each other get in the way?

Dividers

Review: The title alone of this book intrigued me, and I knew I had to read it. It has BDSM, shifters; I mean, really what more could I want?

Ken Lane, mailman, thinks nothing exciting ever happens in his life, but this all changes one day when out on a routine route, he is attacked, his clothes stolen, and he is left naked in the back of his mail truck. After several days of the news turning him into the Naked Mailman, he tries to resume his normal life only to find Devon, the man who stole his clothing, has broken into his apartment. What follows is an interesting adventure where Ken is dragged around the state, and he learns that werewolves exist. Throw in tarot reading coworkers with completely accurate horoscopes, and drug cartels, and you’re in for a ride.

While the beginning of the book was interesting and left me amused, I started to struggle by the time I got about halfway. Not only is there a lot going on in this story, there’s just not enough room for it. You have werewolves, BDSM, illegal drug experimentation, the FBI… the list goes on. Ken is dragged through it all, his world turned upside down, and he just goes along for the ride. Why? Because Devon is good looking and turns his submissive side on.

It seemed a stretch for me, and the issues started early. For example, I understand that Ken is a submissive, but to have your life threatened while at work and being forced to strip? I can see how it’s a fantasy for some, but this just didn’t feel right. Fast forward a few scenes and let’s talk about the blowjob Devon demands in a public restroom while they’re both wearing clothes they bought off homeless men. I had to cringe just at the thought of the smell of the dirty clothes. But that wasn’t even what bothered me the most. Once they meet Sir Gary—Devon’s Dom human friend—they’re offered the use of his playroom. Ken has never been involved in BDSM. He just knows about it, knows he’s a submissive, and that’s pretty much it. But they engage in a scene.

Without a safe word.

So despite Ken saying no, Devon doesn’t stop, and then Ken soars and floats and he’s happy. But the lack of the safe word while Ken was saying no bothered me. Because it seemed to me like he did want Devon to stop, and because there was no communication beforehand, he had no real way of telling Devon to stop if he really wanted him to.

Some of the dialogue is awkward, such as Devon and Gary referring to each other as Sir Gary and Sir Devon. I get that they’re Doms, but it just felt forced for these characters.

There’s more involved in the book such as the fact that Devon is a shifter who can’t shift—it’s described at one point as a handicap—but there’s just too much to mention in the review.

If you enjoy shifter books with BDSM themes, you may be interested in this book, but as for me, while enjoyable at first, I struggled to finish this one.

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3 Stars, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Mae Hancock, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Cotton Candy by Mae Hancock

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Title: Cotton Candy (Wyoming Lovers: Book Two)

Author: Mae Hancock

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 185 Pages

At a Glance: This one just didn’t do it for me.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Cowboy Cotton Reid is the laid-back type of guy who accepts people as they are, no matter how flawed. People think he’s fun, honest and crazy about his boss and friend the sexy rancher Bay Redman.

Living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is something that family man Bay has done his whole life. Bay can be like a bear with a sore head if the hay isn’t stored symmetrically or his fridge contains an odd number of jars.

When the two men begin a hot affair, Cotton keeps an important secret from Bay. If he can’t find the courage to tell him the truth before someone else does, Bay may never be able to let it go.

Dividers

Review: Cotton Reid fell in love with his boss—but the man is more than his boss, he is the father figure for Cotton’s daughter Kristen.

Cotton is very laid back, on the outside. On the inside, the man is just full of angst, and it colors everything he does in his job as ranch hand. He is young, he is a father, and he comes to the ranch to meet his daughter and be a part of her life. And remains there for eighteen months, doing nothing about it, before the events of this book take place. Have to admit, I had some trouble with that one, but once the author explained why, it made sense. I still may not have agreed with it, but I had a clearer view of where the author was going. Cotton is a confused character on the inside, and many of Bay’s personality traits appeal to this cowboy who needs help in an overwhelming situation. Cotton is a loving character, he wants to care for Bay and be everything the rancher needs, and in this respect the author hits it spot on.  I rooted for Cotton, he just needed the support.

Bay is a successful rancher and businessman.  If his personal life is not as together as his work one, well he’ll take what he can get.  Bay also has OCD. I really applaud the author for how she treats this disorder in her character.  The way that Bay copes – or doesn’t cope – with the OCD is addressed in compassionate and believable scenarios. Bay becomes an unlikely hero in this story, as his life trauma makes his disorder worse, to the point of taking over, and how he copes with this unique malady and moves forward with his life is admirable. Control over everything is how Bay keeps sane. This seeps into his relationship with Cotton, and Bay’s commanding persona in the bedroom is the perfect complement to Cotton’s submissive heart. But Bay is broken and he needs Cotton to help him heal. As the events in his life swirl out of control, the only peace Bay can find from his OCD is in the calm that Cotton brings whenever Bay is around him.

I have to say, I disliked the secondary figures in the story.  The daughter, Kristen, was spoiled and ungrateful, and her behavior kept getting justified to the point of Bay apologizing to his daughter for the way SHE acted.  Uhm. No. And the ex-wife was horrendous, but then, she was supposed to be, so excellent writing there! Grandma was a mixed bag for me; she was supportive of Bay’s relationships but felt that he could do more to control his disorder. Which, if you have OCD you know that may not be true.

There is a lot of angst flying around in this book, and for that it was a mixed bag for me.  The book is compelling; it is worth the read for those who love cowboys with issues.  This is book two in this series, and I will probably read the next installment just to see where the author will go next with this ranch.

I loved the cover art on this book, done by Dar Albert. The depiction of Cotton was exactly as I pictured him! Thank you for an amazing visual that enhances the story.

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Meg Amor, Reviewed by Lana

Review: Hawaiian Orchid by Meg Amor

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Title: Hawaiian Orchid (The Hawaiians: Book Two)

Author: Meg Amor

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 302 Pages

At a Glance: Love does conquer all, and Hawaiian Orchid will tug at your heart and make you believe.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Kulani Mahikoa is “The Orchid,” a young, insecure, pro surfer from a rough background on the Big Island of Hawai’i. He’s Beau Toyama’s cousin from Hawaiian Lei and a healer with a heart as deep as the ocean he’s part of. Like many of the great Hawaiians, Kulani epitomizes the spirit of aloha and love. Kulani’s healing his own wounds, and “The Lost Boys”–young, homeless abandoned and abused gay boys he cares for.

He meets the lone and lonely New Zealand widower, Rob Masterson–a wounded psychologist who’s trying to come to terms with his husband’s death. When he died, they were separated but still living together. Rob needs to reconcile all the pieces of guilt and love to heal before he can fall in love again.

The age difference raises one barrier, and besides that, Kulani has more layers than Rob–with his own New Zealand heritage and tangled knot of emotion–ever bargained for. Traveling between the South Sea Islands of beautiful New Zealand and the exotic Hawaiian Islands, they forge a bond–two wounded men find a home for their shrapnel-laced souls.

Dividers

Review: Hawaiian Orchid is the follow-up book to Hawaiian Lei, and for me, it hit all the marks! It has complex characters, a solid storyline, and Hawaii, an island that I have to visit. And, like its predecessor, it was all about the feels.

Hawaiian Orchid is not exactly a sequel, but it follows Kulani, who is Beau’s cousin from the first book, and Rob, another Kiwi. Rob is in Hawaii to recover from personal tragedy. He is a fifty-something who’s finally ready to move on with his life after the death of his husband.

Kulani is a troubled young man, with a tragic past. Because of his difficult childhood he has taken it upon himself to take in homeless gay youth. In his own way, he’s trying to erase his past wounds. He also happens to be a famous pro surfer, who is known as “The Orchid”.

Rob is not interested in an unstable man, but there’s something about Kulani that he just can’t resist. It’s not all about the sex, they connect on a very emotional level, and it just pours off the page! Rob and Kulani’s relationship has a rocky start, but their connection keeps them coming back for more. Their chemistry is off the charts! There is also a whole bunch of secondary characters that were just great, and added another level to the story.

Again, the island of Hawaii and its people play a major role in this book. There is so much rich multi-layering to Hawaii this book brings out that I just don’t have the words to describe it. As with the first book, Hawaiian Orchid is a very emotional story, so keep the tissues handy. There was a couple times where I teared up.

Hawaiian Orchid is a story about two men who overcome emotional obstacles to be together. Love does conquer all, and Hawaiian Orchid will tug at your heart and make you believe. A story full of emotions that will stay with you long after you are finished.

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4 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Remmy Duchene, Reviewed By Carrie

Review: Love Me Harder by Remmy Duchene

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Title: Love Me Harder

Author: Remmy Duchene

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 172 Pages

At a Glance: Love Me Harder is a solid interracial romance.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Life hasn’t been perfect for Mathew Chance. Between not knowing who his parents are, and being bounced from foster home to foster home, he’s had to work for everything in his life. But lately, he seems to be overdoing it. With two jobs that barely give him time to breath, love is the last thing on his mind. He doesn’t know whether to bless fate or curse it for shoving Asher Mulgrew right into his path.

Wealthy divorce lawyer Asher Mulgrew has it all worked out. From a successful practice to a supportive sister and a fantastic niece, life is good. But he’s lonely. Though he’s not actively searching for a man, he isn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth when he meets bartender, Mathew Chance. Mathew has a wall built around his heart and Asher isn’t sure he can break through even if he wants to.

Dividers

Review: Mathew Chance works hard—too hard.  Being on his own since he was eighteen, and aging out of the boys’ home the foster system had placed him in, all he has done is work. There has to be more to life than working himself into an early grave, but Mat doesn’t know what that is. Taking the easy road has never been his thing, and he refuses to bow to the pressures of his life now.

Remmy Duchene does a great job with Mathews’s character. She writes his hamster-on-a-treadmill life in a way that you both sympathize and empathize with his troubles and his way of thinking. How many of us feel trapped by life, unable to change the status quo because of finances or emotional instability? All we can do is try to keep going, hoping for something better, and that is Mat’s character to a T. Of course, Mathew’s something better comes wrapped in the package of Asher Mulgrew.

Asher runs his own law firm, and is sexy and established both in business and his personal life. He always longed for someone to share his life with, but so far, no luck—until he scopes out a quirky little bar where his sister wants to go, and runs into a gorgeous, reserved man named Mathew. Again, Remmy Duchene writes a character with feeling. After meeting Mat, Asher describes himself as feeling “intimately bankrupt,” and sets out to change that with Mathew. This is a romance in every sense of the word. The road is a long one for these guys, they begin the journey worlds apart, but they make it to their HEA in the end.

I felt like the story could have had a little more depth; the premise is a tricky one, with the poor black boy and the rich white guy, but I will say I never felt any part of this book to be gratuitous in its portrayals. The main characters are on an even keel in this one, despite their differences (as a matter of fact, their races are hardly mentioned). Love Me Harder is a solid romance between two men doing the best they can, and finding the road easier with someone to love by their side.

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3.5 Stars, BDSM/Kink/Erotica, Loose Id, Lyn Gala, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Without a Net by Lyn Gala

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Title: Without a Net

Author: Lyn Gala

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 266 Pages

At a Glance: Without a Net just needed a bit more attention to details in order to work out a few inconsistencies in the story.

Blurb: Oliver Robertson has been assigned to go undercover in one of the shade clubs that litter the seedier parts of town. He has never engaged in the sort of edge play found in those places, preferring the BDSM in the more mainstream control clubs. However, to find the criminals behind a series of kidnappings, he must go in undercover as a shade sub. The mission becomes more complicated when his captain asks him to collect evidence against a lieutenant who might be a dirty cop.

The case quickly gets out of hand, and Ollie finds himself caught between wanting to do his job and not knowing who to trust. That confusion grows worse when a number of sexy and dominant men challenge his assumption that he prefers safe, contractually negotiated sex. It turns out he has more of a wild side than he expected, and given that he’s surrounded by dangerous men, and he can’t distinguish the good guys from the bad, that’s terrifying.

When Ollie gives his trust to Travis Goode, a dominant who appears to be a federal agent, he might be making the connection of a lifetime or dooming himself forever.

Publisher’s Note: Contains dark BDSM elements.

Dividers

Review: This is my first Lyn Gala novel, and I will say that I knew in advance that she writes about BDSM—her work being edgier and often allowing for a good deal of introspection on the part of her characters. In Without a Net, the author uses the vehicle of a mystery/police sting operation to explore a cop’s awakening realization that he likes to walk the edge of consensual D/s experience. In fact, Ollie Robertson will discover that he has a much darker side to him then he has ever fully explored before, while trying to remain an active participant in the center of a sting operation to bring down corrupt law enforcement officials–namely his own captain.

Ollie is supposed to pose as a submissive seeking employment in one of the rougher shade BDSM clubs in the city. Along with a whole heap of scenarios where submissives are losing themselves in dangerous and dubious consent relationships with abusive Doms, the shade club in question also has been noted for a series of disturbing kidnappings. When the game shifts and Ollie is asked by his captain to continue his undercover work in the club, but also to expand it by allowing himself to be backed up by fellow officers who may indeed be dirty cops on the take, he reluctantly agrees to continue. Then, Ollie falls into the hands of a man who has decided to break him and remold him into a shade submissive, all in order to achieve his own revenge against the captain.

Suddenly, Ollie finds himself bound and being brutally trained, his entire fix on who he is sexually and professionally is thrown into a tailspin, and whom he can trust is murky at best. When a former neighbor visits the compound where Ollie is being held, it is hard for our hero to decide if Travis is one of the good guys or another corrupt agent. Not knowing whom to trust, and rapidly realizing he is not the controlled sub he supposed himself to be, Ollie’s life is spinning out of control…and Agent Travis Goode may be the only true anchor Ollie can trust.

There were many layers to this story of corruption and greed. First and foremost this was a story revolving around the corruption and shake down practices of a law enforcement agency. Ollie had already gone on record calling out fellow officers who were biased or bigoted against the gay community within the force; therefore, the story line that had him being the eyes and ears of what seemed a genuinely concerned captain over potentially racist officers was very realistic and valid.

The tensions created between he and other officers were very well written and gave Ollie’s fears over a lack of support from his back-up team credibility. When Ollie was finally taken into captivity by a seeming bad guy, the flow of this mystery novel deepened, and the plot twists and subsequent “breaking’ of Ollie’s resistance and spirit was on target. However, there were several elements in this story that were muddled and left unclear; for instance, the time frame of the story. There was talk of life on Mars about three quarters into the story that made me really jerk in surprise. At the onset of the novel, I got the feel that the setting was a bit different or other worldly, given some of the technology the cops were using, but I never got the idea it was definitely a world set in the future. It was a shock to me that I was now also reading a futuristic novel with possible sci-fi leanings.

Secondly, Ollie’s near constant internal dialogue, which had him self-doubting all that happened, was sketchy and stretched the bounds of believability.  His accepting the fact that he was brutally handled and involved in several non-consensual scenarios just because his captor was seeking revenge on those who had allowed his lover to be brutally treated, left me shaking my head in disbelief. I feel the guilt that Travis felt would have been a bit more justified if there had been even the slightest anger on Ollie’s part against his captors.

All in all, Without a Net seemed unfinished. I am not sure if I ever fully understood who was doing the kidnapping and where those people ended up in the story. If it was explained, I must have missed it while trying to get a handle on Ollie’s evolving reactions to being forced into submission to a man who mocked and used him repeatedly.

I will definitely be visiting this author’s backlist. I believe she writes in depth characters and exciting stories. Without a Net just needed a bit more attention to details in order to work out a few inconsistencies in the story.

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5 Stars, Draven St. James, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Karen

Review: Lost in the Fire by Draven St. James

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Title:  Lost in the Fire (Firehouse Six: Book Five)

Author:  Draven St. James

Publisher: Loose Id

Page/Word Count:  178 Pages

At a Glance: I’m greedy and love the series that much!

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: Aaron Evans embodies every complication Wren Tucker knows he doesn’t need. The tempting go-go dancer refuses to leave him alone and his attempts to get into Wren’s bunker pants don’t stop at the club–even the walls of the Firehouse aren’t safe. Wren’s control is only so strong, and his desire for Aaron is turning into a clawing need that’s digging through the many reasons keeping Aaron at bay.

Aaron is two cold showers away from hypothermia if the hot fireman of his dreams won’t give in to the lust he sees blazing in Wren’s eyes. The only issue is, Wren is a forever man, and Aaron doesn’t have that in him to give, not with so many secrets locked behind the glitter and gold of his beautiful world.

As Wren begins to cave to Aaron’s delicious demands, he gets a deeper view of the tarnished landscape Aaron exists in. A murky pit of drug addiction that’s slowly dragging Aaron under, and Wren is going to have to fight like hell to save Aaron from it, to even have a chance at a new beginning with the man who brought him out of the shadows.

Dividers

Review: I held out on reading this series, wasn’t going to do it, but pretty much every time I went on Facebook, someone was commenting about it or recommending it, so I gave in and got the first book.   And then, later that night, I bought the second book…and then the third, so you get the picture.  I love this series.

I was so happy to get Wren and Aaron’s story, and it definitely took a different turn than I was expecting. They were so sweet together, but I think you get a little bit of everything with this book. It’s not only sweet but sexy, angsty, happy and sad—it pretty much took me across the board. I thought there were some situations in the book that maybe weren’t the most realistic scenarios, but honestly, unless it’s crazy-over-the-top (and even sometimes then), it is a book, and I am usually using it to escape reality.  So, as long as it flows with the story, I am alright with it, and in this case, until I saw other comments it didn’t really even cross my mind.

The only issue I really did have with any of the books in this series, including this one, is that I wish they were longer…not because the story isn’t complete but I just want more…so, not really an issue with the book. I’m greedy and love the series that much!

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5 Stars, Historical Romance, Loose Id, Nasia Maksima, Reviewed by Jennifer, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Unbound, Unbroken by Nasia Maksima

Unbound, Unbroken

Unbound, Unbroken

Title: Unbound, Unbroken (In His Arena: Book Two)

Author: Nasia Maksima

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 309 Pages

At a Glance: An excellent second installment in the In His Arena series.

Reviewed By: Jennifer

Blurb: When rising star gladiator Titian finds himself paired with the vainglorious champion Galadros, he finds himself in mortal danger. For a dark spell binds them together, using their lust to make them pawns in the wicked schemes of Alession, the Empress’s right-hand man.

Their only hope is to fight against the bond and hope to break it before Alession forces them to fight each other to the death in the arena. But with every challenge they face, Titian finds himself more and more drawn to Galadros, strengthening the dark spell even as they try to break it.

What begins as pure survival quickly spirals into a whirlwind of lust and love as Titian fights—both for his life and for an impossible future with Galadros. But Galadros has an even darker secret—one that might destroy them both.

Dividers

Review: Although Unbound, Unbroken is the second book in this series, you do not need to read the first in order to understand it. Though there are a few characters that make a reappearance, the lovers in this story are new. The previous lovers from book one are mentioned briefly, but as Titian and Galadros didn’t know them, they don’t know the entire story. Alession and the Empress return, as they are central, connecting figures of the series, but their history is explained for new readers and recapped for fans of the first.

Using the slavecraft from the first book, but this time as a stronger spell, Alession binds Titian and Galadros together for the cruel amusement of the Empress. In that, the storyline is not new; however, these two men are and the slavecraft is stronger. There are also darker elements. Monsters created by one of the houses from fallen gladiators appear which the lovers must fight in order to survive. Things are admittedly grim in this book, but the story was completely engrossing.

What I loved about Titian and Galadros was their personalities. Both are strong men, but their desires lie contrary to what the “rules” of Arena are. According to the unwritten rules, the weaker men are “seeded” by the stronger in order to make them stronger. But Titian, in his role as secutor, must submit to his mated provocator. Even though that’s his role, Titian wants to be the dominant man. Galadros, on the other hand, is the provocator, or another mated pair, and though it’s his role to give to his secutor, he craves a more submissive role in the bedroom. When fate throws them together, both men fight for and against what they want because of the rules their society has set in place. If Galadros truly submits like he wants to, he fears he will lose standing among the other gladiators when he wants to be the champion. While it doesn’t seem like a big deal, the admission of his desires could cause him to lose favor with the oddsmakers, which could be fatal.

If you liked the first book, Slave Eternal, you’ll love this one. If you like books with an alternate history intertwined with a bit of fantasy, then give this series a shot. A word of warning, however. There is some dubious consent in this book. It is at times masked by magic, but if that’s a trigger for you, just be warned.

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3.5 Stars, Kathryn Sparrow, Loose Id, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Karen

Review: Alpha Coder by Kathryn Sparrow

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Title:  Alpha Coder (Geek Pack: Book One) 

Author:  Kathryn Sparrow

Publisher:  Loose Id

Page/Word Count:  251 Pages

At a Glance:  A lot of side-stories happening alongside the main plot were a bit too much.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb: As the second son, Liam Reed never expected to be a werewolf Alpha. He preferred to develop software for Soft Corp, but when his brother Jason died in a car accident, their father forced Liam to assume leadership of the pack. Liam plans to govern with compassion, instead of ruling through fear, but pack member Bradley Karr undermines Liam’s leadership, biding his time before challenging for Alpha. Tired of pack politics, all Liam wants is to program and find his mate, but he fears that neither is in his future.

When his mate, werewolf Cody Jones, starts working at Soft Corp as Liam’s intern, sparks fly. However, a relationship with Cody could get them both fired for fraternization. And, that’s not the worst problem. Cody doesn’t seem to accept Liam as his mate.

Liam’s only chance at happiness is to win Cody over while keeping their relationship a secret. But really, Cody would never stay with an introverted geek like him, an ineffectual Alpha failing to live up to his brother’s legacy. Would he?

Dividers

Review: Alpha Coder was a pretty good story. I got through it quickly, and it held my interest from beginning to end. I thought Liam was great, definitely not what I would have thought of when they mention that he is a geek—with the exception that he does coding, he didn’t come off as all that geeky to me, but regardless, I liked him. I liked him even more once he got together with Cody, who was so sweet.  I think the two complemented each other, and I liked how the relationship between the two developed.

The issue I had with the book was that there were so many things happening as side-stories.  There was Alice, and there was Julie; there was Bradley and issues with Liam’s dad and brother; and, of course, the Tiger HR guy.  I thought it was all just a bit too much. I find this is has been happening more and more lately with the books I’ve been reading, though, so it is possible it’s just me and that I’m happier with a simpler story.

Alpha Coder was good, and I will definitely read more from this author, but it just wasn’t great for me.

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3.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Willa Okati

Review: Best Laid Plans by Willa Okati

Title: Best Laid Plans

Author: Willa Okati

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 209 Pages

At a Glance: A free-wheeling rom-com that has dueling, convoluted love stories, conniving best friends, and a resolution that leaves a smile.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Teddy and Jefferson get along like a house on fire. Literally. Jefferson’s a serious-natured soccer star, and Teddy was born to party till the wheels come off. Oh, they might have jerked it a few times thinking about each other, but they’ll burn this mother to the ground before they ever get along. The only thing they have in common are their friends–Jefferson’s buddy Emmett, and Teddy’s BFF Noelani. Emmett’s just blown all his savings on a house near campus, and he needs tenants to help make the monthly payments. That’s where Teddy and Jefferson come in. Hey, anything’s better than the dorms.

So far so good. Until Noelani’s former fiancé Beau–also Emmett’s former best friend–rolls back into town. Panicked over the return of their old feelings for the rough-riding badass, Noelani and Emmett decide the only sensible ‘save’ is to get married. Of course. Teddy and Jefferson both know that’s a bad idea, and that those two are going to need their friends more than ever. That means only one thing: no choice but to raise the white flag and join forces.

Pros: free rein for sexual hijinks in the name of ‘getting along’. Cons: Easier said than done.

Despite it all, Teddy and Jefferson are also discovering that they have more fun fighting with each other than they would kissing anyone else. Maybe–maybe–they’re falling in love. But when Beau reveals the real reason for his return and everything turns topsy-turvy for everyone involved, is their new alliance strong enough to save the day?

Dividers

Review: I am a fan of Willa Okati’s writing and have read several of her stories in vastly different genres. This is the first romantic comedy I have read by her, and I really enjoyed it.

Jefferson and Teddy are about as different as two guys can be. Teddy is a flame-haired, flamboyant party boy. Jefferson is a serious student and soccer player. They have two things in common – their friends (and romantic couple) Noelani and Emmett, and they are both into guys. When there are two rooms available to rent in the off-campus house that Emmett has just purchased, they also end up being housemates.

They definitely get on each other’s nerves. No matter what Jefferson says, Teddy takes it as an insult or a dig at his sexuality and self-expression. Jefferson can’t for the life of him understand why Teddy is ALWAYS mad at him. But they both like the living quarters and want to support their friends.

Noelani has had a rocky road and a really tough time after her former fiancé took off and left her. She and Teddy are a team, and they definitely have each other’s backs. When Emmett, Noalani’s ex’s best friend, woos her, she returns to old herself and is once again happy. Teddy wants to make sure she stays that way, and Jefferson wants to make sure that Emmett is happy as well.

Just when things are starting to get into a pretty smooth rhythm, the ex, Beau, returns. This throws Noelani into a panic and sets off a chain of events that might lead to the breakup of Noelani and Emmett, and sends Teddy into an absolute rage. In order to thwart any ideas Beau has of coming between their friends, Jefferson and Teddy make a pact to stop him. And hey, if there’s a friends with benefits kind of arrangement to go with it, then so much the better. Turns out there is a lot of stress that needs relieving. ;)

I don’t want to get too spoilery, but Jefferson and Teddy try to work their way through the mess that seems to be stirred up with Beau’s return. Nobody is quite sure what his motivations are or what his real goal is in making his unexpected return. Let’s just say that there is definitely a surprise in store for every single one of these characters. And, it seems that there have been a lot of plots and machinations going on behind the scenes that many of the characters are oblivious to throughout the book.

This is a really cute story, and Jefferson and Teddy are fun characters. We feel for Jefferson as he really struggles with trying to figure Teddy out. We empathize with Teddy’s prickly demeanor since he’s definitely been on the receiving end of some pretty unfair assumptions and certain biases. Noelani and Emmett are good supporting characters that definitely provide a different layer to the story. And Beau is an enigma that we don’t really understand until well into the story. I definitely recommend Best Laid Plans for those looking for an entertaining and funny story with some tension thrown in for good measure.

 

 

 

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Megan Slayer, Reviewed by Angel

Review: Home to Cedarwood by Megan Slayer

Title: Home to Cedarwood (Single Father Society: Book One)

Author: Megan Slayer

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 80 Pages

At a Glance: A sweet and interesting look at life and love in a small town.

Reviewed By: Angel

Blurb: Colin Baker owns a book store and he’s back in Cedarwood with his son. He’s looking for a new start after a bad breakup, but he never expected that start to include his old crush, Officer Jordan Hargrove. Jordan hasn’t come out, but if he can score with Colin, then he’s all in. He’s dreamed of hot nights with the quiet man.

After a speeding ticket and some hurt feelings, sparks fly between the bookstore owner and the police officer, but Cedarwood is a small town with small town values, and a gay couple isn’t what the town expects. Colin’s created a support group for single gay fathers and he feels he’s making some difference in Cedarwood. Some folks in Cedarwood are fine with these two men reconnecting, but some aren’t.

Will the naysayers be enough to drive Colin and Jordan apart, or will they make their way together in this small town.

Dividers

Review: Megan Slayer is a new to me author, and I enjoyed my first go round with her. I love stories with kids in them, especially if they have some impact on the relationship and aren’t just cardboard characters. Slayer doesn’t disappoint in her characters or her capture of small town life, even if there was much more telling of the story than showing.

While I had other issues with the book, Slayer’s characters felt real and reacted humanly, if that makes any sort of sense. And it was this aspect that had me from the get-go. I was fully engrossed, within minutes of opening the book, in Colin and Gage’s life. There are real issues addressed in this story: homophobia, acceptance, relationships and sexuality, and they are well handled and developed.

There were a few gaps in the storytelling, but it all fell into place and was resolved somewhat realistically with a happy ending for all. I loved the support Jordan and Colin received from both their families and the outside community, barring a few homophobic townsfolk. The insta-love happens so quickly between Jordan and Colin, but care is taken when introducing the relationship to Gage. I really enjoyed this aspect as well as some of the other characters introduced in the book. I am looking forward to more from Megan Slayer and Cedarwood’s townsfolk.

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5 Stars, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed By Carrie, S.C. Wynne

Review: Secrets from the Edge by S.C. Wynne

Title: Secrets from the Edge

Author: S.C. Wynne

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 142 Pages

At a Glance: This was a great book, the characters well written, and the scenes solid. I highly recommend it for a hot summer day.

Reviewed By: Carrie

Blurb: Keith Williams is twenty-two and struggling to feel normal again. Once a rising super star in the competitive world of snowboarding, he’s only now healing from a horrible crash that almost wrecked his body and ripped his confidence from him.

Jesse Royce is a reporter embedded on a snowboarding documentary that Keith has agreed to be a part of. The two of them have always had a sexual attraction that’s hard to ignore. But Keith’s loss of nerve isn’t the only secret he’s keeping, and while it’s tempting to give into his desire for Jesse, it might end up being career suicide.

Dividers

Review: I have only one complaint about this book. It wasn’t longer. I really wanted more pages of Keith and Jesse.

S.C. Wynne takes us right to the really good beginning stuff, and then lets our imaginations have at it. Oh, these two will make it – they may not get married, being that traditional isn’t who these men are – but they will grow old and have a HEA, that is for sure. All the bad is behind them, the worst has happened, and they still have each other.

Keith is twenty two. At twenty he was at the top of his snowboarding career, when he took a tumble on a questionable course. It has been a hard-fought battle, mentally and physically, to come back into the world of snowboarding, but he is accomplishing it, slaying his demons and feeling normal again.

Jesse works for Snow Job Magazine, a publication which used to be all about snowboarding how-tos and technical know-how, but has degenerated into a gossip rag among the industry. What starts out as a story about the documentary he and Keith have been contracted for, changes mid-stream when Jesse’s boss wants the dirt on all the boarders present, including and especially Keith.

Keith had a hard childhood, being kicked out by his parents when he was a teen for being gay, and there are parts of that time period he would rather stay in the past. He keeps secrets: who he is, what he really feels, his reactions – everything. He can’t tell Jesse…. Can he? The word trust comes into play big time between these two men, and the journey is an incredible ride. I loved the snowboarding talk, the descriptions of the runs, imagining myself with ice crystals on my cheeks was a great escape from reality when the temperature is so hot outside.

This was a great book, the characters well written, and the scenes solid. I highly recommend it for a hot summer day.

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5 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Loose Id, Madeleine Ribbon, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lisa, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Death by Dragon by Madeleine Ribbon

Title: Death by Dragon

Author: Madeleine Ribbon

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 283 Pages

At a Glance: A little bit of fairy tale and a heaping helping of fantasy with a side of action and danger kept this clever and fast paced story moving along.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Fell Harwick, half-incubus and witch extraordinaire, knows how he’ll die. Ever since he was a child, he’s had visions of a dragon tearing him to pieces. Since he’s not terribly fond of the idea–and the power-hungry vampire that killed his mother is now after him for his unprecedented healing abilities–he’s gone into hiding. But when a pair of shifters get shot in front of his cabin in the woods, he feels obligated to keep them safe.

Jett and Theodore are members of the local resistance, fighting against the same vamp that wants Fell. Theodore is a beautiful, tragic mess, and Jett hates all incubi on principle–something Fell finds out as he tries to take energy to power his healing magic.

Jett and Fell might have been able to work around one paranormal prejudice. Jett even encourages Fell into sex with Theodore when he needs energy. But then Fell discovers that his future killer has been sleeping on his couch.

Dividers

Review: If you’ve ever finished a book and thought, Dear gods of all fiction, please let there be a sequel, then you’ve been exactly where I am after reading Madeleine Ribbon’s Death by Dragon. Not because the storyline necessarily needs one but because the characters and the world they live in need one. And me. I need one too.

Being a shameless Buy-Now-With-1-Click impulse shopping addict, there were two reasons I bought this book, author unknown to me. First, the title. The second reason, the cover (Fell’s definitely an “I licked him, therefore he is mine” sort of a guy). Why I loved this book, however, has much to do with the narrator of the story, Fell (short for Raphael) Harwick. Fell is a witch with extraordinary healing abilities. He’s also become a bit of a recluse since there’s a vampire who aims to kidnap him and make Fell his mindless meat-puppet in an attempt to reign supreme over the kingdom of “others” with which Ribbon has populated this novel. Witch: check. Vampires: check. Shifters: check. Dragon: check-check. What makes Fell an outcast even more than being a witch, though, is the other half of his biology, courtesy of his father. Fell’s also part incubus, and we all know what sort of shenanigans the incubi are capable of.

But wait, there’s more…

There’s also a great plot to Fell’s story, one that’s a little bit fairy tale and a heaping helping of fantasy with a side of action and danger that kept this clever and fast paced story moving along. Fell is a nerdy guy who has a wicked sense of humor and a sharp tongue he’s not afraid to hone on anyone who gets in his way. There were plenty of times I found myself grinning, if not outright laughing, while reading Death by Dragon, but there was also a good balance between that and the political drama in which Fell is involuntarily embroiled when it becomes clear someone’s broken the laws of Silence—which, in short, means there’ve been supernaturals exposing their existence to humans.

When a group of shifter-hunting men trespass on Fell’s lawn and bring danger to his doorstep, he’s forced into involuntary cohabitation with two of the injured survivors—Theodore and Jett. Being more or less a hermit for the past year, and trusting no one, let alone a grieving shifter and his incubus-loathing brother, Fell’s forced into some major adjustments to his routine; though, there are some fringe benefits to having Theodore and Jett in his house. Namely, Fell needs a soul’s energy to power his magic—whether through kissing or sex—and Jett’s happy to pimp Theodore out for the job, and Theodore’s more than willing to supply all the lip-smacking nookie Fell needs to keep his wards up and healing powers at maximum capacity.

The building of the relationship between Fell and Theodore, and the somewhat grudging (at least on Jett’s side) friendship between Fell and Jett is handled more as an aside to the core plot, which is keeping the vampire, Jamison, from getting his hands on Fell, so I wouldn’t strictly categorize this book as a romance, even with its grand sacrifice and perfect fairy tale ending. The beauty is in the buildup of the alliances, the evidence of betrayal, and the fallout from it all, which impacts Fell, Theodore, and Jett, all three, in a thoroughly heart-tugging way. And there’s even quite a touching reunion between Fell and his absentee incubus father, which I loved for its warmth and support of Fell.

Does Jett ever overcome his prejudice of Fell’s soul-sucker lineage? Does Fell’s vision of death-by-dragon come to fruition? Well, the blurb gives you a few clues to the riddle, but I’ll not give the rest because that would spoil the story. Suffice it to say, though, that finding the answers to these questions was an absolute treat, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you discover them on your own.

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4 Stars, Alexa Snow, Loose Id, Paranormal Romance, Reviewed by Lana

Review: Speak No Evil by Alexa Snow

Title: Speak No Evil

Author: Alexa Snow

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 266 Pages

At a Glance: Speak No Evil is a different ghost/mystery story. If you’re in the mood for a moody ghost story, pick this one up.

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Jamie Kincade’s world is turned upside down when Sebastian, a young man who doesn’t speak and who shares the ability to see ghosts that Jamie’s had since childhood, enters his life. Jamie finds Sebastian fascinating on multiple levels, and is determined to help him learn to speak again. He can barely keep his thoughts–or hands–off Sebastian, who wants him and makes no attempt to hide it.

The age difference between them–Sebastian is almost 15 years Jamie’s junior–is a problem for Jamie, but Jamie’s reluctance isn’t the only thing keeping them from focusing on the potential they might have as a couple; the collection of ghosts Jamie has been living with in relative harmony for more than a decade has no intention of leaving Sebastian alone now that he’s here. Their desperate attempts to get Sebastian’s attention are a distraction Jamie would be grateful for if they didn’t upset Sebastian so much. Jamie is torn between wanting to send Sebastian away for his own good and wanting to drag him off to bed, and with Sebastian tempting him both deliberately and subconsciously, it can’t be long before Jamie’s self-control snaps…

Dividers

Review: Speak No Evil is a very entraining ghost story that kept me engaged. The “I see dead people” story line has been done to death, but this book had a little twist which I think makes it stand out among the crowd.

We first meet Jamie, who’s a bit of a recluse. He lives alone in the country, he works as a writing editor with no human interaction, and he’s not close to his sister, his only remaining family. His last relationship was so long ago that it’s collecting dust. And, he also sees ghosts. He’s seen them as long as he can remember. After realizing that he’s not crazy, he accepts what he can’t change and deals with it in his own way, keeping away from the living. But, more importantly, the ghosts don’t see him.

As with most ghost stories, on a cold, rainy and windswept night, Jamie’s solitude is broken. Sebastian takes refuge in his shed and turns his world upside down. Sebastian is running from his tragic past. Because of it, he’s stopped talking. He can also see ghosts, but he can also hear them and they him in return. Sebastian sticks around, and together they try to figure out the mystery of their own interactions with the ghost. And there’s some loving on the side.

The subplot with Jamie’s sister was a bit slow, and I wasn’t sure why it was part of the story, but eventually it was cleared up. There’s a twist in the siblings’ relationship, and Jamie realizes that his sister is not that different from him, and their relationship grows stronger. There is also a mystery involving a strange ghost that both see, another ghost threatens Jamie, and Sebastian finds out that he can affect the ghost and help them move on.

While I liked the book, I did think it was slow in some parts, but it did pick up when Jamie and Sebastian played against each other. Their mutual attraction and interactions were very well written, and I really liked it. Jamie was a bit hung up on their age difference, but he got over it eventually. This was a very emotional story with not much humor. I wish it were a little lighter.

Speak No Evil is a different ghost/mystery story. If you’re in the mood for a moody ghost story, pick this one up.

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4 Stars, Douglas Black, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Taz

Review: Port in a Storm by Douglas Black

Title: Port in a Storm

Author: Douglas Black

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 274 Pages

At a Glance: Port in a Storm is a book I couldn’t put down.

Reviewed By: Taz

Blurb: Alex is stuck in a rut. He’s facing a big decision about his future, namely, what to do with it and so far he hasn’t managed to come up with an answer.

Until he meets Jake.

Jake blows through Alex’s world like a hurricane and Alex falls hard and fast for the perpetual traveler with a penchant for secrets and a perfect smile. Jake wants Alex, but life isn’t as simple as that. Jake never settles in one place for long and already their long-distance relationship is driving a wedge between Alex and his family. With no compromises on offer, Alex’s decision about his future becomes a decision about Jake.

For Alex, the idea of losing Jake doesn’t even bear thinking about, but choosing him looks like it will mean throwing away everything Alex knows, including his relationship with his parents. And so, Alex finds himself with another question to answer: how much is he willing to give up, to be happy?

Dividers

Review: This was a book I really wanted to like. It opens with a strong hook. Handsome guy is in a bad relationship and meets a hot stranger who sweeps him off his feet. Emotions run strong in this book, something I truly enjoy. And despite the secrets both protagonists keep, when they do communicate, they are brutally honest. You can’t help but love Alex and Jake individually and as a couple. The scenery is beautifully developed, and I can’t help but believe that this author has experienced many of the places in the story firsthand. And the sex. Let’s just say Mr. Black is masterful and trigger the reader’s g-spot, all of this wrapped up in angst. As a reader, I found myself walking along a tightrope for the duration of the book, wondering how these two characters would finally manage to break down the wall separating them and arrive at their happy ending.

That said, I found it frustrating how each character held back when they knew talking was the solution. Each character had painful issues from their past which colored the way they viewed other people and their own futures. Each man knew that revealing their deepest secrets would pave a way for greater understanding and connection. But they remained silent, withholding rather than giving the thing the other needed.

As the book ramped up towards its climax, the issues begin to surface, secrets are revealed, and even then, one of the characters makes a stupid choice (which the character acknowledges), continuing his pattern of taking an easy route of problem-avoidance as opposed to taking the reins of his own life and destiny. It was hard to feel sympathetic when this character only needed to buckle down and grab hold of what the other offered as opposed to waiting until he almost lost everything.

Still, Port in a Storm is a book I couldn’t put down. I needed to see how their journey would end. These two men, originating from the same hometown, yet so vastly different from one another, were like a whirlwind of heat and excitement.

This is a great exploration of living one’s own life, tossing aside the shackles of expectations and obligations. It’s about living life in the now, learning to appreciate what is instead of dwelling on what was or what might be. It’s about forgiving oneself and healing. And ultimately it’s about embracing love, accepting that living honestly, leads to happiness.

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4.5 Stars, Felice Stevens, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Karen

Review: Embrace the Fire by Felice Stevens

Title:  Embrace the Fire (Through Hell and Back: Book Three)

Author:  Felice Stevens

Publisher:  Loose Id

Page/Word Count:  243 Pages

At a Glance:  Right in line with the others in the series, all of which I loved.

Reviewed By:  Karen

Blurb:  Brandon Gilbert has spent years in hiding, but finally he’s accomplished his dream of working as a public school teacher. When offered the chance to help bullied children, there was no way he could say no. Not to mention that meeting Dr. Tash Weber, the psychiatrist who helps them, a sad yet sexy older man, ignited a spark inside Brandon he’d never had before.

Though five years have passed since the death of his lover, Dr. Sebastian “Tash” Weber has no interest in relationships or love. But young, enigmatic Brandon awakens his heart and his desire. Despite Tash’s best efforts to push him away, Brandon unlocks the passion for life Tash thought he’d lost forever.

Falling in love wasn’t part of the plan for either Brandon or Tash, but neither family disapproval nor self-doubts can stop them from embracing the fire that burns between them. And when Brandon returns home to fight for a future he never imagined possible, he and Tash discover that the one thing worth fighting for has been with them all along.

Dividers 

Review:  So, out of the three books in the series this one probably isn’t my favorite. It was still really good, though, and right in line with the others in the series, all of which I loved.

This is little brother Brandon’s story, who falls for Dr. Tash. They really were quite adorable together when they weren’t having misunderstandings or hiding from one another. There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like about the story, but in comparison to the others, it came across a little more sweet and lighter than the first two. Again, not in a bad way.  I think there was just something about Ash and Luke that drew me in just a little bit more.

Just like Ash and Luke, Brandon has his own past and demons to deal with, and it is Tash that he wants by his side, regardless of how much Tash continues to push him away or changes his mind.  Finally, they just give up and embrace their feelings for each other. There are family members who feel they have a say, and try to talk each of them out of it, but in the end they follow their hearts.

I am a little torn about the epilogue.  On one hand I really like that we not only get to see Brandon and Tash’s HEA but we get to see all of the guys’ HEAs.  But, the part that I am torn about is that it kind of came across as a little choppy.  All in all, though, I love this whole series, and it will definitely be on my reread list.

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3 Stars, Alexa Snow, Genre Romance, Jane Davitt, Loose Id, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: The Empty Box by Jane Davitt and Alexa Snow

Title: The Empty Box (The Square Peg: Book Three)

Author: Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 273 Pages

At a Glance: This is a pleasant, if not groundbreaking, story.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Dave’s taking life day by day after leaving Travis, his emotionally abusive partner of fifteen years. Working as the cook at the Square Peg is all the social life he has and he’s content with that.

When a swerving car leaves him sprawled on the snowy sidewalk with a broken ankle, being rescued by his new neighbor, young, sinfully pretty Jeremy, seems like the start of something good, even if twenty years separate the two men. But Travis isn’t content to let Dave slip away and Dave’s his own worst enemy, holding Jeremy at arms’ length when Jeremy wants to get as close as possible.

With decisions about his future complicated by his tangled past, can Dave accept the second chance Jeremy offers or will his heart stay empty of love?

Dividers

Review: Note: I have to say I didn’t really realize that this was part of a series when I asked for this for review. I believe the first two books are about two other couples from the bar The Square Peg, but it seems like this can be read as a standalone, and I didn’t feel like I was missing any vital information to this story.

Dave is the chef at a local gay bar. One night, as he’s coming home after closing, he is walking to his condo when he is nearly hit by a rather reckless driver. He manages to get onto the sidewalk, but because of the snow and ice, he takes a pretty bad fall. He knows he’s hurt, but just not how badly. His new neighbor, Jeremy, finds him and takes him to hospital, where he learns it’s in fact a broken ankle and he’s going to be down for the count for a while. Of course Dave is cold and tired and cranky, so he’s possibly not putting his best foot forward with the new neighbor, but Jeremy seems to be somewhat socially awkward and a bit clueless, so they sort of balance each other out.

Dave is in his forties and has finally gotten out of a long term and very toxic relationship with his ex, Travis. Travis is a cheating, lying, addicted, manipulative asshole, and has taken Dave for a ride so many times he’d finally had enough and cut things off for good. Jeremy is only 29 and he is self-employed as a specialty computer builder and works from his condo. He also has a cat. :) Jeremy volunteers to help Dave around the house while he is convalescing. Dave doesn’t really want anybody’s help (he’s kind of stubborn that way), but Jeremy doesn’t want to give up on Dave either – since he confesses that he’s attracted to Dave.

While poor Dave is trying to heal, Jeremy manages to insinuate himself into Dave’s life. Jeremy is an interesting character. He seems to always be trying to figure out what the rules are and what he should say/not say. The authors don’t spell it out, but it’s almost like he’s got a spectrum disorder where he’s not sure what the “normal” thing is that he should do or say in any given situation. I liked Jeremy a lot though – his filter was kinda off, but he’s got a really good heart.

Of course, you know when there is a jerky ex around, he’s gotta cause trouble, so no exception here. Travis is also possessive, jealous and a vindictive user who always belittled Dave and everything he wanted to accomplish, on top of everything else in his lovely personality arsenal. When he figures out that Dave and Jeremy might be more than friends, he starts trouble. Jeremy and Dave do not agree on how to handle things with Travis, and this causes quite a bit of friction in their budding relationship. On top of that, Dave has a slight issue with the fact that Jeremy has never actually been with another man before, and has only dated women in the past. Jeremy is pretty convincing though. ;)
For those who read the first two books, the Square Peg, the owners, and other employees play a large part in this story. Ben and Shane support Dave while he is working to get back on his feet. Patrick and Vin are also there to lend moral support. There is also a lovely side story with a gentleman from the Farmer’s Market, whom Dave is friendly with. He is a gem of a character, and I’d love to read more about him sometime.

Of course, just as Jeremy and Dave finally get to a place where they are both happy, and they are supporting each other and doing exactly what they want to do, the other shoe has to drop. This puts a huge strain on their relationship and could unravel everything they have built together. With two guys who have spent so much time in their own heads, it’s definitely an uphill battle for them to find a way to communicate.

I really liked the characters and found Jeremy especially to be an interesting guy, with all his quirks. He refused to take Dave’s moods at face value and pushed him to stop perceiving himself through the Travis-colored lenses he’s worn for so long. I really loved the beekeeper, Locke, and his nephew. I also really liked the other characters from the Square Peg (and I’ll have to go back and read their stories). There wasn’t anything terribly new or different in this story, but I enjoyed the journey Dave and Jeremy take together.







 

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Jules, Sage C. Holloway

Review: Spectacularly Broken by Sage C. Holloway

Title: Spectacularly Broken

Author: Sage C. Holloway

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 204 Pages

At a Glance: To sum up: Lysander was completely FABULOUS. Cai was a beautiful soul. And together, they felt real, and…right.

Reviewed By: Jules

Blurb: Turns out naked and hungover on the floor is not the most strategically sound place to be when your dad comes home early. Take it from someone who learned the hard way: nineteen-year-old Lysander Shepherd–son of movie stars, spoiled brat, enthusiastic proponent of drugs and orgies…and now, unwilling resident of Oak Hill Manor, a retreat for troubled teenagers.

Before he knows what’s happening, his designer duds have been switched for tie-dye shirts in therapy team colors, and he is surrounded by an assortment of misfits: a timid nerd, a mute girl, a hyperactive kid…and captivating loner Cai Fields, who is admittedly pretty hot, but seems to hate the world in general and Lysander in particular.

Soon Lysander struggles with lies, withdrawal, and several uncomfortable revelations that he never intended to make, but he also gains surprising amounts of support right in the middle of secret late-night parties, fisticuffs over doing the dishes, and, of all things, croissant blackmail. Even as Cai and Lysander finally give in to the irresistible attraction between them and make a grasp for happiness, their darkest secrets remain–secrets with the power to destroy everything they’ve fought so hard to have.

Dividers

Review: Spectacularly Broken was another pleasant surprise during my Memorial Day weekend reading. Based on the blurb, I really expected this book to be a ride on the Angst Train, but that wasn’t at all the case. There was some drama, sure, and some very heavy subject matter, but it was so much more than that. The author did an excellent job of mixing quite a bit of levity in with the heavy, making the overall feel much less dark than I feared.

In the beginning, Lysander comes off as a brat – plain and simple. Massive sense of entitlement, partnered with severe abandonment issues, is certainly a recipe for disaster. So, when he’s told by his father that he is headed to Oak Hill Manor to get his shit together, of course his attitude is less than fabulous. He goes to meet his cousin Finn, who has hit a rough patch of his own and is also headed there, and they cook up a little extra trouble along the way.

Things at Oak Hill Manor are very Breakfast Club-ish, but in a good way. The characters in Lysander’s group are good eggs, and the author does a great job of letting us gradually get to know them through their time at the Manor. I loved the team-building exercises, which really helped the group open up to each other, as well as the way the therapy sessions were portrayed.

Lysander and one of the members of his group, Cai, initially butt heads, but soon come to an understanding and learn to see past the chip they each have on their shoulders. I love the chemistry between these guys, and everything about their romance. There is a big secret between them that threatens their relationship, and contributes to the major conflict at the end of the book – you’ll have to read it to find out what that is! – but in spite of that secret, the relationship really is built on a solid foundation of friendship, support for each other, and, yes, trust. I definitely found myself cheering for them.

I enjoyed the whole thing, but the last quarter of the book was especially gripping. The bonds that Lysander has formed with Finn, as well as with his new friends from the Manor, come into play in a major way, and it was really moving to see them all pull each other up when they needed it. Lysander and his dad also begin to come to an understanding about how things got so messed up between them, and try to figure out how to start making reparations, which was a very emotional and genuine part of the story.

To sum up: Lysander was completely FABULOUS. Cai was a beautiful soul. And together, they felt real, and…right. Sage C. Holloway built some fantastic characters, threw in some real emotions, and wrote a story that I would absolutely recommend to friends. Was this really her first novel?? Amazing debut. I’ll be on the lookout for her next one.

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4.5 Stars, Draven St. James, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Reviewed by Kim

Review: Driven by Fire by Draven St. James

Title: Driven by Fire (Firehouse Six: Book Four)

Author: Draven St. James

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 141 Pages

At a Glance: I can’t get enough of these sexy firemen!

Reviewed By: Kim

Blurb: Taber Delane is lucky to be alive, but his career as a firefighter ended the day a beam snapped, resulting in a crushing spinal injury. Most of his friends are willing to give him space, everyone except paramedic, Deacon Hall.

Deacon hasn’t met a challenge he couldn’t tackle and he knows Taber needs someone in his corner who isn’t afraid to stand up to the big bad fireman. The longer he’s around Taber, the more the sexy vulnerability of the man comes through. Deacon finds he doesn’t just want to be Taber’s live-in caregiver, he wants a chance at the passionate man beneath the stubborn shell.

A shell that is cracking, no matter how Taber tries to hold it together. Deacon being in his home starts to open him up–and open his eyes to the man Deacon hides from the rest of the world. Without seeing it coming, Taber soon craves more. A lot more.

Now if only Deacon can get Taber to see that it isn’t so bad having him there to assist. Even if and maybe especially when Taber is naked, dripping wet, and angry as hell.

Dividers

Review: Driven by Fire is the story of how Taber is managing his life after his career as a firefighter has ended with a crippling spinal injury, as well as the fact that he’s a closeted gay man. As the story begins, Taber has yet again chased away a caregiver, and Deacon has volunteered for the job. Someone has to help Taber with the cooking, cleaning, and making sure he doesn’t overdo it with the physical therapy, and Deacon seems to be the perfect man for the job since he’s currently between living arrangements. He’s broken up with his cheating boyfriend and doesn’t mind helping the sometimes-frustrated and cranky and very sexy Taber, and I thought it was rather cute how Stephen, Taber’s physical therapist, got him to agree to have Deacon come help out.

What I really enjoyed about Driven by Fire was that Taber didn’t let his injury destroy the person he was before his accident. In other words, there’s no major pity party going on in this story. But, Taber does have a problem with having too much time on his hands, and his thoughts about his future are not helping. I had a laugh out loud moment when Deacon was out doing something, and Taber decided to snoop through his bags. What he pulled out…well…let’s just say he deserved to be embarrassed.

Even though Taber hates the thought of needing a caregiver, he likes Deacon, and he was a positive distraction when Taber was in the hospital—something he came to appreciate while he was recuperating. I also liked Deacon and loved his brand of humor and how, when it looked like Taber might consider throwing himself into a pity party, he just wouldn’t let him. It’s kind of sweet how these two finally get together, when Taber reveals that he’s not into women.

Thank you, Draven St. James, for writing Taber’s story. I’m looking forward to reading more about Firehouse Six. I can’t get enough of these sexy firemen!

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5 Stars, Fairy Tale/Mythology/Folk Lore, Genre Romance, Loose Id, Meg Amor, Reviewed by Lana, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: Hawaiian Lei by Meg Amor

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Title: Hawaiian Lei

Author: Meg Amor

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 231 Pages

At a Glance: Don’t miss this one!

Reviewed By: Lana

Blurb: Beau Toyama, a “mixed plate” Hawaiian/Japanese/Tahitian man, is a flight instructor on the Big Island of Hawai’i. He’s a lovely, gentle, shy soul from a dysfunctional island. One day his wife Mikey said, “I love you, babe, but this isn’t working. I need a good man…” She’d paused. “And so do you.”

Matt Quintal, a New Zealand painter with a Norfolk Island and Maori background, has been living the “gay scene” in LA and knows it’s a crock. Needing to escape, his Polynesian soul is drawn back to the Pacific. He visits his sister Rach in Kona on the Big Island, where his spirit connects.

When Matt’s heart is drawn to the sound of a biplane’s radial engines flying overhead, his life is about to change. There’s an instant soul connection and heat between Beau and Matt. Unbeknownst to them, the spirit of Beau’s mom, Tehani, has guided Matt home to Beau.

Beau and Matt need to work together to overcome family dysfunction and abuse. Can they reveal their deep emotional vulnerabilities to find redemption and healing? What they both want is a loving relationship. But they must allow their hearts and souls to open before they can love and trust again.

Dividers

Review: How do I describe Hawaiian Lei? The only way I can is to say that it’s all about the feels! I suggest having a box of tissues and a pint of ice cream handy, because this is a very emotional story that you will not soon forget. I had goose bumps while reading it, and kept thinking about it long after I was done. Yes, I loved it.

The story is set in Hawaii, and after reading another Hawaii story, I think I have to plan a trip there soon! Hawaii itself is such a character.

Two men, Matt and Beau, are brought together through fate, destiny, or whatever you want to call it, but nevertheless, they were meant to be together. I do believe that sometimes there are forces at play that just cannot be explained. If you are not as open minded, though, this book might seem hokey. But, if you are open to the unexplained, you’ll be left with goose bumps as I was.

Matt is a Kiwi living in LA. He is an artist who’s fed up with the whole LA scene and after many one night stands, he escapes to Hawaii to stay with his sister. One day at the beach, they see a plane flying, and he needs to know who’s flying it. Something calls to him, and Matt is pulled toward it. The pilot is Beau, a Polynesian god who instantly feels the same connection to Matt, and they begin a tenuous relationship. Beau is newly out of the closet and has insecurities that he’s trying to overcome. Both have complicated histories, with lots of emotional baggage, extended family issues, and exes. This is a very emotional story, and the emotions leap off the page and stay with you.

I loved Beau and Matt. They are definitely going on my favorite couples list. Both men completed each other perfectly, and they were perfectly scorching together. Those parts of the book will make you a little bit hot and bothered.
The story deals with dreams and omens, and I really found it interesting the way all were woven together. The story is very mystical and symbolic. I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s worth the read.

One more thing, I would like to think that the author wanted to be a little cheeky by naming the book Hawaiian Lei because I can definitely agree that this is a perfect “Lei” in more ways than one. Don’t miss this one!

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5 Stars, Barbara Elsborg, Loose Id, Reviewed by Sammy, Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Urban Fantasy

Review: The Demon You Know by Barbara Elsborg

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Title: The Demon You Know

Author: Barbara Elsborg

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count:

At a Glance: The Demon You Know was an incredible story with fascinating worlds and impossibly rich characters.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: A good demon?

Ezra is a timekeeper in Hell, responsible for building and maintaining the clocks that tick away eternal torment. He’s never believed he deserves to be in Hell, and when the reason he’s there is revealed, he’s horrified…yet filled with hope. But is this just another form of torture? When Ezra’s given a chance to go to the surface, he’s determined to uncover the truth, but his fellow demons seem just as determined he won’t survive the journey.

A bad angel?

Roman doesn’t understand why an angel who failed his training the first time round has been given the job of policing paranormals in the UK’s capital city. He’s consumed by unhappiness. He might not be in Hell, but sometimes it damn well feels like it.

When Roman meets Ezra his failings come back to haunt him. Ezra makes him want to break the rules, but an angel protecting a demon? Discovery would bring an eternity of suffering, and with a boss none other than the archangel Michael, it’ll take more than a miracle for the lovers to stand together.

Dividers

Review: Barbara Elsborg is a new author for me, and I must gladly admit I will be purchasing this author’s back work based on the strength of this novel, The Demon You Know. I found it to be an incredible story that made me hungry for more about this alternate world and the demons and angels who inhabited it.

Roman is a conflicted angel. Hyperaware of his own failings, and tied to a past that left him emotionally scarred, unable to trust, and reluctant to love, he metes out justice to paranormals of all kinds and loathes himself for doing it. When he stumbles upon a homeless young man at the shelter where he volunteers, his curiosity is aroused. You see, Roman can read people, but there is something different about Ezra, and Roman is inexplicably drawn to the man, sexually and more. There is something so right about being near to Ezra, and Roman can’t seem to pinpoint why.

Ezra thinks he is a demon—albeit a poor one. He doesn’t like Hell, but then, who does? He suffers endless abuse there, both physical and sexual, and hides most days, simply trying to avoid conflict that follows him everywhere. But, he is also unique among the demons in that he can recall going to Hell as a child, something that is totally unheard of in any realm. Yet Ezra is sure of it, and that is why he holds fast to the idea that somehow he is not meant to be there. When he’s chosen to be sent on a soul gathering on the surface, Ezra is determined to spend his days there not hurting others and gathering their essence but living a “normal” life for those brief days he’s above ground. Little does he count on meeting an angel who may be both his salvation and his one-way ticket back to Hell.

This novel was stunning in the way alternate worlds were built. Hell was an amazing place, raw and evil, one could almost feel the heat and grit that existed there. Ezra had no hope there and the despair, along with the violence done to him, was so real that you are immediately drawn to this character and wanted so badly for him to somehow succeed in escaping his plight. Ezra was not just a victim, though. That would have merely made him one-dimensional. No, Barbara Elsborg introduces a fascinating twist that makes Ezra so much more than just a weak character we should pity and, in doing so, she reveals the inner strength that has allowed him to do more than just survive the horrors of Hell.

This author cannot only craft fascinating worlds but peoples them with interesting characters that all play a part in the eventual solution to Ezra’s personal dilemmas. Side characters are rich and appealing, even when they are ones you want to punch in the face! I so appreciated the idea that Roman was a flawed angel, and not always due to his own faults. The idea that Heaven and Hell manipulate their occupants in order that they may gain that which they desire most was a second fascinating twist to this action packed novel. Roman was so determined to be better, to be the angel he knew was expected of him and yet, he was so very human in so many ways. Roman and Ezra together were both amazingly erotic and beautifully tender.

The Demon You Know was an incredible story with fascinating worlds and impossibly rich characters that made me hunger for more story by novel’s end. I am excited to have found this author, and encourage you to check out her work. She is a fascinating storyteller with a rich imagination.

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4 Stars, Genre Romance, Historical Romance, Loose Id, Willa Okati

Review: The First Hello by Willa Okati

Title: The First Hello

Author: Willa Okati

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 143 Pages

At a Glance: This is a poignant tale of love and loss and love again – beautiful and lyrical and at times, heartbreaking. It grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the final sentence.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: Shawn Tillerman thinks he’s losing his mind. Wary and damaged after a hard life filled with broken promises, he’s been having dissociative episodes for the past few months. Flashes of different lives he didn’t live. Walking in the footsteps of men he knows he never was. In these waking dreams, he’s always with a lover, but he can’t see the man’s face and doesn’t know his name. Though the episodes are becoming more frequent, he hasn’t told anyone what’s happening to him. He’s too busy taking care of his twin sister and keeping her away from Oxy. If he can sell the house he’s inherited from a distant relative, he’ll finally have enough money to put her in a good rehab center. He can turn their lives around.

Or not. Because Raleigh, the compelling stranger who wants to buy their house, swears that Shawn isn’t experiencing psychotic episodes, but is reliving memories. That he and Shawn have come together in life after life and time after time.That he is the man from Shawn’s dreams, and has been searching everywhere for him. Even if Shawn remembers nothing, Raleigh remembers it all, and he isn’t going to give up now.

Shawn doesn’t believe Raleigh–but he’s beginning to wish he could. What if it is true, after all? What if saying goodbye to all he thought he was sure of is only the first part of hello?

Dividers

Review: The First Hello is a really beautiful story that is just so well written that is best experienced by reading. You can see from the blurb that this is a tale of an endless love, but it’s so much more than that.

Raleigh and Shawn meet and while Raleigh always seems to be holding something back, Shawn always seems to be unable to grasp something just out of reach. They are at the opposite ends of a tug a war, and the rope is their sanity and possibly, their very existence. Shawn thinks he’s losing his mind and Raleigh thinks Shawn’s being willfully obstinate.

As they dance around one another, Shawn is extremely fearful that if he gives in to his attraction to Raleigh, something awful will happen – that his mind will truly shatter. He’s trying to hold on to something that he can’t even define. He’s worried about his sister, who has a drug problem, and he’s trying to keep it together long enough to get her the help she needs.

Raleigh tries to be patient, but he’s terribly worried that Shawn is not even taking care of his own basic needs. He does his best to try to help without overstepping, but Shawn is proud and doesn’t want to accept his help. Shawn feels a constant pull towards Raleigh, but he’s convinced it will literally lead to his ruin. Shawn hasn’t had an easy moment in this life, and he really is just hanging on by a thread – a thread that could easily snap at any moment, with disastrous consequences for many.

The prose of this story is just lovely. The descriptions of time and place, the beauty of the love between the characters in various incarnations is exquisite. Shawn’s pain and Raleigh’s desperation are so well balanced. The secondary characters also contribute to the loneliness and beauty and sadness in this story. I honestly felt like this story was longer than one-hundred-forty-three pages, not because it dragged at all but because it felt like so much happened and so much of this love story played out over so many incarnations. Crossing from contemporary to historical and back again, this is very well done and recommended.






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3.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Kimberly Gardner, Loose Id, New Adult, Reviewed by Sadonna

Review: Straight from the Heart by Kimberly Gardner

Title: Straight from the Heart: Exception to the Rule 3

Author: Kimberly Gardner

Publisher: Loose Id

Pages/Word Count: 208 Pages

At a Glance: An engaging story of an athlete and a dancer who help each other out, and, on the way to being friends, become something more, with the predictable accompanying sturm und drang.

Reviewed By: Sadonna

Blurb: College student Kyle diStefano is having trouble paying his tuition. So when he hears about a job as team mascot with the accompanying full scholarship it seems like the perfect solution. Except he knows nothing about football. But why should that stop him?

Known as the Big Cock on Campus, Dave Masterson never lets his antics with the ladies interfere with his true love, playing NCAA football. But when his coach suggests the team do some off-season conditioning at the ballet barre, most of the guys scoff. Only Dave takes him seriously.

With Dave’s knowledge of football and Kyle’s knowledge of ballet, it seems each has exactly what the other needs, except they play for different teams. Or do they?

Kyle knows one sure path to heartbreak is falling for the straight jock who’s teaching him the rules of the game. Dave falling for another man is going to mean nothing but trouble. But neither man can seem to help himself.

When a public display of affection casts doubt on Dave’s NFL dream, he is forced to make a choice. Stay with the game plan or call an audible straight from the heart.

Dividers

Review: I enjoyed this fast read about Kyle, the ballet dancer, and Dave, the hunky quarterback. I was surprised to realize that I’ve only read one other story by this author, even though I apparently own several others – including the other stories in this series, which I haven’t read yet. This book can be read as a standalone, though, and I don’t feel like I missed anything by not reading the others first.

Kyle is a very fun character – so lively and snarky and brazen in some ways. His voice really keeps the story moving along. Dave is a little bit of a stereotypical jock at the beginning of our story. He really wants to take his game to the next level, and his coach tells him he needs to take Ballet. Kyle is trying out for the team mascot gig, which comes with a full scholarship that he is in need of since his financial aid has been cut. But, he doesn’t know anything about football. His roommate’s boyfriend suggests he ask Dave, and so Kyle barges in and does just that.

They reach a mutually beneficial arrangement, with Dave coming to the ballet studio where Kyle teaches. Dave then attempts to teach Kyle football, and practically flattens him while doing so. There are some bumps in the road, but they come to be friends, even though they are each struggling with the attraction simmering just below the surface. Kyle realizes how dangerous it is to fall for a straight guy, and Dave knows, as the BMOC, his college and possible professional football career would be in jeopardy.

There are some distractions in the way of Dave’s relationship with his on again/off again girlfriend, who is one of the cheerleaders, and also the backup quarterback, who would love to have a go at Kyle. Finally, after Dave has too much to drink at a party, an Kyle comes to the rescue, their friendship crosses a line. Neither of them are really ready for it, and afterwards, they spend some time apart.

Things come to a head again at a summer weekend party at the seashore, and Dave can’t seem to resist Kyle, who can’t seem to say no. The weekend teaches them both about who they really are, and Dave knows he wants Kyle more than he ever thought he would, but he’s also a little bit freaked out by what this might mean for his future.

Once the final season of Dave’s college career gets underway, and Kyle’s mascot duties take over, both guys focus on what needs to be done. But Dave is feeling really restless. He misses Kyle, and since his old roommate is Kyle’s roommate’s boyfriend, they hang out at Kyle’s sometimes. Dave doesn’t know exactly what it is he feels for Kyle, but he knows it’s not just friendship.

Then, when they attend a wedding together and a picture ends up on social media, the college coach and Dave’s family decide it’s time to do damage control. I have to say I didn’t like Dave’s father much in parts of the story, but he tried to be a standup guy as the story moved towards its conclusion.

Kyle is, of course, also unsettled about the media story – mostly because he knows he’s in for heartbreak and denial. Dave is put in the crosshairs, and he isn’t sure what to do about it. Luckily, he comes to his senses before it’s too late.

Overall I enjoyed this story, although I found parts of it rather unrealistic, and some of the characters pretty unlikable. I particularly loathed Dave’s father at one point in the story – especially the way he treated his other son. And the thing that probably annoyed me the most was that this author didn’t know how to spell Lynn Swann or Herschel Walker’s names. That made me pretty skeptical as to how well the story was going to be told. Luckily the focus was away from the football aspect and more on the relationship, which is probably a good thing. I’m thinking that I’ll go back and read the other stories in this series now to see what I missed.






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