2.5 Stars, Genre Romance, Niko McQueen, Reviewed by Lisa, Self-Published

Review: Deranged by Niko McQueen

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Deranged (Ivy Hollow Chronicles: Book One)

Author: Niko McQueen

Publisher: Self-Published

Pages/Word Count: 126 Pages

At a Glance: Deranged needed a bit more storyline for me to buy into its romance.

Reviewed By: Lisa

Blurb: Adam Rossmore is a rich party boy who doesn’t answer to anyone. He’s played the orphan card for too long and it’s gotten him out of every DUI, arrest, and fine.

Until now.

When a judge slaps him with community service at the insane asylum, Ivy Hollow, Adam thinks it’s all a joke. Until the doors lock and he starts meeting the residents.

Christian Hale has lived at Ivy Hollow his entire life. He seeks solace in his music—and whatever orderly happens to be nearby.

When Adam hears Christian play the piano for the first time, the music draws him deep into Christian’s web and he must fight an arousal that is both confusing and exciting.

Dividers

Review: Sometimes a blurb makes a book irresistible, and I was totally hooked by the premise of Niko McQueen’s Deranged. The idea of music and one man’s affliction coalescing into a love story is one you don’t run across often, and I wanted to see what the author did with it.

Christian Hale’s mental breakdown isn’t spelled out to the letter when the story begins, but we do get just enough innuendo to know what’s happened to cause it. The scene was written in a way that vaguely reminded me of the movie Shine and David Helfgott’s psychological collapse during the Rachmaninoff solo—an intense and slow motion wreckage of a man’s mind caught in the grasp of his music. Christian’s psyche shatters while playing the piano, but the story then fast-forwards without offering any more information about the schism, so we can only assume that his suffering at the hands of someone he thought he could trust has lead to the PTSD-like episodes we’re told about later.

Adam Rossmore is a musician in a band, though details about that are sketchy at best. We do know that he’s an arrogant party boy womanizer, though, and in spite of him thinking he’s above the law, he’s finally used up all of his get out of jail free cards when he’s busted for DWI, so one bender too many offers him two choices—community service at Ivy Hollow, or prison time. Adam is advised by his attorney/uncle to choose what should be the lesser of those two evils, and, of course, Adam isn’t happy about either, but Ivy Hollow gets one-hundred-fifty hours of his service. This is the basis for the setup of the story’s romance, and I have to say I had a difficult time buying into the idea of what boiled down to live-in community service as a means of plopping Adam into Christian’s orbit. I’m no expert on community service, though, so maybe it is a thing.

And now, here’s where I get to be nitpicky and difficult. Not only that, but I also get to start by saying that I really wanted to love this story so much more than I did. In the end, Deranged didn’t work for me because it left too much plot and character development on the drawing board, which, for me, left the story hobbled and the romance not terribly credible. I can buy into the insta-love romantic trope, but I need something to make it believable, and there just wasn’t enough narrative in this story for me to do anything but try and fill in the blanks of an already difficult relationship to grasp hold of. I can’t go into much detail without giving up spoilers, but suffice it to say that the plot didn’t allow its characters to evolve in a way that made their relationship convincing. A common love of music is great, and would have been a fantastic foundation to build something on, but the attraction starts out with lust and ends with sex, with no real exposition of why we should believe these characters belong together long-term, and, all told, that wasn’t enough for me to root for them.

In addition to the insta-love theme, Adam is also straight, so this is a gay/bi/out-for-you story as well, an idea that, when done well, is one of my favorites in the genre because it supports one of the more romantic tropes—that labels can mean squat. But again, going back to the insta-love the story leaned on, I didn’t see much from Adam to make me believe he’s got any feels for Christian that go anywhere beyond lust and curiosity. We get a lot of inner monologue and self-directed incredulity that he’s hot for Christian, but that’s angst not character construct, and there were too many important details missing for me believe that Adam had fallen in love with another man. Add to that a conveniently timed and somewhat coincidental side-story that introduces Christian’s “real” one true love, a guy who appears and then disappears again within the space of a mere few pages (there are several other characters who are introduced then do little more than serve as set dressing as well), and all it really does is give Adam the chance to show his jealous and possessive streak.

Overall, this novella all went rather sideways for me. What I was left with at the end of Deranged is the impression that sex was the magical cure-all for Adam’s straightness, and that Christian was in no way healthy enough to be the guy Adam should be hanging his future happily-ever-after on. His mental instability, whatever it is, and the cause of it, is sort of brushed off as a non-factor, which was too bad because I think it could have been a really compelling part of the storyline.

As much as I loved the idea of this novella, and in spite of there being some sexy moments, Deranged left me wanting.

TNA_Signature_Lisa

 

 

 

 

You can buy Deranged here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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5 Stars, Damon Suede, Dreamspinner Press, Genre Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Action Thriller, Reviewed by Lynn

Release Day Review: Pent Up by Damon Suede

Amazon

Amazon

Title: Pent Up

Author: Damon Suede

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 290 Pages

At a GlanceI enjoyed the little twists and turns the story gave me. And the great reveal…well, I didn’t even see it coming. I loved it.

Reviewed By: Lynn

Blurb: PENT UP: Mix business with pleasure and take cover.

Ruben Oso moves to Manhattan to start his life over as a low-rent bodyguard and stumbles into a gig in a swanky Park Avenue penthouse. What begins as executive protection turns personal working for a debonair zillionaire who makes Ruben question everything about himself.

Watching over financial hotshot Andy Bauer puts Ruben in an impossible position. He knows zero about shady trading and his cocky boss lives barricaded in a glass tower with wall-to-wall secrets and hot-and-cold-running paranoia. Can the danger be real? Is Andy for real?

What’s a bullet catcher to do? Ruben knows his emotions are out of control even as he races to untangle a high-priced conspiracy and his crazy feelings before somebody gets dead. If his suspicions are right, Andy will pay a price neither can afford, and Ruben may discover there’s no way to guard a heart.

Dividers

Review: I literally threw myself at this book when I saw it up for review. Why? Well, it’s Damon Suede, duh. Having read everything by him, I was quite intrigued by the blurb and couldn’t wait to get reading. This story has a little something for everyone: action, mystery, a budding romance, and lots of soul searching. I loved it.

When we first meet Reuben, he’s down on his luck. A recovering alcoholic who’s recently divorced, he’s moved from Miami to live and work with his younger brother in New York City. Totally out of his element and having not quite come to grips with all that has happened, he finds himself taking a job as a bodyguard for uber rich Andrew Baur. Let the fun begin.

Even after reading this book and mulling over it for a few days, I’m not real sure how I feel about Reuben. My first impression was to feel sorry for him. Being in a new city, leaving all he knows behind, getting over his divorce, and on top of all that, trying to stay sober. That’s a lot for one person to handle. As the story progressed, I could see that Reuben can definitely hold his own. He’s not one to back down from anything. I loved being in his head as he questions what the hell is going on with Andy. I especially loved seeing him wonder why he’s fantasizing about Andy too. He’s straight for god’s sake, what is wrong with him?

Andy was even harder to figure out because we weren’t in his head; we can only go by his actions and Reuben’s impressions. To me, he came across as a spoiled brat who gets want he wants, no matter the cost. He’s got the money. He’s slippery, secretive and definitely hiding something. For most of the story I wasn’t impressed with him at all. As we get a little deeper into his situation, though, I felt he redeemed himself a little. Not to make me like him more, but I think I understood him a little better. And besides, Reuben has to live with him, I don’t.

I really liked the mystery aspect here. It wasn’t front and center, but was always lurking in the background. The further we get into the story the more layers are peeled away. With confessions, revelations, and a little snooping, it all comes to an action filled climax. I enjoyed the little twists and turns the story gave me. And the great reveal…well, I didn’t even see it coming. I loved it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would definitely call Pent Up a GFY story. I loved going on the journey with Reuben as he comes to realize that, yes, he is attracted to a man. His struggle to keep sober was real and, at times, heartbreaking. I really liked seeing two men at total opposite ends of the spectrum getting together and literally saving each other. It may be cliché, but it worked.

On a final note, my new favorite saying is “cock snot”. Thank you Damon.

TNA_Signature_Lynn

 

 

 

 

You can buy Pent Up here:

Amazon US

Amazon US

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All Romance Ebooks, Max Vos, Self-Published

Max Vos’s “My Hero” Is A Friends To Lovers Romance



“[Heroes] rarely turn into heroes because they are super-humans, but because of circumstances. Heroes rarely think. Heroes just act.” – Aleksandr Voinov



BLURB: When he was sixteen years old, Rich Miller saved a young man from drowning at his local pool. Little did he know that years later, as a senior in college and Olympic diving hopeful, Rich would meet up once again with Johnny Milloway, now a big football player – and when Rich says big, he really means ‘bear’. The shy jock remembers his savior, and the two men become friends.

Johnny isn’t put off by the fact that Rich is gay. In fact, the more time he spends with Rich, the more curious he becomes. Johnny wants to know all kinds of things – what it’s like to kiss a guy, for instance. Only it doesn’t stop there…

Rich finds it difficult to believe that this relationship can go anywhere. Johnny is straight, and Rich isn’t prepared to deal with the heartache he knows will come his way in the future. He has enough on his plate as it is – the Worlds are just around the corner, his father would rather watch a football game than spend time watching his son dive… What he doesn’t count on is Johnny, who can be very determined. And having Johnny in his life proves to be a catalyst for some pretty earth-shattering changes.
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Draven St. James, Loose Id

“Grey’s Hidden Fire” Isn’t So Hidden Anymore

“Is it possible not to ever know your type—not to even know you have a type—until quite suddenly you do?” ― Jennifer E. Smith “The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight”



Greyson Hayes and Mica Cruz are the hot and hunky firefighters who star in Draven St. James’ Grey’s Hidden Fire, a sweet and sexy and lightly angsty story about a couple of men learning what it means to be brothers-in-arms and insanely in lust with each other at the same time.

Mica is the new guy in the firehouse, but the rumors of his sexuality had already preceded him, spurred on by the station’s resident homophobe and all-around git. Mica doesn’t look gay, Mica doesn’t act gay, but he’s been labeled regardless, though it appears Jeffries, the git in question, is the only one of the guys who really cares. The moment Mica and Grey meet, their attraction to each other is a bit like gas thrown on an open flame. The feelings are combustible, mutual, and entirely confusing to the very straight Grey, who may not be so very straight after all.

One clumsy and catastrophic experiment when he was a teenager ended Grey’s belief he could be attracted to guys, and he’s dated women only ever since. It’s been pretty simple for him, all things considered, since he’s never been sexually attracted to another man. Until, that is, Mica shows up and Grey discovers that Mica will cause him to break all the rules and change who he’s always believed himself to be.

The term Gay-For-You is apparently rather fifteen minutes ago. Are we calling it Out-For-You now? Whatever name we’re giving it these days, Grey’s Hidden Fire is that. It’s the story of a man who didn’t know he could fall in love with another man until the perfect guy came along and made him face that truth.

There’s only a wee bit of angst in this one, and a side story involving a hate crime that was perpetrated and solved fairly quickly. This is a novella best read with the right expectations going into it: a bit of insta-love, a couple of loveable MCs, some unconditionally accepting friends, and even a few who may know a little more about Grey and Mica’s feelings for each other—from firsthand experience.

If you’re looking for a quick and steamy late-summer read, this one might be just what you’re looking for.

Reviewed by: Lisa

You can buy Grey’s Hidden Fire here:

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