Home the Hard Way, Z.A. Maxfield
Review from jeannie zelos book reviews
I love good romance – well good for me anyway 🙂 I need romance with a solid backstory, where the characters feel real, and have real experiences. Thats all here in this novel, two amazing leads, lots of genuine secondary charaters, a plot that so real in that bigotry and small town pettiness always exists, and the romance – the push/pull, the one step forwards and two back – that was fabulous. I like some tension too and the mystery here let that play out superbly.
I was drawn ionto the story quickly, poor Dare, left town as a teen after his father’s suicide, and now he’s back. Demoted after his mess-up at his last post in the city he’s been lucky to get this transfer. He needs to stay out of trouble to get his career back on track, and of course the local officers have a bit of a chip about him being there, normally one of them would have been promoted. So poor Dare is on a hiding before he’s even started. Then he tries to pick up his friendship with Finn. Finn is difficult to work out – first I thought he was a “victim” type character – he’s had some awful experiences at school and beyond after Dare left. He’s 5 years younger than Dare, and he was always Finn’s protector. Once he left it seems Finn was on every bullies hit list. Not only is he gay but he’s got a strange kind of beauty that seems to rub people up wrongly, and of course his mothers promiscuity doesn’t help, even though she’s long dead, drowned in a river when he was just a child. As I got to know him though I realised he had an inner strength, and an inner beauty that shows through. He’s got a way of looking at people and sizing them up, and he knows Dare needs help but isn’t yet in a postion to ask for it. He’s also still feeling off after Dare never continued contact when he left, never answered any of his letters or calls. Now it seems Dare thinks he can just waltz back in and Finns not having it.
It’s a small town story, full of gossip and innuendo, people who add two and two and come up with five, with secrets new and old being held. When Dare comes in and starts asking about his dad’s suicide he stirs up a hornets nest. His dad’s death never felt right to him, no note, nothing to suggest that was what he was going to do – once he starts looking however it stirs up a whirlwind, nothing of the past seems to be what is was, and there are mysteries in the present beginning with a death that may or may not be suspicious, and ending with danger and murders. As ever with a suspense I like to try to work out “who dunnit..” but I was totally off course. Of course I’d only the clues that came out as the book continued, but even when some big secrets were revealed I was still way off track!
Then there’s the romance side. That was really good. Dare isn’t sure about his sexuality – its always been a bit fluid, though mostly he’s been with women, but something in Finn brings back all the protectiveness he felt when they were kids. Finn isn’t that little boy anymore though, and he’s been through so much that changed him. Dare isn’t really in the profession that looks kindly on gays either…though even there people are hiding what they are it seems. I really enjoyed the back and forth between Finn and Dare. People do change and it was good that they didn’t just fall into each others arms, but had to learn about each other as adults and accept the changes. That’s where I felt Finn had changed so much, but then he’d been through some terrible life threatening experiences, and gained stength through the measures he took to cope. He too has a weakness though, he’s learned control works for him and he’s not willing to go back and be the one being protected. Dare and Finn have a long way to go before they can be happy.
I loved this book, its got depth and understanding of human nature. I felt for poor Finn and really admired hm as an adult. He could have just given in, but he matured into an adult with a special kind of strenth without losing his loving caring nature. His aunt, Lyddie, who he lived with and was caring for in the last stages of her cancer, was a really good character, very wise, very all seeing and loved him deeply. I loved the sound of the mask he was making for her! I love glitter and glitz, and I’d enjoy knowing a real life Lyddie. Dare turned out to be so different to my first perception of him, as did a couple of other characters. There’s a minor BDSM side to the story too, and it’s explained very clearly and makes sense. Sometimes that’s just thrown in casually, and doesn’t fit the story but the author feels all romances have to have it added for titillation… but here its just perfect and adds an extra dimension to the characters. The sensuality ios good too, not overloaded on sex but little scens that are slipped in when appropriate and add to the understanding we have of the characters. When it is there its very sensual and seductive.
Stars: Full five! This is one of those stories that feels as it you know the characters, and getting to understand them better gives a feeling that the surface face they present inst the real one, and there are many, many people like that. It’s a great read, I really was gripped by the whole thing, plot, characters and concept.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Riptide
Sugar on the Edge, Sawyer Bennet.
Review from jeannie zelos book reviews.
I’m become a real Sawyer Bennet fan, this my third novel of hers now and once again I loved it. For me it has the perfect blend of romance and drama, sex and story. It’s the third in a series, but a stand alone and I can vouch for that as I’ve not read the first two ( though I will, some time…)
Gavin as the British author trying to work through a tragic past and finish his novel was perfect. A real jerk to Savannah at first, and uncouth and unrepentant in his drunken state. That was more or less full time, he was using alcohol to keep the past at bay, and cover his emotions. He’d bought an expensive house in a small town where his agent hoped the seclusion and change of scene would help him concentrate. So far though it wasn’t working…then Savannah comes into his life. She’s a photographer, but working only part time as an assistant to a real sleazeball man, and cleaning two other houses besides Gavin’s just to make ends meet. She’s exhausted and he mistakes that for her being a pushover, no back bone. He’s lots to learn though – she’s stood up publicly to one arrogant arse and isn’t going to take stick from another! Savannah is a lovely girl, and been through her own trauma in the past. she’s made a new start here, and has made some great friends. She’s very attracted to Gavin – well who wouldn’t be he’s hotness all round. Underneath the abrasive rudeness he’s actually a nice guy too, and soon he and Savannah are lovers. What’s going to happen when he returns to England though – his term here is only to finish the book, do some tours and then he leaves.
I saw some of the drama coming, but never the less it worked well, and the sadness was played out, drawn into pages and pages as I need, not just over and done quickly. I need the drama this provides, I need to feel the emotion and tears, otherwise it becomes just another bland romance and Sawyer has done this for me in each book I’ve read so far! The sex scenes are good too – hot and sensual without being overdone, and they mix perfectly with a good, realistic story.
One crit though and its the UK/US language divide again…early on Gavin says something – I think its a comment on sidewalks but we’d say pavements. I can’t quite recall that part, though I noticed it at the time, then later when he’s talking to Brody, he says he’s got a glass of liquor to finish..We don’t say that but specify, in this case it would be a glass of whisky…small things though and comments only not criticisms.
Stars: Five, great read. Fun sexy romance.
ARC supplied via netgalley and publishers.