Archive | GLBT RSS for this section

Aqua Follies, Liv Rancourt

Aqua Follies,  Liv Rancourt

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story, a great read, bringing in a very real feel of life in the fifties.
I was born at the very tail end of the fifties, but from my parents conversations about what they’d done this tale felt perfectly suited to the era.
Even in the sixties there was an emphasis on going out for entertainment. TV was limited, we didn’t have one like many families until i was maybe 9 or 10, and even then it was limited- no 24 hr TV, only two channels, definitely no daytime TV so we had to do things, not sit indoors. Carnivals, festivals etc all took place in the tiniest of villages even, with everyone turning out for what was a break from the usual work, home, sleep routine. As kids we were involved too so a festival like Aqua Follies which wouldn’t get off the ground now would have been high profile for many people. Liv does a terrific job or bringing that era to light.

Of course that makes it all sound like utopia, sunbeams and rainbows when it was anything but. Some of us lurked outside events, lacking the entry fee, trying to soak up a bit of atmosphere from the distance. There wasn’t parental leave, childcare etc in jobs so we were bundled off to others or left to roam when parents were working. It was work or starve, pay the rent or out, and Human Rights Act was a far off dream…
Life was tough if you were ordinary, toed the line, conformed, but if you dared to want a same sex relationship – woe is you….Still illegal back then. ( I’m not really sure when that changed, need to have a look at that) It was awful and guys like Russel didn’t even want to admit to themsleves they liked other men.
Its so sad, that pressure to conform, to stay safe and legal led to many marrying when there was no way they’d be fully happy. Russel certainly wouldn’t be and poor Susie, having a husband that doesn’t really love her. Sooner or later she’d realise that, and that’s what happened to so many couples, marrying to hide they really wanted a same sex relationship, but brought up to think it was perverted, against the Church, and risking prison if caught.
We’re a weird, judgmental group us humans.

I loved Russel and Skip. Skip’s sure in his desires for men, has found a group and places where he’s reasonably safe, but of course the police were given a pretty free rein then and he’s got one that keeps a close eye on him, never missing a chance to nip, berate, harass him.
Police brutality and harassment wasn’t recognised then so Skip had to just try to keep out of his way.
I loved Skip’s mum, in a sanitorium with TB, as happened to many then. The Fresh Air stance is very true, there was one near where I live and the huts were left open on one side all year round believing that it helped the lungs. Must have been pretty cold in winter!
When Skip is worried about being convicted, even if its a fine and caution he rightly says he’ll find it hard to get work. Who wants someone with a sex caution teaching music to their kids, joining their orchestra, working in their firm and of course without income he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, even if he could get a landlord to rent to someone with that on their record.
The world was a different place then, though some things seem good, there were things like this that made it a hard place for so many.

Russel, he sort of thinks he’s happy with Susie, there’s no grand passion but he has nothing to contrast with how he feels so he think that’s normal.
He knows his mum has been withdrawn after his brother died in Service, and he thinks it will make her happy if he gets married,so he’s planning to ask Susie to marry him – til he sees Skip. One look and he’s hooked, one word and he knows what he has with Susie isn’t Love.

What happens now though? What will they do, can they do living so far apart, when men cannot live openly with, be in a relationship with other men.
Is there a way through or are they a doomed, never to be together couple. And can he settle for Susie if that’s so?

Reading through the blurb I saw this was edited by KJ Charles, one of my favourite M/M authors – actually The favourite, she’s my number one for that genre, and it made me wonder if she had much influence over this book.
At the end reading through Liv’s explanations of how this book came to be she’s had the input of many people and it reminded me of the “it takes a village to raise a child” phrase. Maybe it takes a Team to raise a successful book.
Certainly its worked well this time, and its a great author who listens to critics, and shapes the story while still keeping it essentially the one they had in mind. You can please some readers some of the time and all that….

Stars: five, an enjoyable read, taking me back to a time when homosexuality was still illegal, still seen as perverted.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

Summer Stock, Vanessa North

Summer Stock,  Vanessa North

Summer Stock by [North, Vanessa]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve loved several of Vanessa’s stories now so looked forward to this. It was a good read, but for me not a great one. Somehow I just wasn’t as glued to my kindle, transfixed by the tale as I have been with her other reads.

Its a fun read, has a real feeling of Summer, and here in the UK seaside towns like the ones I have either side of the village where I live have Summer theatres just like the one in this book so that felt very real to me.

I liked both Trey and Ryan but didn’t really get a great sense of them as people. Usually I have a kind of mental image, not so much a visual one, but of what kind of people they are and for whatever reason this time I didn’t.
I understood Ryan’s need for a bit of anonymity, but I’m not sure it was going to happen in a public theatre.
I really felt for Trey and what he’d been through, abuse can and does happen in all walks of live and the way he was picking himself back up but sometimes had problems and flashbacks, the way he was with the counsellor and the solutions they spoke about gave a sense of reality to the situation. I’m lucky, never been in that place but so many have and its good to see it treated sensitively and sensibly. Its not something one can shake off overnight or with a few sessions of counselling.
They were terrific characters as individuals, i just wasn’t so convinced by them as a couple.

I loved seeing the other characters here too, Mason and Caroline, theatre owners, the rest of the cast, Trey’s sister and her husband. They’re a good tight knit group, as happens in this kind of situation. Trey’s dog, Ferdinand, was a star too!!

Stars: Three, a good story, great characters but the romance didn’t quite cut it for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Faking It, Christine d’Abo

Faking It, Christine d’Abo

Faking It (Ringside Romance Book 2) by [d'Abo, Christine]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I really enjoyed book one in this series, which was also a first read of Christine’s books. Book two is Max and Grady, Max being involved in Ringside as well as owning a busy nightclub.
I loved that we met Zack and Nolan from book one again too.
Grady kind of stumbles into Max life, escaping from his bullying father, his unwanted fame and now he discovers he’s not escaped.
Dad’s taking advantage of the Gay side of him, hoping to cash in on the Liberalist views, marry Grady off to the son of a wealthy connection and bring even more profit to his investments.
Poor little rich boy….and yet Grady’s likable, we can see that underneath his seeming to despise his father he really just wants his approval. But that’s not been forthcoming for a long while, and Grady isn’t prepared to marry a stranger just to get it.
Max seems like an honest guy, he didn’t try to rip him off when he had the chance, didn’t snap photos or tell stories to the press, and he wonders – would he pretend to be engaged if they agree a suitable recompense? It would only need to be for a few weeks.
Max’s first thought is no, he feels sorry for Grady, is of course strongly attracted and knows that’s reciprocated but no, just no, he can’t do it. Well, until something happens to change his mind on the spur of the moment.

Its a fun story, I liked Grady and Max, loved seeing updates on Zack and Nolan but overall it was a bit ..slow. There was lots going on but it was all very subdued, understated and when it came to the wrap up, I just couldn’t really see it happening that way. It was such a complete turnaround that it didn’t feel real, and that’s a kicker for me, situations need to feel that they could happen. This time I didn’t see how it could roll out that way.
Its still a good read, a well written story with the good sex v story balance that book one had for me. I hate when sex overtakes the story, for me that just doesn’t work, but this read had it just right.

Of course the lack of drama and the ending that didn’t work for me will be perfect for others. Such is life so make your own judgement, if you liked soft and understated romance this could be just right for you. I love drama and an element of realism, and that lack was what brought it down for me.

Stars:Three, a good story but I felt for me it needed more drama and a bit more realism in the ending.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Beneath a Burning Sky, Jenny Ashcroft. Cask Strength, (Agents Irish and Whiskey), Layla Reyne

Beneath a Burning Sky, Jenny Ashcroft

Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Genre:   Historical Fiction

This read reminded me very much of Dinah Jeffries – Before the Rains, a story I really enjoyed. Jenny writes the same vivid scenes of life in the past, in a searingly hot country, at the time of the British Empire.
Its an era when many of the men posted there from Britain saw themselves as of major importance, thought they were like little kings. So many treated the natives as simply lesser, disposable almost, and every time I read things like this I marvel at the arrogance that allowed this to happen.
But it did, its not fiction, things that happen in these stories really could have occurred then, events played out like this.

I so felt for Olivia, she’s had an awful childhood and now forced into marriage to a cruel and vindictive man. She doesn’t expect to fall in love with Edward, doesn’t expect to get embroiled in a dangerous mystery, a search for her abducted sister that has deep roots and from which the ripples flow out involving more and more people and putting her life in real danger.

Its a fabulous read, I could feel her despair, feel her anger, and the tenderness that grew between her and Edward – oh, I so wanted them to find a way to be together , they were just perfect for each other.

I thought I’d worked out a bit of what happened but it was far more involved and complex, and there’s no way I could have worked it all out. I did find the large cast of characters meant i had to keep checking back on exactly where each fitted in, and how they were placed in relation to others.
There were some parts where the mystery got so complex, involved so many characters, that I had to stop and work it all out. That spoiled the flow a bit but I can’t see any other way of writing it without dumbing it down, and I’d rather take time to recoup that that. So many books seem to be written for simplicity and speed reading 😦  so its a treat to get more convoluted ones that tax the brain, make me work for the story!

Stars: Four, a solid story, beautiful romance and a real feeling of history.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Cask Strength,  Layla Reyne

Cask Strength (Agents Irish and Whiskey) by [Reyne, Layla]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

Well wow – I loved book one, and this second part was another fast moving, sensual read. There’s a couple of things that bothered me, I’ll get them out first, they didn’t affect how I feel about the book overall but need a mention.
Acronyms…Gah, I hate these and yet all books seem to be full of them. I’m not sure there’s a way round them, can’t write everything about each into a book or it’d get too unwiedly and dull, but mabye a glossary?
As a UK reader I’m not familiar with US legal systems and what the various alphabet agencies actually are, who does what, which takes precedence etc. and then dammit more acronyms crop up in the sports part of this book too.  Baseball/basketball/ice hockey all make up a huge part of US romance reads, and seemed to be filled with abbreviations that I’m unfamiliar with and don’t know what they mean.
Its bad enough trying to work out the plots, who’s who in the police dept, how the US college/uni system works, drafts, boosters and then for this read, betting systems. There are so many characters here its not easy to keep track. When everyone and every organisation ( or so it seems) are described with a mix of letters denoting who and what they are and do I tend to get just a wee bit confused 😉 Thankfully the paperwhite look up dictionary function can explain a lot!
Still, none of that stopped me loving this story, I could kind of guess many of them and got enough context to work most of it out. The storyline is strong enough to carry a few confusions without spoiling 😉

Aiden, he made me so angry last time, I understood very well his grief, but dating others, determined to keep Jamie as casual when the tension between them just sizzles off the page, when he’s furious when anyone else looks Jamie’s way. C’mon man, just give in!
Then there’s Jamie and boy, he is one hot man. I love his intellect, his passion, both for his job, for IT and for sport, and we get a good dose of all here. He’s so good at what he does, yet manages to be sort of self effacing so he doesn’t come over as a braggart, except in times of humour.
Its clear he’s head over heels for Aiden, and very hurt by being kept at arms length. He’s been through a bad breakup before, and yet he’s willing to try again. Now he and Aiden are back in his old stomping ground, back in the sport he loves, and there’s a surprise for both of them when an old ex turns up.

There’s a lot of technical stuff here which went over my head for the most part… but which I understood enough to get the essence of what was going on and why.
The plot from book one that was running through as a secondary carries on here, and dammit – that ending! Just when I thought it was safe to stop reading Layla drops in a couple of lines which have me all upside down in my thinking once more.

Terrific storylines, great characters, serious heat (oops, typo spelt out head there at first, real Freudian slip that one!!)  – its a story to love!

Stars: Five, a great suspense, and sensual romance. roll on book three.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Back Piece, L.A. Witt. Too Hard to Forget, Tessa Bailey. Making Waves, A Beach Lane Novel, Laura Moore

Back Piece, L.A. Witt

Back Piece (Skin Deep Inc.) by [Witt, L.A.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

Bit of a shock for me this one. L.A.Witt is one of my favourite m/m authors but I really struggled to finish this book. That came as a huge surprise!

The characters are good, the settings feel real, and the issues both of them have are more common that we think, and yet taken as a whole the book just didn’t work for me. It just didn’t seem to gel together into a tale that kept me reading.

Colin has issues, but they began to bog him down in the story, and we heard about them so much I was losing sympathy for him. That’s unfair I know, but too much of something like that just drags the readers spirit down and that’s how I felt.
I wanted to say to him, you’ve got all these loyal friends and family helping you, why are you doing this to yourself, and writing off the relationship before it gets a chance? And that was pretty unfair to him, but its human nature that we can only sympathise so much.
We’ve all got friends who have issues but tend to wallow in them, acting as if they’re the only one with problems, and that was how Colin began to feel for me, like the friend who when you see them coming your heart sinks a bit….

Same with Daniel, I get his awful homophobic upbringing, that’s too real for many but he’s not a kid anymore, he’s 25 now, and these’s a time when by not saying anything you’re tacitly letting people think their views are OK with you, that you agree. Its tough when its your parents, but was he going to spend all his life hiding, afraid of the fallout?
Gosh I sound horribly callous and I don’t mean to, I value family very much, but when they’re this blinkered they aren’t the wonderful family he’s telling himself.
So bits of the story worked, I loved the tale behind the tattoo for example, but as a whole for me this one just didn’t cut it, took me several attempts to finish and in the end i was just “Arrgh, I just want to be done with this story” and like I said that is So So unusual for me with a L.A.Witt read 😦

Won’t put me off of course, its inevitable that not all stories suit all readers, even when past ones from that author have done. It could be just this series doesn’t work for me, could be I love the rest in the series and its just this book. Who knows?

Stars: Two, an uncommon occurrence, an L.A.Witt read I struggled with.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Too Hard to Forget,  Tessa Bailey

Too Hard to Forget (Romancing the Clarksons Book 3) by [Bailey, Tessa]

Genre:  Romance,

I’ve loved some of Tessa’s books and thought this sounded perfect. My bad though, I knew it was third in a series and thought they were that stand alone but connected by characters and events sort, where they can be read individually. This one though is too interconnected, there’s too much the reader really needs to know about what happened in other books to enjoy properly without having read them.
My fault, I made an assumption and should have looked further.

Peggy, I just didn’t really understand her. Pining over Elliot OK, I understood that, but to have been engaged four times in three years?? That’s pretty harsh on those guys, and makes me think of her as shallow and uncaring of their feelings, rather than someone so in love or hankering for someone from her past.
She’s fun, bright and breezy but almost too much so, she feels quite shallow. Even when she does intervene, as with Alice, she gets the right result but by default, not intention. I just didn’t really understand her, but wanted to.

Elliot, if ever a guy to the cake for Mr Grumpy its him. He’s sour, rude, selfish (after all he was the adult and she a pupil/student even though she was 22), and seems to blame her for his feelings.
There’s certainly incredible lust between them still, sensuality that sears, but for me that didn’t really translate to any deeper feelings. I couldn’t see what connection other than lust they could have, they were really total opposites.
I didn’t like either how he was so happy to leave his 12 year old daughter home alone all the while. She’s a kid, you’re her dad, act like it.
As for his religious feelings, and the praying, rosary caressing, well he just didn’t feel that kind of guy, that just felt plain strange, odd.
Wouldn’t most 22/25 years olds get weirded out by a guy who starts praying aloud when having sex?

Which brings me to background, and the fact that maybe if I’d read the first two books I’d understand much more of this one, and that what feels weird to me would have a proper explanation that made it fit better. Don’t know, but after some of the great reads I’ve enjoyed of hers this one was a fail 😦 Sorry.

Stars: Two, perfectly well written but I really need to read books one and two first to understand the characters.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Making Waves, A Beach Lane Novel,  Laura Moore

Making Waves: A Beach Lane Novel by [Moore, Laura]

Genre:  romance,

I’ve enjoyed a couple of Laura’s novels but this one is by far the best, its hard to say why exactly but it’s just one of those that pulled me in quickly and kept me absorbed to the end.

I love Dakota, she’s had a horrible background, one of those where she’s tolerated -just- by her mother’s family, and really treated as if she should be grateful for every scrap of attention.
They’ve always let her know she’s not quite good enough, illegitimate, doesn’t know her father and a blot on the family name. You’d think her mother Piper would carry the blame but its not that way.
She’s grown up very self reliant, made her own way in life and set up her concierge company, building on what she knows, how to sooth and cater for every whim of the rich and pretentious that live/holiday in the Hamptons. She’s made some good friends there too, not all the rich are shallow and spoiled, and she values those who see her for what she is, and not just as the outcast Hale.

Max, what a man. Loved him, and the tension between them, the sizzle just burned off the page from their first meeting.
Dakota doesn’t get involved with clients though and tells him that. He’s not used to hearing no, and Dakota is someone he just can’t seem to let go. Usually he’d just move on, never short of someone to fall at his feet, well his wallet too…
I loved the way he carefully kept pursuing Dakota, knowing she really wanted him as much as he wanted her. Clever to use her love of surfing to spend time with her, and from there they moved into – well, hot and sensual sex but a bit more too.
Dakota wants a family of her own eventually, she knows Max isn’t interested in that, but still can’t seem to let go, telling herself its just a casual relationship with an expiry date at some point.
Max too finds he’s breaking his usual roles, letting her into his life, when usually the rules are clear, it’s a fling, casual, fine while its on and when times up he’s off.

Then there’s a hiccup, brought on by Dakota’s love of family and traditions and his steering away from anything resembling that – and that was a very emotional part, I so felt for Dakota, just trying to be nice.
They’re off, and though the parting seems OK they are both sad, regretful, but don’t know what else they can do. They want different things in life and that’s all there is to it. Oil and water don’t mix.

There’s more though, something happens that brings them together again, puts them right in the forefront of Society gossip, threatening Dakota’s hard won business and Max’s work position.
It doesn’t stop there, even more comes out, secrets on both sides that really pull at the heart, and things that could threaten the current fragile relationship between them. Its easy to see how their delicate new connection could easily get derailed.

Dakota had some great friends and I loved seeing them. They really valued her, saw her as a person, and got so angry at how Piper and Mimi treated her. There’s that saying about friends being people who’d help you hide a body, and Dakota’s would just say where is it, and come armed with a shovel. ( and probably champagne if it was Piper or Mimi!!)
I’m hoping that one of those friends, Lauren, is in for a book of her own, she’s got a very sad past, and deserves a shot at happiness for herself and her two children.
It would be great to stay with this group of characters and see more of how their lives develop.

I love the not so nice people too in a story, they add that sharp edge a good romance needs for me, the balance to the happy side.
Dakota’s mother, Piper was a classic rich b itch, brought up to assume the world revolves around her and her wants. She treats Dakota as though she should be grateful to have her as a parent, when in fact she’s a hopeless mother, no maternal instincts, and takes every opportunity to belittle her.
Throw in a bitter aunt who resents the success she’s made of her life, and an uncle who we don’t actually meet but know he regards her as a nonentity and its no wonder she’s learned to rely on herself, work her own way in the world. She could have been a horrible person – and yet she’s wonderful, a great friend, kind to those who need help, hard working and ethical.

I was so happy at the ending, and loved the drama that came up on the way to it. I would have liked those parts to be drawn out a teeny- teeny bit longer – but that’s just me, I like people to really hit rock bottom,love to wallow in the sad bits and that would have just been glitter on the icing of a fantastic cake.

Stars: Five, a fabulous read, full of emotion and drama.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

How to Bang a Billionaire, Alexis Hall and Wake Up Call, JL Merrow

How to Bang a Billionaire,  Alexis Hall
 
How to Bang a Billionaire (Arden St. Ives Book 1) by [Hall, Alexis]

Genre: Romance,

I’ve enjoyed several of Alexis’ reads now, he delivers a solid storyline with a side of romance that I can believe in, that has the edge on so many romance reads by making the stories fresh and unusual, the characters just that bit different.
On the face of it Arden and Caspian are unlikely lovers, total opposites and yet together they work. Not without some serious issues though 😉 Well, who wants a love story that runs smoothly, boring.
I was a little underwhelmed by the ending, it seemed for so long they were struggling, and then in the last few chapters there’s a glimmer of hope for the future, but it felt very HFN rather than HEA and I was just disappointed. I wanted more. As it was I would have rated four stars, I just needed more conclusion.
And then I came to write my review, looked on Goodreads to see what else I’d enjoyed from Alexis and found – hurrah – this ISN’T the end, there’s more – two books more, in Arden St. Ives 2 and 3, due out later this year.
That changes everything, I understand now why there wasn’t that happy ever after, why it felt inconclusive and of course I can rate as a part story, not as a complete one, and that’s the magic five because I loved it, and am looking forward to seeing where life and love takes these two next.

So what did I love? Arden, wonderful, glorious Arden.
I adore characters like him, he’s small, slight, prone to dressing in a unique style – I want his T shorts, and his velvet jacket. I love fabrics, love the feel of velvets, satin, lace, a bit of glitter and sparkle and t-shirts that stand out from the mundane. My daughter reckons I’ve never grown out of my teen glam rock style of the seventies…. Why should only ladies get to love things like that?
Arden felt like a guy friend, a person I could know, I understood his Klutziness (oops, just wrote Clitziness…nope he’s definitely not that!) He’s very confident in who he is though, not hiding his attraction to men as so many people still feel they have to, and that’s good to read. Tough still in real life though, sadly there’s still too much bigotry and judgement, and too many hiding who they are.
He’s a good student, must have worked very hard to get to Oxford given his background and the struggles he and his mum have had. They’re very close, yet she’s clearly encouraged him to stretch himself, be ambitious. Trouble is like many students he’s not sure what comes next. Put everything into finals and now its almost over, he’s uncertain what to do.
In keeping with his general pleasant and helpful personality he’s manning a phone line one evening, his friend who should be doing it is sick and Arden been roped in. He’s calling old Alumni, reading from the crib script, trying to persuade them to donate to the university, and inviting them to the annual dinner for old and current students and staff. He’s not having much luck so far, and then he calls up Caspian Hart.
Delighted that someone doesn’t hang up once he’s delivered his opening spiel he’s thrown off course, forgets what he’s asking, fumbles and rambles.
Oh yes, that’s me on the phone, I hate it. Like Arden just here, my mind switches off the minute someone answers, so I understood exactly how he could go from an intelligent student to rambling motor-mouth in a passing sentence!
Caspian isn’t used to that, and …he’s quietly intrigued. The rich and powerful like him get told what people think they want to hear, not the truth. No one is ever as open as Arden. They chat a little, Arden delivers his spiel and the invitation and that’s it. So he thinks. And then the dinner evening arrives and brings Caspian. Neither are quite what the other expected, they are so totally opposite and yet the attraction between them leaps off the page.

Its an off, on, off sort of affair. It starts that evening in an unusual way, and ends abruptly. Then Arden discovers the Arden St Ives Scholarship and is furious, embarrassed, insulted, upset. Who wouldn’t be? And in what world did Caspian live that he thought this would be a good thing? Arden steams up to London, determined to have it out. Oh, that part was wonderful; fiery, small, Arden in one of his unique t-shirts, hair awry, velvet jacket with holes, frayed rainbow bracelets, storming into a hallowed bastion of prestige and money.
Caspian ought to be furious, he’s in an important meeting, but once more Arden pulls at him, makes him feel things he’s not used to. He explains what he intended  though to Arden, that he didn’t mean to offend, he’s anguished at how he’s upset him, never realised he’d see things that way.
He then tells him that he Doesn’t Do Relationships. He has predetermined connections. There Are Rules. Everything is planned, ordered, fits a schedule and has a fixed in advance end date.
Poor Caspian, he seems to have to be in control of every bit of his life, even down to sex. Opposites as I said, as Arden is all about the unplanned, in the moment hook-ups. Til now. Til Caspian. He wants more, Caspian can only give within his boundaries.

Moving on, its the night before the final exam, Arden can’t sleep, is mind is rambling,  “thought about calling home but didn’t see any reason to worry the s hit out of my family” Then he gets a call and it all begins..sort of 😉

Its a wonderful story, I can hear Arden’s voice in my head so well, I felt just how he was feeling. I understood when he was upset at Caspian’s actions, and yet I also understood why Caspian did things, he was trying, in a scene he wasn’t used to, floundering and doing his best to keep control. One look, one word from Arden though and he’s lost. I love how he says so often” Arden, my Arden…” There’s so much feeling comes through from just those three words. Some authors could write pages and not deliver such emotion as they contain. Sometimes Less if More.

Usually I’m all about dialogue books, and not the inner monologue type, yet here Arden is internally talking to himself much of the time and it works for me, whereas usually that would put me off. Maybe because its something I do all the while, talk to myself, mentally muse on things.
He feels so familiar, feels like a friend, and as a klutz, lost for words at times, shambling through life person I can identify with him. Gender really doesn’t matter, its what sort of person you are and Arden is me, always waiting for the other shoe to fall, convinced someone is going to call fraud at times. When he’s in One Park Lane, and worries about calling up food, the cleaners, what he should be doing, whether this or that is the right thing to do that’s me. Every decision is preceded by lots of wondering, thinking, musing whether I should do x or y, or maybe z would be better….

He’s got some wonderful phrases and a cracking sense of humour, very irreverent at times. Wish I had the lines, but the humour is right up my street! When he’s drunk too much “..more of my innards wanted to be outards…” and “…animated Watership Down which incidentally is not a movie that should ever be shown to kids. That s hit is Stephen King terrifying…” I loved that book, took my kids to the film and like Arden was horrified by it. Its gruesome, nightmarish, though it has to be said I was the only one to get nightmares from it, the kids were fine!

One perfect line sums up their relationship ” He didn’t take control from me. I gave it to him” Arden knows what he wants sexually, he likes to be dominated, but he’s not a pushover, not a victim. Sadly he’s finding it hard to get Caspian to see it that way. Seems even though Caspian knows what he wants and needs, he doesn’t like it. He’s always afraid of taking advantage of Arden, always worrying about hurting him.
There’s a world of miscommunication between them contributing to the issues they have. They can say the same sentence, but each mean something entirely different it feels to me.
I really want them to find a way through, to be together and happy and am really looking forward to the next two books. And I didn’t intend to write so much – see, like Arden I ramble…

Stars: five, a terrific read, great characters that feel so real, and I’m dying to get more of them.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
********************************************************************************

 

Wake Up Call,  JL Merrow

Wake Up Call (Porthkennack Book 1) by [Merrrow, JL]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve read a couple of JLM novels, and liked the look of this one – and it was great fun to read.

Devan, what a great lad. eternally optimistic, always read to see the good in others, despite the harsh realities of life for kids like him, fostered out to people who sometimes genuinely care, but more often are in it for the money, seeing it as a job rather than wanting to give kids a home. Then at 18 its out, on your own, the state washes its hands. Isn’t that shameful? Still, Dev is just such a wonderful character despite all that I couldn’t help falling a bit on love with him 😉
He’s on a search for his roots, and its taken him to Cornwall where he meets Kyle.

Kyle, he’s in a bit of a down-spell, recently diagnosed with Narcolepsy and Cataplexia, and like most people he – and I – knew little of the realities. Its not just napping at inconvenient moments, but something that’s unpredictable, hard to treat and lifelong. A couple of medicines and some herbs aren’t going to put his life back to what it was. There is help though, treatment to manage the condition and with some life changes he could still have a decent future, He’s in retreat though, determined not to take anything, not to give in, and yet what he’s doing is exactly that. It takes Dev and his kindness, his sense of fun and adventure to show Kyle there is hope.

Along the way they have hiccups, plenty of them, and sometimes it seems each good time for Kyle and Dev ends in yet another row, another one that has Dev stomping off, only to turn up later with apologies.
He’s only there for three weeks though, so what comes next, when he lives in London, and they have such disparate backgrounds, can they make things work, is there a future for them. I was so rooting for one, Kyle is a lovely man and he needed someone like Dev to balance him, and likewise he was so good for Dev, even someone so supportive of others needs someone to lean on himself.

Along the way we meet some fabulous characters, Dev’s sister and his friend Mal, the landladies, Ceri who works locally in the cafe and is hard to get along with at first. Dev’s not easily rebuffed though and just what she needs, someone who cares and who makes her see all is not lost, she’s had a hard time recently, problems that happen to too many teens. Then there’s her uncle Jago, her dad, the two girls on holiday – its a real mix of characters much like real life.

Stars: Five, a real fun read with some serious issues within it.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

A Gathering Storm, Porthkennack 2, Joanna Chambers

A Gathering Storm, Porthkennack 2, Joanna Chambers

A Gathering Storm (Porthkennack Book 2) by [Chambers, Joanna]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved Wake Up Call (Porthkennack 1)  J.L. Merrow, so when I saw there was a second Porthkennack book I wanted to read it. I hadn’t read any of Joanna’s novels before, but Riptide tends to have authors/books that suit my taste and of course I have a weakness for well written m/m historical tales, having found them by way of (for me) the queen of this genre K.J. Charles.
There’s something about the need for secrecy, the huge risks people took in same sex relationships that appeal to the drama side of me. I feel for them, truly, it was an awful time to live, when those caught out lost families, homes, jobs and were imprisoned. Yet as a reading genre I love it. Hypocrite I know 😉

This book brings in all those things, and adds in the touch of Class, Station, the snobbery of how people were so divided according to their backgrounds.

Ward was born to a wealthy family, which left him free to pursue whatever interests he had and more so, relatively immune for the time, of discovery with two very discreet servants who’d become almost family to him, and a home which gave him privacy.
He’s very kind of quiet, introverted though, and I could feel how much Mr Pipp, his mainstay, his servant from childhood, went out of his way to protect him. He almost treated him as a son, and Ward regarded him and his views as many children would a parent. He was lucky in that, with his health issues brought on by childhood illness many in his position were simply ridiculed, scorned, bullied, and his money made him less of a target in public even if he knew the jokes were there behind him.

He’s devastated by his twin’s death, and will, like many grieving people, try anything to contact him once more, and that brings him into his current research.
He’s set everything up but needs volunteers, well, paid ones anyway but after one has an accident some time after assisting him he’s stuck, no-one else will help.

Then Nick comes into his life, reluctantly. Ward is convinced he can help with his research when he learns Nick’s mother was regarded by the locals as a clairvoyant.
Nicks a steward to the Rosscarrock family, a grandson to the current owner of the estate, but illegitimate. His mother was a gypsy, and after she died when Nick was 12 Lord Rosscarrock gave him a job, let him live in a cottage and educated him – after his work was done of course…. so he could become his Steward.
He doesn’t have that same privilege to indulge his inclinations that Ward does, Ward can have an excuse for men that visit, Nick would be hard pressed to explain why someone came to his cottage. Ways of the time 😦 so Nick is stuck with a few hurried risky private-ish publish fumblings.

When something happens that brings him reluctantly to Ward’s assistance they slowly grow closer, grow to respect each other and more, but there is always the barrier of how they met and of course their respective positions.

Its a great story, brings in all the things I love best about this genre, the closeness, the way so much had to be hidden, the risks, and of course like the best stories the characters talk as they would back then, which makes me feel as if I’m really back in time with them.
Its a time too when spiritualism was at a peak, and there were many charlatans, using some clever tricks preying on the need of grieving people. Times were tough then though, and for some it was that or starve. Its easy to be judgmental from a position of security.

Stars: four, a great read, perfectly written to feel set back in time but i did feel the transition between the two kind of slid past the things that had been causing issues a little too conveniently at the end.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

For a Good Time, Call…, Anne Tenino, E.J. Russell

For a Good Time, Call…, Anne Tenino, E.J. Russell

For a Good Time, Call... (Bluewater Bay Book 17) by [Tenino, Anne, Russell, E.J.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

Bluewater: I love this series, so many different authors bringing fresh story-lines and ideas keep it fresh even though its got loads of books in now.
It could get messy, could lose continuity but whoever checks overall management of that does it perfectly. each book has cameos but characters from other reads but even though they are characters created by someone else they always manage to keep their same “voice~” and personality, and that makes it feel so right to me. Like meeting old friends once more.
I don’t know much about characters that are not on the mainstream side sexually, and Grace (grey asexual) is a term I’d never heard of. Still, that’s the beauty of fiction, reading about so many different people, different issues and problems means its always new and interesting.

I like to imagine What would I do if placed where a character is having difficulties, and when they’re like this it means some deep thinking.
What “I” want isn’t what “they” want so I need to look sideways. Reminded me of Animal Welfare Law at uni, just because we enjoy being inside by the fire on a cold wet day doesn’t mean its the right thing for a fish, he/she doesn’t want to be inside by the fire but needs to be out in the water, regardless of weather and temperature.

I enjoyed too the way it wasn’t kind of preachy and prickly, as so many books are – not just about sexuality but any kind of discrimination, anyone who’s not quite on the middle section of “normal”. I know some disabled people who are very prickly and easily offended and that happens in life, but I don’t want to read it all the while, even though as a disabled person myself I understand it. After all reading is for many an escape from real life and its issues.
Still, that said things need to be handled realistically, I need to feel the characters and issues are real and that’s was so perfect here.

I learned a lot form Nate, from seeing what he felt. He was a lovely man, and his dog, Tarkus, well he was such a star!! #tarkusisastar.
Nate had been in two relationships before, both ended badly and he’s given up on finding a third one.
Then he meets Seth. That first meeting doesn’t go well…and was so understandable. I so felt for both when the penny dropped. Still, they become freinds, mainly via Seth’s search for history about his family, and Nate’s interest in genealogy.

We meet both sets of families, and poor Seth, lovely nan, on the fence dad and a viperous mother and uncle. The parents and uncle hold the purse strings, and while nan wants to sell up the family home and move to somewhere more suitable for her age, they don’t want it, won’t allow it.
Poor Seth draws the short string with them too, always being ridiculed for his bar-tending job, and they insinuate its by their good grace he gets his apartment over the garage free. Seem to forget that he’s been solely responsible for the upkeep of the whole building, for looking after nan and ensuring she’s well. Nice people…not!

After a while Nate’s astonished to discover he has real feelings for Seth. What to do though? Take the risk of more and  lose it, or lose the potential of more and settle for freinds. How will he feel if Seth moves on? What if Seth doesn’t return his feelings? What if he does!
So many questions and they lead us a lovely dance into a slowly growing romance.

Though I loved all that, I found the side issue, the house and all its history, the family issues where Nan was prevented from selling, were a bit confusing and kind of muddied the water. At times that felt like a totally different story, and though there was interest in it and what they found, it didn’t mesh well with the main story for me.

Stars: Four, a great read, sensitively done.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Home Fires, Common Law 4, Kate Sherwood

Home Fires, Common Law 4,  Kate Sherwood

Home Fires (Common Law Book 4) by [Sherwood, Kate]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

This is an amazing wrap up to what’s been a beautiful quartet, fabulous characters, not just Wade and Jericho (Jay) but so many others, plots that feel so real, and events that are characteristic of small town life.
I’m really sad to see these guys go, and yet I guess there’s potential for Wade and Jay Mark 2. Somehow though I think maybe best to stop at the top – I’ve felt not ready to leave characters before and then author has written more books and they never seem to have that first magic.
Kate is certainly an author that gets searched for now by me, I really enjoy the way she puts a story together, and how each of these reads has ended without cliff hangers (my bugbear) but still had me wanting the next book.
I was really lucky here getting ARCs, as I got the last two together so Tuesday saw me finishing third book, Wed I wrote review and cracked on to book four. With everything fresh in my mind it was such a  great read.
I love to read whole series in one back to back sweep for that very reason, total immersion into the story and characters.

What could I pick out from this book? Wade – I’ve loved him from the start, he’s so enigmatic, so quiet and yet so clever he seems to know what’s going to happen, when and what to do about it.
I get the feeling he’s not exactly a criminal, though the law has been trying to tie him to many crimes, but that he’s one of those guys that sees what needs doing and gets on with it. If that means crossing a few legal issues so be it. Not in the vigilante style, he’s more of a preventative person than a pursuer of justice, if that comes along then great but if not, well he’s not worried.

Jay – a staunch believer in the Law, he’s been in the Army and seen service in some terrible places, been a city cop where life was always busy and he didn’t have time to ponder and worry, and now he’s back in Montana, wondering if he and Wade can have something together after all this while.
He’s learning to trust Wade too, to see he’s not just the criminal in waiting his colleagues seem to think.
The sensuality between them is incredible and yet for most of the while its just been looks and quick touches, though it finally heats up here when Jay decides he doesn’t care any more, he wants to be with Wade, and isn’t bothered who knows it.
He’s always been open about his sexuality, but with Wade there’s the history they share – along with Kayla – and the little fact that most of his colleagues feel Wade is on the opposing side of the Law to Jay.
What I love is they’re just ordinary guys, people we could know, live with, work with, meet in the pub. There’s no big I’m Gay placard hanging over their mannerisms, no cliched Tells as so many books make. That’s what I love, it emulates real life where sometimes its obvious someone is gay through their actions, in the same way sometimes its obvious someone is a bigot, but most of the while people are just people, gay or not is just another facet of their character, not the defining one. And I’ll stop drum banging now 🙂

There’s some real action in this book, a few deaths too, and a feeling of satisfaction tinged with sadness when its over.
As so often happens maybe if things had been done differently, if the top brass listened to the locals….but life is full of What Ifs, and speculation can’t change results.
I love the mix of small town policing v out of town Important Top Cops ( well seems to be how they regard themselves)
There’s a point where the out of towners, the alphabet cops, are busily engrossed in stopping an upcoming conflict, a mass rally of MC people with guns, rockets, tanks even, and they’re keeping the locals out. Jay is so irritated and Kayla says words to the effect of “go and do some paper work”, or “see if Mr x is trapping the neighbours cats again”, somewhat sarcastically. They know the others are being hoodwinked, yet all their efforts to say so get ignored with a “leave it to the pros “ kind of pat on the head. Kayla and Jay are so frustrated and using irony about the realities of small town policing. Probably for 99.9% of the time it is like that, but when it really matters, and they have the local knowledge to make a difference, save lives, pre-empt disaster and they’re being shut out they’re both upset but stuck.

A perfect quartet of novels for those readers who want a tender and sensual romance, action and drama but situated in a small town with locals involved, plots that are full of characters that feel real, that have connections, where the law isn’t black and white but shades of grey (50?? Maybe… but no sex accoutrements here. Just solid characters with real emotions).
Each book is complete but together they make up a wider story. I’ve just reread my review of the first book, and my thoughts about the series back then are interesting, and have pretty much played out as i expected.
Its been a series that will definitely be a re-reader for me.

Stars: Five, a fabulous end to the series, perfect wrap up.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Strays, Garrett Leigh. Legacy Lost, Jillian David

Strays,  Garrett Leigh

Strays  (Urban Soul Book 2) by [Leigh, Garrett]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

One of the reasons I enjoy m/m romance so much is that it tends to be incredibly emotional, real romantic, tender love, wonderfully angsty and the plots are complex but not overcomplicated, no added unnecessary bits but just words central the the story.
I hate those padded out romances, where you feel words, plots, characters get thrown in just to add to the word-count.
I first came across Garret Leigh with the wonderful Misfits, book one to this series. So when I saw this one – well of course I had to read it 😉

Oddly looking back Cass wasn’t such a main character in that story, and yet he feels so familiar. I adore him here, he’s got the knack of seeing what people need, who they really are, he doesn’t have preconceived notions based on their history but lets everyone have a fresh start.
He and Nero share a similar issue which could make getting work difficult, but he took a chance on Nero despite his past, and Nero’s been a little in love with him since. Of course Cass can see it and in his gentle way he’s made it clear he’s happy with Tom and Jake (Misfits) yet in a way that doesn’t embarrass Nero.
He relies on Nero for the practical side of the kitchen, from designing right from the off to what kind of food and the menus for it. Along with Nero I found I’m a bit in love with Cass too….

Cass sees Lenny, right when he’s reached rock bottom. Haunted for months by a stalker who’s not only followed him constantly but has invaded his workplace and his home. The police can’t help, give him a stack of leaflets but without witnesses, evidence and a name they can’t do much.
Lenny has had enough, you feel his fear, and reading his story I could understand how people give in when they’re that low, decide life isn’t worth it. Before this he was a bright happy guy, intelligent, loved to dance, friendly, very outgoing, and almost flamboyant. He was happy with himself, now he’s like  a wraith.
Cass steps in just at the right time, places him with Nero, in the flat above Pippa’s and working in the kitchens under Nero. His only instructions to Nero? Keep him safe…or words to that effect.

Nero has no idea what has happened to Lenny, but knows if Cass placed him there its for a reason, but he’s not overjoyed at having help in the kitchen who has no experience, and having his flat invaded too. Its tiny, one bed so Lenny gets the sofa.
I love Nero, can’t recall much of him from book one ( one day when i do a back to back read – that way everything marries up nicely while its fresh in my mind) but he’s a real stoic grump type character. Everyone respects him for his brilliance in the kitchen but he’s not the guy you joke around with. Man of very few words that’s Nero.
They get along OK, Lenny trying valiantly to keep his head down, not get in the way, and its soon clear to Nero just how scared Lenny is.
He begins to get glimpses of who Lenny was before, in unguarded moments when he tells Nero things from his past, lets little bits of info slip out and they start to learn about each other. As Lenny trusts him more he ends up telling him everything, and of course he wants Nero to trust him in return, be as open as he is now they’ve got so close, become lovers, but Nero hasn’t had the best experiences when he’s let out his past before and just can’t bring back those nightmares again.

I so felt for both of them, such sad stories, such lovely people. As before Garret has created characters that feel so real, they’re not the stereotypical flaming gays seen far too often, full of clichéd action and phrases, but people who are individuals, where being non heterosexual is just part of who they are, not the sum of them.
The need for Nero to trust him with his story was so clear from Lenny, I could feel how let down he felt, how he thought he’d opened himself up but Nero just didn’t trust him enough to do the same. Then of course I could see it from Nero’s POV, how he didn’t want to bring back the nightmares, how he feared Lenny’s reaction, how he was just too scared to let it out.

Then there’s the brilliance of the Urban Soul Kitchens, how they each differ, tailored to fit the need for that area, not a generic franchise type eatery. Everything from the bare bones of the building to the sourcing of the basic food ingredients is carefully worked on, and it pulled together to create wonderful places, full of character, teams of people within them that worked together, and places I’d love to eat at. They felt so real, and I could visualise them as I was reading.

The stalking plot, its kind of low key after the first revelations and then really builds to create some fabulous drama towards the end. It fitted the story so well, let me enjoy so many different sides to each character, without turning it from a romance into a suspense novel.

Its another great read, very British ( hurrah!!) from the places used, the transport, the recipies and of course the language. So many authors try to do British, especialy British slang and cursing, but it ends up an American version of it.
One of my huge bugbears is MS Windows insistence that I can have US English – There’s no such thing, English is English, other countries may have their own take on it, but what they use Is Not English….It might be American, it might be Australian, but it isn’t English. Rant over 😉

Stars: Five, another fantastic read, one to keep.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

*********************************************************************************

Legacy Lost, Jillian David

Legacy Lost (Hell's Valley) by [David, Jillian]

Genre:  Romance,

I was a little neutral on the first book in this series, but got on far better with this one, understood the storyline and characters more.

We met Eric and Shelby in that last book, and learned of her Gift, and how much the newly developed parts cost her.
She’s still recovering from that and the fire, Eric is still trying to hold back his growing feelings, the family still struggling to pull through after the last disasters. You feel these poor guys deserve a break.
Not yet though….that Darkness, that Evil is still stalking them. We still don’t know what it is, but we do learn more about its motivation. Its some scary stuff in this book, and the family need all the help they can get. they really are lurching from one crisis to the next, both financially, physically and practically.

Eldest son Vaughn is still away, I’d like to know exactly what happened, but we do know he was involved with Garret’s ex, and Garret knocks down Shelby’s suggestion of asking him for help.
Their dad seems to have given up on life, and we really do see a family on the verge of breaking up. There’s only so much people can deal with, even when they do have some extra abilities.

I love Eric, and can see exactly how he felt, always welcomed as part of the family, but its fact that he’s not.
He’s been a close friend to Shelby for years, best friend to her twin, but his feelings have changed and he doesn’t know whether to risk losing what he has by telling her. It could go well, he could be part of something perfect with someone he loves, but equally he could lose everything if she doesn’t feel the same.

Events overtake them though, bringing them both into severe danger, and once more they face this anonymous Evil, the entity that they’re coming to realise means to kill them all.
I got the feeling when Odie and Ruth came into the story that they had a connection somewhere and looking it up I can see they’re from the other series. I’ve not yet read that, but if you have then you’ll know more about what they can do. For now Ruth is nursing Shelby’s dad and Odie is helping on the ranch. They need that help!

It’s a fun read, I liked that the supernatural came into play more in this one. Loved Eric, but Shelby made me a bit irritated at times with how she treated him. Still, I could sort of see where she’s coming from.
With Shelby and Eric both being attached to the Ranch most of the action takes place there but there are a few minor scenes in town, where they run up against Wyatt from the last book, who’s still acting weirdly.

Stars: Four, interesting novel, with some supernatural drama running through the love story

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

J.A. Hazel

Author of Siren's Wave, a rock romance novel

barn conversion blog

Saving a piece of local history and creating our dream home

Emme Cross

Totally Addictive Romance Novels

Kelly's Book Blog

Book reviews! I'm a book lover, speed reader and reviewer!

Reads and Treats

Satisfying books, Scrumptious eats

jeannie zelos product reviews

Jeannie's honest thoughts on products bought or received for review purpose.

By Hook Or By Book

Book Reviews, News, and Other Stuff

So, I Read This Book Today

Editing, Proofreading, Reviewing and Other Stuff

Book Junkiez

The place where book addicts go for their book fix!

Hit or Miss Books

Honest book reviews for the Young Adult, New Adult and Adult categories.

Lorna Soar

Feltmaker & Artist

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

A Writer's Life For Me.

Blog of Author Mishka Jenkins

Book Gossips

We are four cousins hailing from Australia. Love of books runs in our family and we have decided to share our exhilirating gossip sessions with you. Here you can find book reviews from multiple genres, bringing you the best of buzz worthy popular fiction.

Brandy L Rivers

New York Times and USA Today Best selling Author