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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

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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

Danced Close, Annabeth Albert

Danced Close,  Annabeth Albert

Danced Close (Portland Heat) by [Albert, Annabeth]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I love romance reads, love a HEA, but don’t like to read the same recycled story over and over, and sadly its a genre where that gets served up far too often.
I discovered the M/M genre a couple of years back and found that hurrah – its romance, but mostly of the authors strive for that missing extra, the thing that makes their story stand out, and not read like a thousand others but with different character names…Maybe I’m over exaggerating here…just a bit 😉 but some days that’s how reading romance feels.

I’ve only somehow caught one book in this series, and loved it, that could be my fault, I tend to ignore shorter reads. I find usually they don’t give me enough character depth and story, but though this and the wonderful Delivered Fast are short, they still gave me a good solid read, great characters and real plots.
So, the something different I look for – well, double bonus here, Todd has some issues related to his past that rarely get seen in romance, but which do affect many people, and Kendall – well, he’s just so unique.

I so felt for Todd, he’s come such a long way, worked so hard and yet doesn’t seem to feel good enough for Kendall, seems to feel the way his ex treated him was what he deserved. He’s such a great guy, but can’t see himself as Kendall sees him, someone gorgeous, solid, good, worthy.
His past, from family, the circumstances he found himself in, and then his ex have all impacted so badly on his self confidence that he’s afraid to step out of the routine he knows.

Kendall, what a great character. He’s gender-fluid – and why not? I’ve always wondered why we obsess over putting people in pigeon holes, labelling them. I guess its that society wants everyone to conform, to be different makes someone a target and there’s strength and protection comes from being one of the crowd.
Kendall won’t compromise though, wants to be true to himself, be who he feels he is, and that varies from day to day. Why shouldn’t men wear dresses and nice fabrics if they choose? No-one bats an eyelid at women in trousers, however mannish the outfit, but a man is a dress, or men’s clothes but with delicate fabrics and pretty embellishments? Shock horror!! Stupid isn’t it?

QUILTBAG, that’s a new term to me but fits perfectly. I love the way that slowly society is coming to the idea we aren’t just M/F but encompass so many different types. Sadly there’s still a lot of aggression about those who don’t stick strictly to the MF definition. One day….

Back to the book, Todd, big burly Todd, is perfect for Kendall, but again turning perceptions upside down when they dance Todd lets Kendall lead, something new to him. Being the person he is others have always assumed he wants to be led, not take the lead, and he finds he’s actually good at it, enjoys it.
The thing I mentioned about how others perceive anyone a bit different, well, we see it at the dance lessons when poor Kendall gets the side eye from another couple. You’d think being gay themselves they’d be more accepting but they’re not. They don’t know how to deal with folk like Kendall, and giving him some unpleasant looks, definitely not up for swapping dance partners.
Then we meet one of Kendall’s clients who takes the opposite view, the bride and friends who probably pride themselves in being open minded, accepting and liberal, but who treat Kendall as an exhibit, someone who’s “costume”/style of dress for the day is just an addition to the wedding.
There’s too many like her, and she’s disappointed when Kendall isn’t feeling good and has dressed down, no lace and frivolity, and she makes it clear she thought that was part of the wedding package.
I was so outraged for Kendall, and yet I guess that kind of thing also happens too often. I was so glad he stuck to his guns and didn’t let her walk over him with her entitled, money-buys-everything attitude.

The romance was perfect, not without hiccups, not all smooth sailing and we really get to see “inside” the two guys, about how they feel, and why, and how the past affects them both.
Its a great read, full of emotion, angst, and had me thinking how on earth could they get a HEA or even a HFN? Its a shortish read, but contrary to most shorts, packs a huge and very real story in it.

Stars: Five, a fabulous romance that felt very real.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Sons of Devils, Arising1, Alex Beecroft

Sons of Devils, Arising1, Alex Beecroft

Sons of Devils (Arising Book 1) by [Beecroft, Alex]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve enjoyed a couple of Alex’ contemporary romances, and I’m a sucker for a vampire story so this caught my eye.
Its a good story, well written, brings in fresh ideas on the Vampire genre, but somehow it just didn’t work for me, didn’t really hold my interest.
I wanted to like it, there’s a second book to come, and it sounded just the kind of read I enjoy…but I didn’t.

I didn’t dislike it, I did read right through but I’m not interested enough to continue with book two.
What’s irritating is I just can’t quite explain why it didn’t work for me, what I didn’t like. I just don’t really know, other than I felt detached from the story and the people. Maybe that’s it, because usually in books I love I feel I’m there with characters, caught up in events as they happen, living the story as they go through it. Can’t see anything else other than that.
It’ll be perfect for other readers of course, thankfully there’s a variety of stories to go with the myriad of different novels readers want.

Stars: 2.5/3 a good story but simply not the type I enjoy

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Darkness, Common Law 3, Kate Sherwood

Darkness, Common Law 3,  Kate Sherwood

Darkness (Common Law Book 3) by [Sherwood, Kate]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I enjoyed the first two books, and this series just keeps getting better and better now I understand the characters and their connections.

Wade and Jericho (Jay) dance around their attraction, lots of looks, slipped touches but most of the while either Wade is too ambiguous, or Jay just isn’t sure whether he ought/can/will take things further.
Wade is so enigmatic almost everything he says, not just to Jay but anyone, can be taken in different ways. I just love him, can’t really believe he’s the bad guy all the locals inc the police seem to think he is. He does have his finger on the pulse of everything that happens though, and is always on the periphery in some way of local crime.
Its kind of understandable why he’s seen this way, some of it is a carefully cultivated image IMO, if you put yourself up as a certain type of person then its not that others are saying you’re bad, they’re just following the lead you set, whether that’s true or not. And I can see Wade getting a kick out of knowing he’s got one over on the folk who condemned him as useless, someone from a bad background who’d never amount to much,  from childhood.

I’ve rambled a bit about Wade, but I’ve been championing him right from the start and its clear how protective of Jay he is, and in this novel we see just how far he’ll take that protection.
Of course there’s still the FBI/local cops issues going on from past events, along with Kayla being kept in the dark about her dad, and Jay feeling torn over that. He can’t say anything to her, and knows why and yet as her friend he feels he ought to.
Kayla warns him once more to stay away from Wade but that’s not easy – Wade keeps finding him!

This time there’s a murder at the heart of the story, and what seems like a simple case, easy to solve, lots of evidence, seems just a bit too slick to Jay, and he searches a little deeper.
What he finds changes things greatly, that it may not be an isolated murder, but his hands are tied in just how far he can go in pursuit of the truth. Once more Wade steps in, he’s always skirted rules anyway and its clear that though he doesn’t like the Law he respects that Jay enjoys his job, and he’ll do anything to protect that.

Its another great read, very sensual, but that is only part of the story, and fitted in perfectly in the novel. Its the tiny touches and looks that are the most sensual, where you really feel just how strongly Wade wants Jay and vice versa, and not just for a quickie one off but more – and yet how, when they’re on opposing sides of the Law?
Each book brings them a tiny bit closer, heals some of the anger from years back, gives them some new connections and makes it feel inevitable that they are destined to be together…
I’m lucky enough to have book four on my kindle right now as an ARC so that’s my next read 🙂

Stars: Five, a sensual story, and a realistic mystery to solve.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Single Malt, Layla Reyne

Single Malt,  Layla Reyne

Single Malt by [Reyne, Layla]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I couldn’t find any other books by Layla, so was hesitant about requesting this – I hate writing reviews where the book/author style and I just don’t gel, so try to choose carefully. The synopsis of this really drew me in though, and I usually enjoy Carina books so I took the plunge…and I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next two.

Aidan, still grieving after the senseless death of both his husband and his work partner in the same car accident, is moved into a new position at work, with a  new partner to train as a field agent.
Jamie is a tech whizz, former basketball star and 12 years younger than Aiden, yet from the first look there’s that magic sizzle of attraction between them despite Aiden’s grief, that draws the reader in.
Thing is, I want more than just a romance, I want a story that keeps me reading and this book delivered all that and more.

There’s quite a few tech references here and yet they’re written in such a way that non tech people like me can still grasp the importance, what part the knowledge plays to the plots, and that was perfect.
I needed to be able to follow some of the tech trail as it plays such a huge part in how the plots work out, how people are tracked, how the FBI have info on what’s likely to happen. That works for me, I hate this anonymous CI info that often gets used in novels. I reckon with serious crimes the FBI and other agencies need more to go on than some vague tip from someone who may or may not be telling the truth.
Computers can lie – its all in the programming but clever hackers ( hush my mouth, clever IT specialists who wouldn’t dream of illegal hacking…..) can get past that and lay trails of their own. Clever things Computers, and the people using them need to be several steps ahead. Its a skill you either have or haven’t and Jamie definitely has.

I love the personal bits too, the way Jamie has been watching Aiden from the shadows for three years, and now is partnered up to his crush? Attraction? Well, the guy he’s been lusting after anyway.
Then when they’re together there’s more than just that visceral attraction, they like each other, feel like friends, respect each others skills. All things that make a longer term relationship work. Are either of them ready for that though, do they want it? Aiden at least is still struggling with his grief and now feeling attracted to Jamie hits his guilt switch too.

There’s some sex in here, but its very muted, and the adage Less is More really fits. Its perfect for the plot, perfect for the two guys and because so much is build up, when it does come it feels right, rather than in so many where its shirts off, trousers (men wear trousers, not pants….) hit the floor on page six and downhill from there.
I want story first sex second and this book hits that really well, with the sensuality feeling inevitable rather than plugged in for titillation…

The novel has lots of good secondary characters too, Aiden’s brother Danny, who works in the family shipping firm, and his dead partner’s sister who’s also his boss. Then a host of characters at the other part of the investigation where they’re called in to help in a case that makes up the mainstay of this book.

I enjoyed the way the story wrapped together relationships and of course the usual employment unwritten rules against them at work, family dramas and the issues they bring, and a cracking story, complex enough to keep me gripped reading, and yet with enough info to let me follow the tech side without getting lost.
Kept me glued right to the end. And then there’s some surprises come out just when you think its all died down…
And the ending! Its not a cliff-hanger as such but there are some shocking revelations come out that are going to be the core of the next book(s). I can’t wait!

Stars: five, cracking read that has me drooling for more.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

An Unseen Attraction, KJ Charles. Dating Ryan Alback, J.E. Birk

An Unseen Attraction,  KJ Charles

An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre:  romance,LGBTQIA.

I love KJ Charles writing style, very apt for the era she brings to her stories. It feels very much as if one is there in the time period, from the descriptions of characters, what they wear, their occupations, what they do and how they meet, the actual buildings, the London smog.
Even the actual wording used is full of things I have to look up, occupations now unknown or rare but common then, words I’ve never heard of but which seem so apt to the time and are so enriching to the story. (Gamahuching from one of the first novels of hers I read – what a fabulous word).
I hate the trend for dumbed down books, where words all seem to be three syllables or less!

We think of UK history as being mainly white people, and yet when people were so often seen as property they were brought back from other countries as such, and its not uncommon to see people of every race and colour in the cities in UK. KJ often weaves them into her stories.
I loved Clem, half Indian, with a very real backstory, one that happened so very often. He’s an amazing man, and I could see just how his slow and careful nature led to bullying as a child. He needed time to assess, to think, to speak and society both them and now doesn’t like that. People ( me) get bullied of they don’t grasp instantly what’s to be said or done. I don’t have so much difficulty now, but as a child I was very silent, always worried about saying the wrong thing, needed to mull over conversations, think carefully before answering or I’d get flustered just as Clem does. I feel for him.
I sympathised with  Rowley too ( sounds like slowly – I loved that quip!) When he’s talking about his glasses, he describes how someone discovered he needed them, and says how it never occurred to him that he wasn’t seeing what others could. I was ten when a teacher noticed I was very short sighted, until then everyone just thought I wasn’t very bright, was clumsy and slow…so I understood perfectly how Rowley felt without his specs. Mine are a lifeline to the real world. Rowley has had a difficult upbringing too, not uncommon for them time but wich of course affects his personality. He’s so understnading opf Clem, so in tune with what he needs, they make a breat pair. You just want them to be happy, to be left alone.
There’s as usual lots of sex, but not the eternal but dull stuff so often found, where it feels like pages and pages of the same thing.
Clem and Rowely have a varied and intersting way of love making, and again that fits, when sex was something not mentioned in polite society, sex between same sex people forbidden. Even something simple like a quick touch on the hand, a passing clasp of the shoulder could mean so much.
Sometimes I think we miss just how sensual a touch or glance can be, how it can have so much meaning between two people. When things have to be worked at, when they had to find ways round society’s constraints then a simple look could carry a world of meaning.

Once more we’ve some wonderful characters, a careful, slow burn romance, one that simmers, builds very gently, with each wondering about the other. Given the penalties for homosexuality at the time they had to be extraordinarily careful.
I loved the taxidermy descriptions, though they were really interesting I did have to skip the more queasy parts….wimp I know!
You won’t find edge of seat drama here, no histrionics, or death defying stunts, but plots that develop cleverly, lead us around wondering who and why. Though I’d an inkling this time of the Who, I’d no idea of Why, and its a real quest for answers, very much time period apropos.
With a terrific cast and setting, a mystery that weaves all parts of the story together and introduces characters that hopefully we’ll meet in later books, and its another winner. I look forward to more from this group.

Stars: Five, a fabulous start to the trilogy.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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Dating Ryan Alback,  J.E. Birk

Dating Ryan Alback by [Birk, J.E.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

A new-to-me author so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It sounded fun, and was, but I found it a little too sweet, cutesy.
A good read, just not a great one for me. That’s fine though, others love sweet’n’light, cute’n’fluffy.

I liked both characters, there wasn’t anything to dislike. The setting, how they met, was a little stretching credulity to think either would do that when they both value their privacy, but the reasons given helped.
I could see why they’d connect, but though I felt a good friendship between them I didn’t feel the love, sexual tension, must-be-together feeling I need in romances.

When it went wrong, well I could see why Ryan reacted that way, but he was a bit OTT knowing only too well how the media screw things up, print anything regardless of the truth just to make money. I didn’t feel his past excused his antagonistic reaction. He’d been let down badly by a lover – it happens, and it was wrong to still be reactive, rather than proactive and his agent and friends were advising. Then to behave so callously to Jason. #justnoton

Then Jason, he’d also got a difficult past, but I felt he was far too forgiving when Ryan eventually came calling. It just didn’t feel right, I felt he should have held back more, make Ryan realise just how badly his actions hurt.

Family and friends on both sides added to the “cute” feel, they were all supportive, loving, protective, and that part felt detached from real life where sadly so much prejudice goes on, so many people are vicious gossips, always put to knock people down.

It was a sweet story, cute characters, a HEA but too sweet, too nice for me to rate higher than a three, I needed more connection between them and more angst.
Its exactly what some readers want though, look at any book and you’ll see some love it and others hate it for exactly the same reasons. this isn’t one for me to keep but may be just what you’re looking for.

Stars: Three, a happy read, but too nice for me to keep, just a one off read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Claiming Mister Kemp, Emily Larkin, Guarding Mr. Fine, HelenKay Dimon

Claiming Mister Kemp, Baleful Godmother 4,  Emily Larkin

Claiming Mister Kemp (Baleful Godmother Historical Romance Series ~ Book 4) by [Larkin, Emily]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

Well, I’ve not read any of Emily’s stories, and this is the fourth in a series….but it reads as though each are stand alone though connected, and the description appealed to me 😉
Historical M/M – for me the Queen, the 5* Gold Standard of this genre is K J Charles, I love her works. This stands up pretty well against that for me, and I really enjoyed the story. There are earlier books, which I’d like to read, and in fact book one is free so that’s on my kindle 😉

I loved Tom, so clear about his love for Lucas even at a time when it mean death if it was discovered. Awful isn’t it how we treated anyone in love in a non conventional way back then – and in many places still do 😡  Tom has served his country loyally, risked his life for small reward and yet if he’s caught with a man he faced being hung.
Lucas, he’s so scared to admit his feelings. Its clear to those close to him but he won’t even admit it to himself, and talking to Tom when he forces the issue he’s sticking to the conventional “unnatural” etc. As for anal sex – I have to look up the term they used, was new to me and I’ve forgotten it – there’s no way he’ll consider that. Back door Usher – that’s was it, perfect for the age in which the book is set.
That’s one of the things that makes historical books so real, when the characters speak as they would back then, use terms familiar to that age. When Tom is talking about paint colours I had to look some up, hazarded a guess as an artist myself but they were colours I’ve never heard of, superseded by more modern ones.
I love when an author takes the trouble to do relatively small things like that which have a big impact on how I feel about a novel. Its research many fail to give credit to and just don’t do but can make a massive difference to how real novels feel. Its something that KJ Charles does all the while, and what makes her books feel so special to me.

There were times I wanted to shake Lucas, thought him a coward he was bringing such distress to Tom in his refusal to act on what they both felt. Then I had to remind myself just what they were risking, and it puts his fears into context better.
Even today in the UK many people find it difficult to acknowledge their sexuality, and there are no criminal charges now, just bigots to face,but that’s still tough, especially when they’re sometimes within the family we love.

Holding up this would be/won’t be romance is a great cast of characters, snippets of real history, and events, and plots that fit the story perfectly. Its a fun read, one I thoroughly enjoyed..

Stars: Four and a half, just short of the magic five, maybe if I’d read all the former stories it would have hit that? Who knows?

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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Guarding Mr. Fine,  HelenKay Dimon

Guarding Mr. Fine (Tough Love) by [Dimon, HelenKay]

Genre:   Romance, LGBTQIA

I didn’t realise I’d read one of Helen’s books back in 2014…not surprising as she’s a prolific author.

This sounded a fun read so I waded in, and got hooked into Seth and Rick’s romance.
I love that they’ve-hooked-up-but-now-its-awkward scenario. Rick and Seth had a quick, steamy interlude in a club back room and that’s it. Or so they think, so imagine the shock when next day Seth finds out Rick is the person he’s bodyguard for.
Rick knows who Seth is via the paperwork, and has his own issues about that, but has no idea what he looks like until he walked in the door!

Well, that visceral attraction that had them hot and sensual in the back room is still there.
Rick’s had relationships before but Seth? Not really. He’s just broken up with the closest he came to one with his ex, Elizabeth. She felt he wasn’t there enough, and when he was, he wasn’t “there” with her anyway.
They can’t keep hands – and other body parts – to themselves though, and what was a one off becomes more and more, until Seth can’t bear the thought of anything happening to Rick.

There’s a lot of danger surrounding this post though, Rick isn’t really the new Consul, but an agent looking into the supposed suicide of the old one.
He and Seth uncover a dangerous plot that could get them killed, and they come very close to it more than once. The suspense part and action of the story worked well for me. I don’t want it too in-depth that I get lost but do need it to feel real.

There’s lots of action here, lots of on-going drama, and some cracking snarky lines that made me smile.
I liked Seth and Rick, they worked well together as colleagues and as lovers. Could they continue after this post was done though? Would Seth even want to or would he do his usual fast exit?
As well as the romance there was a decent storyline – and I’m all about that, a proper balance of sex v story, and here it worked well.
The characters were well thought out, very real feeling though I’d got an inkling of who was the bad guy early on. Makes a change for me to get it right 😉
I loved Nathan too, love the banter he and Seth had, being comrades from other dangerous jobs had led them into a special trust, only found when you rely on the other when you’re risking your lives.

I did enjoy the “why do straight guys always think we’ll hit on them” talk – I was having that chat just recently with son number two. Its something that always puzzles me, straight guys don’t fancy every woman that crosses their path so why do so many of them assume a gay guy will fancy them?

Stars: Four, a fun read, with a good balance of sex and story.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Embers, Common Law 2, Kate Sherwood

Embers, Common Law 2, Kate Sherwood

Embers (Common Law Book 2) by [Sherwood, Kate]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

This is my fourth Kate Sherwood read, two were five stars, one was three – that’s how it goes for me, liking an authors writing style doesn’t mean I’ll love all their novels 😉 Still, Long Shadows, Common Law 1, was a five and I was keen to see where Wade and Jericho (Jay) would go next.

This is one of those excellent slow burn romances that I love, where we can feel just how attracted each person is, feel the sizzle, the heat, the tension whenever they are together. Right now though they’re not together, not even close to that, still feeling their way round each other, but though everything seems stacked against them I just can’t help but feel them being together is something that’s almost predestined, fated, just has to happen at some point. But when, where and how still isn’t clear!
Wade and Jay had a relationship 15 years ago and then Jay left…didn’t stay in touch, didn’t contact anyone, and now he’s back. He and Wade are on opposing sides of the Law though, with Jay being undersheriff, his also close friend Kayla is sheriff, and Wade has a rep as a criminal.
Although he’s never been caught doing anything wrong, whenever there’s trouble somehow he seems to have a connection. This book shows that once more, with people believing Wade’s hand is in the mix of murders/drug smuggling and biker wars.

Its not as clear cut as Wade not being caught though, everything that makes the locals ( and the out of town Feds) think he’s guilty is circumstantial, and how much is jealousy from the locals and frustration from the feds?
Wade doesn’t not cooperate, on the surface he’s friendly, calm and helpful, but we all know that what he isn’t saying is far more important than what he is telling them.
Jay struggles to concentrate when he’s with him, the Wade of now is wrapped up with his memories of past Wade and both have the tendency to make him forget everything, and that doesn’t bode well for a man of the Law.

All the old team are back, Jay, Wade, Kayla, Nikki – Jay’s fathers wife and her two kids, the feds who still seem to distrust Jay and shut him out as much as they can, and there’s a few new people, with the bikers being a main thread of this story.
It starts with the burning of Wade’s bar, and a text from him to Jay that no-one is there.
Jay was terrified Wade was inside, panicking over all the things he wanted to say and hadn’t, and then Wade texts him back this brief, ambiguous reply in response to Jay’s question over where he was. Does that mean he knew the bar was burning as he was involved? Jay hadn’t told him, and once more he’s left with the dilemma, does he show Kayla the text as he should as her deputy, knowing he’ll drop Wade into trouble if he does, or should he keep quiet?
Its typical Wade, laconic information, words that can have more than one inference, and poor Jay, I so felt for him. The more he gets caught up with the town the more he feels for Wade.

I love these guys, the friction between them, Jay trying to do what’s right morally, but struggling when it comes to Wade, Wade and his manipulations. I feel Wade knows Jay better than he knows himself, I think he’s a good guy, they both are but Wade hides it.
I haven’t worked out whether he’s just running his town the way he thinks benefits it, skirting the law deliberately or whether he’s maybe part of something bigger on the legal side. Who knows? Maybe I’m totally off tangent thinking that, but Wade is so closed, so careful and so manipulative that everything he says and does can be taken in many different ways. Is he using Jay for his own purposes, giving him info he knows Jay will feel he has to pass on to Kayla and the feds, or is he just trying to keep Jay safe?
Kayla, she asked Jay to stay, to take a huge pay cut from his city posting and help her keep the town safe, but she doesn’t seem to fully trust him when it comes to Wade and TBH its easy to see why. Sometimes Jay doesn’t trust himself. So far its all worked out well, but is that because Wade was directing it that way or purely coincidence?
What about the feds, first they don’t trust Jay but do trust Kayla, now it seems to have turned around, so what’s really going on there?
What about the murders, how can Jay keep his town safe when the feds aren’t giving him info over such serious things as that?

Its a book that’s perfect for me, sizzling romance, great characters, small mysteries to puzzle out and lots of false trails. By the end we can see what has happened but we still don’t really know why, whether it worked that way by default or by clever planning. Jay’s getting to know the way Wade works, but still struggles with the morality of having such strong feelings for someone who may well be a murderer, drug smaller, involved in some serious crimes. Poor Jay. He wants to think the best of Wade but he’s hampered by that tricky stuff, evidence that seems to point Wade as guilty but doesn’t quite fit, can be seen in different ways.
Wade I just love, such a clever, sexy man and for me he’s not a murderer but has perahps found ways to skirt round the constraints of legalities to get the results that are best for the town and its inhabitants.
There’s some real steam coming off the pages in this book, although its mostly touches, glances and words, very little real action, but that makes it so much hotter, so that when they do kiss, one touch and bam….its explosive.

A fabulous story once more, carefully paced, flowing easily and taking the reader along a will they wont they/is he guilty or isn’t he/how can they ever actually make it as a couple journey?
Eternal optimist that I am I know Kate will work it out for them eventually but how, when and why…well, thankfully there’s more books to enjoy to read about that!

Stars: Five, perfect second book, advancing the story and opening up the plots for lots more.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Flowers On The Wall, Mary J. Williams. Working It, Christine d’Abo

Flowers On The Wall
Hart Of Rock And Roll – Book 1,  Mary J. Williams

Flowers On The Wall (Hart Of Rock And Roll Book 1) by [Williams, Mary J.]

Genre:  romance,

Hmnn…this has all five star reviews currently – and though I enjoyed it, a lot, its not a  five star for me. Maybe I’m just hypercritical? I hate when I’m out of step with others but – it happens.

So, Ryder and Quinn, both great characters, self confident, strong willed and when they meet there’s a real pull between them.

I like self confident female leads, but at times I felt Quinn was a little too assertive, a bit too confident. In males that comes over as cocky but appealing – so it ought to be the same with her, and yet I found she was almost brash and irritating at times.

Ryder, he’s been through a lot and come out on top, but not without some mental demons. That’s understandable and what makes him the man he is.
He sees Quinn – loved that first meeting BTW – and is attracted, and she feels the same but isn’t going to just jump because he says so. There’s a real sexual attraction here which grew stronger, but somehow I wasn’t convinced that it was more, that it was love rather than lust.

I would have liked to see more of the other band members, they stayed pretty much in the background except for Zoe.
I thought the suggestion of more from the manager would have developed, would have been an interesting storyline, but it seemed to be put in and then left. That could have made for some intriguing subplots, but as it never developed it made me wonder why it was started?

Its a good read, felt very real at times, with characters I liked. I really needed someone/something unpleasant though, some drama that was very down, to take from all the good/sweet/happy parts in this read.
For me a bit of unpleasantness, jealousy, a tinge of malice in action, makes the happy parts so much brighter. Without that contrast they just feel Good but not Great, and that’s kind of how I feel here. It was a good novel, but lacked the contrast, the dark side, the emotional context for me that would have made it a great one.
Others love it as it is though, so its not all of us who enjoy more in stories, need the dramas, the angst, the sorrow, ones like this are perfect for many readers, you’ll have to assess which side you fall 😉

Stars: Four, a good read but I wanted more drama for a five.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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

Working It,  Christine d’Abo

Working It (Ringside Romance Book 1) by [d'Abo, Christine]

Genre:   Romance, LGBTQIA

My first Christine d’Abo read – and I’m going to take a look at more of her books as I now know I enjoy her writing style.

I really liked the sound of this, a fairly straightforward romance, no suspense dramas, no deep dark relatives, no hidden motives, just two people that fall in love, but where each have their own issues.
I enjoy all those other types of read but sometimes you just want an easy read, uncomplicated where its the two leads that are the main focus and thats what I was in the mood for when I picked out this one to read yesterday.

I loved Nolan, understood so well his issues, its hard picking up life after an accident like his which left him with life changing injuries. We can heal the body, though that takes time and Nolan is still healing even two years later, but the mind – well, that’s harder.
Nolan has learned coping strategies but its tough, and he still struggles sometimes.
I have to mention one thing though that irritated me. Nolan is musing “Phantom pain was no myth. the moment he started to thing about…” Well, that true BUT – Nolan Does Not Have phantom pain. That’s the pain amputees get, where the missing limb still feels pain, and as someone with no left leg, but who often gets severe pain from it 21 years later I can say wholeheartedly Nolan is right, it isn’t a myth but he’s not an amputee, he has severe pain, probably serve nerve pain from damage there, but he does not have phantom pain.
Right, got that off my chest * blush *. sorry, but some things just yank my chain and that’s one.
I really understood Nolan’s difficulties trying to get his life back on track, trying to be independent, having faced them myself after my amputation and that part was so well written that I found myself nodding with his thoughts and experiences.
When he worried about Zack seeing his scars – such a familiar feeling, when he didn’t want pity or sympathy – been there done that, and he felt so real for me. I just wanted everything to go perfectly for him.

Then there’s Zack, a real pain in the ar se boss. Yet as we get to know him we can see much of that comes from him wanting things done properly, without having to chase up assistants who should be able to deal with his requests.
Some people are good at that, some are not and Zack just wants to delegate and get on with his own work, he’s got a lot of it to do. Underneath all that tough guy, bluff and bluster is a geniune caring man.

The gym, what a great idea and goodreads had this book sub-titled (Ringside Romance #1)  so I hope we get to see more of the characters involved, and maybe catch up with Zack and Nolan.
Kids need places like this and its great when those who’ve benefitted in the past come forward to make it available to kids now who need it, as Zack and his friends do.
Those teen years are make or break time for many, get a record then and it stays with you for life, shaping what jobs you get, what direction your life can take, so its important to do everything possible to make them good years for those who are struggling. And lets face it, many teens do struggle, and if they’re Different in some way, race, religion, sexuality, disability etc then they feel all the more marginalised.
Provides a great background to this series of novels though 😉

Its a fun romance, fairly low on drama, and when things do go wrong its soon over. I liked the proportion of sex v story, so often the sex dominates and for me I want it to be more balanced.  I loved the setting, the characters and the gym but the story itself was a bit drama light for me, I do need a bit more angst for a 5 star re-reader, but its still a good four star read for me.

Stars: Four, a realistic read and one I enjoyed. I shall look for more from Christine.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Whiteout, Elyse Springer

Whiteout,  Elyse Springer

Genre:   LGBTQIA

I really enjoyed this novel. I was a little worried that it would be one of those where everything takes place over just a few days – sometimes those work for me but more often they don’t. It wasn’t though, the initial scenes, the amnesia, Noah waking with no memory and his flashbacks, are all in the cabin, but then it moves on and in fact covers several months.

What I loved: I could really feel Jason’s love for Noah, his worry about the injury, his concern for him, and add in his grieving for his former partner who’d died he was a man I loved.
And yet – the flashbacks Noah was having pointed to a very different guy, so which was right, which one was the real Jason? It was cleverly done, I really wasn’t sure.

Then there’s the revelations and boy what a shock they were. Gobsmacked – a total hit to the heart.
What I loved was that this happened just after halfway through the story, so we’ve loads of time to really explore the heartbreak side, to flesh out those flashbacks, to understand how both Noah and Jason are feeling, gutted, heartbroken and the story was so momentous the betrayal so great, so cleverly planned that I couldn’t see a way forward for them.
I love it when a book does that, really gets in deep on the heartbreak side, really digs in to how people are feeling, to what it means to them, to how they can either move on or try to pick up and see if there’s a path back to the love they had. Noah’s idea of how to do that was so so perfect, very subtle yet on point.
I hate when we get a big reveal, a terrible heart-breaking story and then two pages later its kiss and make-up. Done as it is here,fully explored, time to let emotions sink in,it’s just perfect for me.

I loved the characters, Jason and Noah, and the side ones, Sara, Abby, Tony….they all were strong cast and fitted perfectly.
The Rent connection – I’ve never read the book/seen the musical but followed along fine, I would like to read the book if I knew what it was called 😉
There are some steamy sex scenes but they don’t dominate the story, I so hate that, when its more sex than story, when the plots get lost behind the sex, but it fit perfectly and feel right here.

Stars: Five, a clever book, one I really enjoyed, that let me wallow in the sad parts 😉

Arc supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

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