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Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough by [Harlow, Melanie, Romanov, David]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve enjoyed some of Melanie’s past novels and was delighted to get this for review – I do so like a good M?M romance, somehow there’s so often the tenderness, the real romance side that’s often lacking in hetero novels. And this book had bags of that, along with some very sensual heat.

I loved Maxim, he’s just such a true gentleman, loves his mum and little sister, opens doors for ladies, always polite, that sort of guy.
He wants more than the life waiting for him in Russia, with its anti-gay stance, and has taken a 6 month visa to the US to follow his script-writing dreams. Sadly though, like so many he’s unprepared for the vicious, cruel world waiting to take advantage of an innocent.
The guy who’s meeting him and showing him to his new home doesn’t show up, then having a drink in a bar wondering what to do next his luggage gets nicked, and he’s homeless, jobless, cashless all in one fell swoop.
Luckily Derek’s sister has a penchant for strays, for helping people and animals and when she hears whats happened she invited Max to stay with Derek, then rings Derek and tells him 😉

Derek’s kind of  a neat freak, a place for everything and everything in its place. His friends take the mickey but its how he is, along with his long held dream of wife and family. Times passing though, he’s approaching forty and hasn’t got there yet despite trying hard.
Of course when we see him with Max its clear why, he’s really not that into women, maybe he’s bi, but its clear he wants Max. He’s had an upbringing though that’s taught him Gay Is Bad.

What a disservice parents do when they inflict their bias and views on their kids, and how hard it is to come out and go against parental dictates.
Its not good parenting doing that, but sadly for so many people its what they get. I get the feeling its not so much homophobia, as not really understanding it and fear that drives his parents.
Never the less Derek is not going to act on his attraction, it makes him angry with himself and Max, just knowing its there. And then it all gets too much and he snatches Max into one searingly sensual, erotic, life changing kiss that shocks them both.

Gah, Derek made me so angry with his hot/cold, not-my-fault attitude, and poor Max was totally confused.
I did understand and sympathise with Derek though, he’s repressed these feelings for so long, won’t even acknowledge them to himself, so he’s had his world turned upside down when he cant do that with Max.
Max isn’t going to be anyones dirty little secret though, had to hide himself in Russia, isn’t doing that again…

So can they make it through, can they find a HEA or is their romance doomed?
Its heartbreaking at times wanting them to be together and yet seeing Derek’s barriers fall down tight again.
I really enjoyed their story, the emotions, the sweetness, and of course the angst.

Stars: five, a really emotional read, with a sweet and yet steamy romance.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

New Moon, Lisa Kessler. Chief’s Mess, L.A. Witt

New Moon, Lisa Kessler

New Moon (Moon Series Book 8) by [Kessler, Lisa]

Genre:  Romance, sci-fi and fantasy

We’ve reaches the end and I’m always feeling conflicted when that happens. In part because I love a good series and its hard to say goodbye, but set against that is the feeling of satisfaction when the little clues throughout the series are finally wrapped up, when we know who was behind things and why, how it all worked out.
With a good series we’re left feeling hope for the future, that these people we’ve got to know so well are facing a time when they can finally relax, live a normal life, enjoy their friends and family. Still, I love rereading series so from me its not really Goodbye but See you later 😉

The back to back reads through a whole series work best for me too, when each book is still fresh in my mind, so its easier to follow the story, recall which character fits in where. Sometimes after months and lots of other reads its hard to recall exactly who belongs with whom, and how they fit in the overall story.

I remember Sebastian from the first book, and he’s changed. Or has he? Maybe its just my perception of him, as looking back the seeds of his discontent were clear even back then, but i just didn’t see it.
Its a great author who can turn around a character so the callous, murdering, immoral man we met becomes someone we love, who we want to have that HEA…but Lisa does it for Sebastian.
I found he was a terrific man, that he had been trying to put things right as much as he could for a long time, and with a father like his no wonder he grew up to be the man he was. Thank god for his mother’s influence, its whats kept that core of humanity in him.
Sebastian and Isabelle don’t have the best start, with her trying to kill him….well, until her wolf tells her she Just Can’t Kill Him! That’s a bit of an eye opener and changes everything. Isabelle is shocked.

Its another fabulous adventure, when plans get made, and changed and remade all the time. Nero has really hit bottom in its actions here, kidnapping a child for Antonio Severino’s cruel crusade, but it proves the catalyst for some unheard of co-operation.
Things quickly change in the story as the plots unfold, and this final book brings in many of the characters we’ve met in the preceding books. It opens up the Packs even more than they have been. It was a struggle getting Lana accepted into the pack, as she was a jaguar shifter back in the early books but since then they’ve become more accepting, less Wolf only insular and that’s given them an edge they needed for this final battle.
They’re not just a wolf pack now but have Jaguars, Psychics and humans among them and that’s given them strength, and maybe what Fate intended, that supernaturals work together, find power in collectivety.

I’ve enjoyed the series as a whole, and love this last book. Looking back to some of the books that weren’t quite top whack I can see the gaps that bothered me back then filled in now and I understand why things played out certain ways.
Despite not all the books being five star reads for me, the series as a whole deserves a solid five stars, it all adds up now.

Stars: five,a great read to finish a fantastic series

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Chief’s Mess, L.A. Witt

Chief's Mess (Anchor Point) by [Witt, L.A.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved the first book in this series, but the second did nothing for me.
Still,  LA Witt is one of my favourite m/m authors so I thought I’d try book three.

It wasn’t a great read for me, I just didn’t feel I Knew the characters, just a surface opinion of them, and I really want to feel book characters can be people I know. I need them to feel real for me to get invested in what happens to them.
Here I just didn’t, they were just two anonymous guying hooking up for hot sex.

They were very alike in many way, and TBH I kept getting confused, right up to the end, about which was which.
Not a good thing, and when characters are well fleshed and distinct not something that happens. I think maybe there could have been – for me, not for everyone of course, a little less sex in the first half and a bit more character and plot building.

I mention the plot, and that really is pretty simple, Noah ( and see? I almost wrote Anthony there – had to check it) is a functioning alcoholic, and like many others doesn’t recognise he has a problem.
Of course for Anthony that’s a bigger trigger than it maybe would be for others, his ex brother-in-law was an alcoholic, and that caused great distress for his sister and their kids.
I liked the build up, though it was pretty muted and did make Noah come over as judgmental rather than sympathetic, but the way things played out felt very simplistic, and its rarely as easy as that.
I guess there wasn’t space to go into any depth, but in reality it would have been far, far harder.

Stars: three, it was just an OK read for me, and maybe I need to look carefully before accepting any more Anchor Point novels.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Back to You, Chris Scully

Back to You, Chris Scully

Back to You by [Scully, Chris]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story. a beautiful slowly unfolding romance, a tantalising mystery, and a look at just how much childhood influences our lives.

Alex seemed pretty selfish when we first met him and I didn’t really like him. It seemed pretty straightforward, alcoholic father loses job, or could have been jobless father becomes alcoholic….depends on your view, and then parents separate and mum moves away with kids and remarries.
Alex loves his mum and stepfather but carries a real resentment that his own father didn’t make more effort to see him and sister Janet, didn’t even phone them.
Janet’s older so her view of the past is not the same, she recalls more of their parents being happy. She leaves home and ends up back in the same town as their dad, and now Alex is back as their father is dying he can see that she’s got issues too, another alcoholic, though a functioning one who covers it well.

We only see things from Alex POV which is a shame, as I’d have loved in insight into Ben’s mind.
He’s stayed in the same town, made a life for himself quietly, and clearly the event that had impact on him back then is still affecting him. His sister Misty, Janet’s best friend, went missing while Alex and his family were still living there. In fact he and Ben were the last people to see her.
Her mum, Angela, was like many parents, wrapped up in day to day stuff, the slog and grind of working, running a home, looking after teens, didn’t really make time for the kids, let them roam freely without much checking. Now she’s thrown the last 20 years into finding out what happened to Misty, as if she blames herself for not being there so much of the while.
She’s turned Misty into some kind of a saint, and rewritten the past to give them a close, devoted almost, relationship when it simply wasn’t that way, and Misty was a pretty mean, malicious individual.
She’s really no time for Ben, kind of dismisses him as doing OK, and just doesn’t appreciate that she still has one child, albeit grown now, living near her.
Ben looks after her, helping out when she’s in trouble yet again in her search for answers. She’s very single  minded.

Somehow Alex gets caught up in her search, partly because he feels there’s a good story in it, partly because he wants something, anything, to give him an excuse to spend as little time as he can with his dying dad…

This book is a really close look at families, childhood, mistakes, the things that happen, that we can’t evade but which have so much impact on us as adults.
Its clear that Alex thinks he’s left the past behind but inside he’s still seeking his dad’s approval, but knowing its never coming, so everything he does is tinged with that sense of failure in his view of dad’s eyes even before he starts it. My view of him changed as the story unfolded and I grew to really like him.

I love Ben, so quiet, so internal, and so helpful in an unobtrusive way to others in the town. He sees people for what they are, what they need, what he can do to help, not what problems they have.
He’s always loved Alex, that’s clear, even though they were only 13 when he left, and I get the feeling his life without Alex, with his mum there but in a way absent from his life in her search, means he’s kind of lonely. Its a small town, everyone knows everything, or thinks they do – or so it seems, and towns like that aren’t likely to have too many openly gay people.
Still, he’s made himself a quietly successful life as an artist, and in his unique way gives so much back to helping others.
I just couldn’t help wanting things to work out, was really worried he’d get his heart broken again. I could understand why he wasn’t overjoyed to see Alex again.

Alex changes a lot over the course of the story. Forced to look at himself he finally learns he doesn’t like what he sees, what he’s been doing, kidding himself he’s happy, but knowing and ignoring that his childhood issues were still driving him.
Was his attempt to find Misty altruistic, an attempt at atonement or a cynical plot for the next big news story?
For me it starts as one and ends as the other, he and I learned a lot about him over the course of the book.

Its not an overly sexual read, the parts where they do come together are very erotic and sensual but not frequent, and it takes a long while before they even touch each other, let alone do more. That was perfect for this story though, there was so much to tell, so much to learn that too much sex, them getting together quickly despite their pasts would have felt wrong. This way the balance felt perfect for me.
I used to read a lot of thrillers/suspense, but found their focus on thriller action first and romance second didn’t really work for me, I need the romance to be quite a strong, solid part of the story even if kept in the background.
This book, putting the suspense angle into a mystery, a story to be worked out that involves so many characters we’ve already met works better for me than an out and out thriller type read, bringing in lost of external characters.

Stars: five, a great read, perfect blend of romance ans suspense for me, and one I simply devoured in one sitting.
Riptide novels tend to be like that for me, stories that engross me, seduce me into another world, and let me escape from this one for a few hours. I was there with Ben, Alex, Janet and Angela, wondering just what was coming out next.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Lip Action by Virna DePaul, Played! A Shamwell Tales novel, JL Merrow


Played!, A Shamwell Tales novel, JL Merrow
Played! (Shamwell Tales Book 2) by [Merrow, JL]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve read and loved Shamwell 1, 3 and 4, so was pleased to fill the gap.
This was another great read, very village life feel, subtle humour as always in JL’s books, and a decent story.

Its a story more than sex book here, the bulk of the novel is Tristan’s thwarted attempts to woo Con. They are so funny when Tristan declaims some quote from a play and Con’s like …err..OK then. Sometimes he’s lost and others he’s on script, can quote back, having spent so much time building sets for the Sham Drams.

Tristan is a product of his background, posh school, moneyed parents and it shows at first in his entitled arrogance. Slowly though the village wears off some of that brittle shine, and his real nature comes through, we see he’s actually quite a caring guy.
Him and Con though, seem to be talking two different conversations at first, especially before Con’s dyslexia and reading issues come out. Con’s ready to assume Tristan’s taking the mick, when really he’s just being his slightly OTT self.

Its a gentle romance, builds slowly but with the usual pressures. Tristan is there for the summer only, Con doesn’t do short term romance, he’s been burned before and isn’t going there.
Then the spectre of New York hangs over Tristan’s head like the Sword of Damocles. He’s going to work there in finance in the family firm, use that expensive education his father’s always complaining about, but his heart dreads it, he loves performing even if it is ting stages in little towns, staying in some pretty dire B&Bs. He loves the actors life, its part of him and he hates giving it up.

I loved meeting the other guys too, the little stories that come out that aren’t attached to the romance and make for a well rounded story.
I really didn’t think I’d like Tristan when we first met him, but as more of his nature came out I found myself sympathetic to his position and wanting things to work between him and Con. Loved the stage setting, even though I’m not a great Shakespeare fan ( all that analyzing of the plays at school took the fun out of his work for me..).

One comment, I liked the old cover so much better, this new one just isn’t the Tristan I have in my head.

Stars: five, a great addition to Shamwell stories

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Lip Action, Virna DePaul

Lip Action (Kiss Talent Agency Book 1) by [DePaul, Virna]

Genre:  Romance,

I’ve mixed feelings about this. parts I liked and other bits not so much.
I loved Marissa but what an awful family she had, especially her mum. What parent wants her daughter to marry a cheating jerk.
Her dad kept quiet, but that’s a cop out IMO, he should have spoken out.

When her mum is pressing her to take back the jerk, the cheater just because she’s 28 and not married….I could scream at her, and of course Marissa won’t but comes up with a fake boyfriend to hold her off for a bit. Coincidentally the guy she’s looking at right then needs a fake girlfriend…

Simon wants the lead in a film that could make him an A list actor, but his past rep lets him down. In a moment of insanity he tells the producers he has a girlfriend….So when he hears Marissa he knows exactly what to do.
OK its a bit of a stretch believing they could meet just like that – but truth is strange sometimes so I’ll go with it.
They then go back and forth, will she won’t she, with pressures on both from his agent and her mum til she finally decides yes. She’s such a nice girl she just can’t let Simon down. even though she hates deception and lies.
Its kind of predictable after that, fun to read but nothing greatly original.
The down side, the drama, the sad bit happens just as you’d expect, and though I love that side I hadn’t really got connected enough to this story and characters to really feel any great emotions.

Its a fun story, easy and lighthearted, some steamy sensuality, and a kind of easy beach read.

Stars:3, its a fun read but not characters or a story I really got involved with.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

On Point, (Out of Uniform), Annabeth Albert. Broke Deep, A Porthkennack novel, Charlie Cochrane

On Point, Annabeth Albert

On Point (Out of Uniform) by [Albert, Annabeth]

Genre:  LGBTQIA

I didn’t realise this was a series, with two previous books, nor that it was a spin off from another series which I haven’t read. So many books, so little time and Annabeth is an author whose books I’ve only just begun to touch. Each of these are stand alone reads though, so I was abe to follow easily, though I’d have known more about all the characters if I’d read earlier books.

You know when you’re reading how some authors manage to describe a character and you can mentally “see” them? Well, here I had very clear pictures of Mad and Ben, not from physical descriptions so much as Annabeth’s way of describing what type of person they are. I need that, need to feel I know – and like – characters to get really engrossed in their stories.

Friends to lovers, always a fun read, and of course as always the potential for losing your best friend gets wrapped up in that. Who looks at logics though when the heart is involved?
Mad’s been in love with Ben for a long time now, but kept his feeling locked so tight inside Ben has no idea about them. Now serious injury to them both, re-enlistment time and relationship gaps coincide, and somehow they end up in a possibly-only-for-now relationship.
No end date put on, but one they agree to keep low key around others, and which if things don’t work out won’t spoil their friendship. Hah! As if!

Mad can’t quite believe whats happened, Ben is kind of shocked at how his feelings for Mad have become more than just good mates.
And while they’re both recuperating and hot, steamy sex is out there’s plenty more they can and do try.

Things look to be going well, Ben is determined to make Mad enjoy the dates he arranges, and he’s finding the change form his usual hook-ups only stance novel.
Still, even though on the surface he’s going all in he still denies Love is real, he’s been burned by that in his personal life when his last long term lover left him, and of course by seeing how devastated his dad was and how let down he felt when his mum left him at a young age.
He’s all about enjoy the moment, look forward to things but Love? He’s a real cynic about its existence.

Mad though takes the opposite view, even though his past hasn’t delivered he’s still got his parents happy marriage as a role model and he wants that for himself.
Tough though making a romance work when one wants a solid HEA and the other is convinced that HFN is as good as it gets.
Throw in a secret that affects them both and …can their romance survive? Are Mad’s dreams possible or destined to stay just a fantasy?

Stars: four, a really fun read, great characters and some very real situations between them.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Broke Deep, A Porthkennack novel, Charlie Cochrane
Broke Deep (Porthkennack Book 3) by [Cochrane, Charlie]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved the first two Porthkennack novels, they’re a group of stories by different authors about the small town of Porthkennack. Similar to Riptides Bluewater series which I love.
This series isn’t fixed on a time though so the books can be contemporary as this one is or historical. Great idea right?
Sadly though this one was just an OK read for me. Its a shame as I’ve loved some of Charlie’s other novels and went in to this with great expectations 😉 Maybe that’s the problem, the book just didn’t live up to my perhaps too high hopes.

I found Morgan to be a bit of a selfish jerk when it came to Dominic. He was good to his mother, and that’s tough, seeing a parent with dementia, but when it came to Dominic he was too ready to snap, to blame him, to push him aside. And Dominic’s such a sweet guy, very eager to please, very mild mannered and inoffensive.
To be fair they don’t start off well, Morgan getting a call from him on the day he receives his Dear John letter from his ex, who gave Dom Morgan’s number. Seems Dom knew he was an ex before Morgan…

Its such a slow burn romance that it feels to me that it never really starts. I can’t feel that sizzle, the magic connection between them, just a getting together almost out of convenience. There are moments when there’s something, when Morgan muses over Dom’s smile, when Dom feels Morgan’s eyes on him, but they’re fleeting.
The historical part was interesting, the way over the years tales get told, retold, embellished and the truth can become a thin thread in the story.

The dementia angle is very sad and felt very real, with his mum’s actions being so genuine, and his fears that he could have spotted it sooner very accurate. We do worry about things like that, wonder if we could have done more for a loved one.
Dementia is something that happens to too many people, and Morgan’s fears about it being inherited, about his nightmares, about what is or could happen to him are very real.
I expected more of an ending though, I just felt it kind of fizzled out, I was expecting another chapter, at least some kind of resolution about the dementia fears but suddenly it was then end and I wasn’t ready for it.

Stars: Three, an interesting story but fell a bit short for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
 

Caught!, A Shamwell Tales novel, JL Merrow

Caught!, A Shamwell Tales novel, JL Merrow

Caught! (Shamwell Tales Book 1) by [Merrow, JL]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I started this series with the third book, Out! having read others by the same author. I loved it and wanted to read books one and two also, but as happens the TBR list gets ever longer, reviews always take precedence and I just never got to it. And then a couple of days after getting Spun!- the 4th Shamwell book for review, I saw that Caught! – a revamped version, was for review. So finally I’m getting to the start of the story.

One of the things that attracts me to M/M romance is that so often IMO it has an edge over conventional F/M romance, the story is more believable, the tales very often have a subtlety about them that’s lacking in F/M stories.
The language too, I don’t know whether is just the authors I favour, whether I’ve just got lucky, but  its very rich, words used to their fullest, not just a word that’s sort of OK for a situation, but ones that are absolutely perfect. Ones that have me using the kindle dictionary function 😉

Robert sounds like mid twenties going on mid sixties at times the way he speaks sometimes, but its something I love to read, the English language used to its fullest. He dresses in a quaint way, bow ties and the right jacket or coat for every occasion. He is unique, you can see how he can be made fun of and yet he’s perfect, its the oddities about him that make him so wonderful, so different from others.
When he’s talking about time its never “about quarter to” but “seventeen minutes to” and he knows exactly how many items of clothes he has. It could make him stuffy and boring but it doesn’t, just makes him so very original.
I love Robert, he’s a real sweet guy, a natural worrier, over thinker and still reeling from the ripples that spun out after his last job issues. It was a real disaster for him, and when the tale was finally revealed I so felt for him. Some people would just shake it off, but Robert being the man he is it had a huge impact on him.
Anyway he’s teaching primary school kids in Shamwell now, a far cry from the privileged teens he used to teach, in a typical village school where the kids know everything about everyone…or think they do. Some are cute and innocent ( Charlie 😉 a lovely kid) and some very knowing (Desiree). And then there’s the twins, or rather the twins uncle Sean.
He lives with them, helping his sister bring them up, and its a tough time, they’re adorable but real tearaways, full of energy and looking for mischief. Their mum is currently undergoing treatment for cancer, dad isn’t around so Robert sees a lot of Sean at the end of the school day when he’s picking them up.

Sean is gorgeous, has that kind of bad boy edge, but underneath he’s nothing like one, enjoying films, books and good food, and he and Robert find they have so much in common.
He’s Bi though, and poor Robert spends much time agonising over whether he’s actually attracted by him, or being friendly with him so he can chat up Rose, another teacher Robert is friends with.
Their first dates are a series of semi disasters, dates but non-dates, though slowly they get together and then things explode, the attraction between them leaps off the page.

So many wonderful characters here besides Robert and Sean, the twins and their mum Debbie, some of the other mums and dads ( poor Charlie’s dad, having That Chat with Robert was wonderful), Rose who was such a great friend to Robert, knowing just when he needed a push, Hanne his elderly next door neighbour, and Roberts family, mum, stepdad and stepsisters. Titty, oh that made me snigger, perfect nickname for such a rude person.
The story too is terrific, not just a romance but a mix of subtle humour, wry looks at small town life – been there done that – and situations that are so real I could visualise them taking place.
There’s sensuality of course, but behind that, backing up their romance there’s a wonderful, solid tale that unfolds to make for a novel I know will join the keepers for re-reading.
Its got that same fabulous humour as the other book I read, kind of wry and sardonic, never nasty but at times very, very true to life, especially the parodies of some of the characters. They feel so real I can “see” them, know what sort of reaction they’re likely to have to events and its been a real treat to read.

I did miss the fabulous Barry and the Spartans from book three, I’m not sure if that’s their debut or if they appear in book two. Sometime I’ll hopefully find out!
And I really didn’t mean to bang on so much, but this series is so perfect, I love it.

Stars: five, a wonderful, rich read, full of humour, pathos, drama and happy ever after. I love it.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

An Unnatural Vice, KJ Charles

An Unnatural Vice, KJ Charles

An Unnatural Vice (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre:  Romance,

I love KJC’s stories and this is another perfect read. She uses language that fits the time period, and which the kindle look up function proves useful for me when its words I haven’t met before!
I love the English language to be used to the fullest in novels, far too often its kind of dumbed down, almost as if authors feel readers won’t understand their writing. I don’t want a story that’s so literate the plots get lost in flowery overdone prose, but ones that like this give a richness of language to the story really lifts the work.

Its another gentle mystery, very real feeling of the time period, bringing in the feeling of spookiness and damp that the London fogs of the time had.
We meet characters from book one and that was enjoyable, i love it when we see those from earlier books moving on with their stories.
It’s a time when homosexuality was a crime punishable by prison, so these characters have to be very careful in their actions.

Nathaniel and Justin, fiercely on opposing sides, Nathaniel is determined to expose Justin as a fraud, and Justin sees in him all the things he hates, rich privileged upbringing, a person who’s quick to judge, condemn, look down on others less fortunate than themselves.
Neither are quite correct, but its such fun seeing how KJC is going to move them from that adversarial point to lovers. It creeps in carefully, sliding unseen into each others psyche almost the way the London Fog creeps into corners clouding vision.

The description of the seances and how Justin ran them was fascinating, and considering the time and limitations of things that could be used its really believable. I can see how he got the tag of Seer of London, he was very accomplished at what he did.
Its easy like Nathaniel to sneer at how he earned a living, but looking at what else he could do its much harder to judge him. He made many people happy, kept himself, Frankie, Emma and Sukey off the streets, warm, fed and clothed so was it really so bad, did he really deserve Nathaniel’s condemnation?
Its very easy to look down on others from the high road, not so easy if you spend time in their shoes, or even looking at their actions from their POV.

There’s some real danger for them here, the story from book one continues, the murders rack up once more, bringing Justin and Nathaniel into genuine peril, fearing for their lives. And by now they fear as much for each others lives as for their own. It leads them further into the romance, reveals parts of each other so far hidden, and its the perfect story for escape from real time issues for a while.

I loved this book, and like other series from KJC its going into my keeper files for rereading when series is complete. The Magpie/Jackdaw series of hers has been read again a couple of times, and I find things I missed first time round when I’m doing a back-to-back read of the novels.

 

Stars: five, a fabulous dive back into a time when men who liked men had to be incredibly careful, when the police were overstretched and murders abounded, and when Spiritualism was at a peak.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Heels Over Head, Elyse Springer

Heels Over Head, Elyse Springer

Heels Over Head by [Springer, Elyse]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved Elyse’s Whiteout, so looked forward to this. Its a very different style of book IMO, but once more Elyse lets me wallow in the angsty bit, really stretches it out.
So many otherwise perfect for me stories just skip that part, breakup on page 278, make up by 280….here it covers a decent span of time both in book pages and weeks/months.

When we meet Jeremy he appears almost mechanical, very goal focused and nothing detracts him. He’s kind of isolated with only diver Val and trainer Andrey as – well, not freinds even Val, but contacts? acquaintances?
He’s been training and diving since he was seven, much to the disgust of his father and brothers. Fag sport is what they call it, they’re the type of stereotypical rednecks that pride themselves ( somewhat ironically!) as Men’s men. You know, the tough sort, the Manly type….sadly, there’s lots like him. Jeremy has been trying to make his family proud for years, but so far they still deride his sport. Olympic cold will do it he thinks, and that’s his goal.
So when he finds out Andrey has taken on another pupil he’s not happy. Andrey came out of retirement to train him and he’s been his only pupil for a long time. Now he has to share with Brandon and he makes it clear he isn’t happy.
He thinks Brandon is a waste of time, he’s out for the fun of diving, only been doing it for two years and has so much raw talent that Jeremy is annoyed he won’t take it seriously. Not only that but he’s Gay and proud of it. Cue much friction.

Brandon comes from a wealthy background but when he came out to his parents at 18 he was thrown out. He knew it would happen, made a few plans and has been alone ever since.
He’s had lots of freinds, is still close to his ex, and is just going along with the flow, delighted to have got a scholarship and training for his diving. He does it for fun though, looks at Jeremy’s single minded focus and thinks there’s more to life that being like that, giving up everything for one goal.
Jeremy intrigues him though, he’s politely rude, makes it clear he thinks Andrey shouldn’t be training him, and Brandon just wants to find a way to crack through the disdain he shows for him.

And then number three comes in, Val, long time competitor who’s met Jeremy so many times they’re kind of friends, well as close as he will allow himself anyway. Friends divert his focus and he won’t allow that.
Val has pushy parents, thwarted from their own ambitions they’re determined to push her to the Olympics. As a child she followed without question, as an adult now she’s feeling she wants to find her own way in the world and that may not be through competitive diving.

So three very diverse characters. Val makes friends with Brandon pretty quickly, he’s a likable guy and she doesn’t have Jeremy’s intensity about focus and friendships. She needs freinds to support her when her mother is around!
Brandon is attracted to Jeremy from the off, but soon realises Jeremy may be giving off signs that he’s attracted by Brandon, but is not admitting that even to himself. He’s what Brandon and his friend call a skeleton, someone so deep in the closet they don’t acknowledge even to themsleves their feelings.
That way disaster lies from Brandon, and yet he can’t seem to keep away, can’t stop trying to get Jeremy’s attention.

I love this kind of read, where people are so opposite, so different you think No Way will they make it together, and then authors prove that totally wrong.
Its no quick fix either, but slowly, so very slowly Jeremy comes round to Brandon, to the point where they’re lovers.
And then bam…it’s all off. Oh I love that part in a story, where just as they look set for a HEA after lots of struggle and work it all goes wrong.
I was so angry at Jeremy, he was so cold and callous, even though I knew why. It takes a lot of time and work to put right and that was just perfect for me, no two page breakup and then its all sunshine and rainbows…

I don’t know the world of swimming at all but here it was so well explained I could follow along, get involved in the way they wanted to win, understand the things they were up against.
There’s a lot of side content here, that adds so much to the story, things we need to know to really understand the characters and that worked really well for me.
At the beginning I didn’t think I could ever really like Jeremy, he seemed so cold but as I got to know him I so felt for him, for what he’d tried to do, for the things he’d given up to try to get his families approval.
Brandon I loved from day one, and Val, well sadly there’s so many like her, who have their own ambitions thwarted by parents who want to push them in another direction. doesn’t everyone deserve to make their own choices, do what they know will make them happy?

Stars: Four, a really interesting read, with lots of emotion and drama.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Called Out, Jen Doyle. Fraud Twice Felt, J.T. Hall

Called Out, Jen Doyle

Called Out by [Doyle, Jen]

Genre:  Romance,

Carina: what I love about Carina books is they have a happy ending, eiother a HEA or a HFN, and thats what I want in a romance, an escape from realisty into happy times, a way to leave todays probelms behind and disappear into a world where things go wrong but end well.

I’ve got to start this review with a gripe though 😦 One thing that really bothered me about this story.
We’re told Jack screwed over his best friend and work colleague, and has been given the cold shoulder by everyone since.
What he did was dreadful, a total no-go thing to do to your best mate but I kept thinking, maybe there’s something we’re missing? There are some details that mean what we think happened may not be quite that way perhaps? **see edit at end**
Equally there were complications, something results from that act that gets left open. That felt weird to me, I can’t understand why it wasn’t dealt with, why Jack would have not acted upon what resulted, or again maybe there’s something I’m missing. The Jack we know from this story would not have just done nothing, would have acted, stepped up, not just left things hanging.
Without giving it away its hard to say what happened, maybe it resolved spontaneously, but it felt very strange to me, and was hard to match with the Jack we came to know.

I love this kind of book, enemies to lovers, and there was some serious chemistry between Jack and Lola, some scorching sensual scenes that are page melting.
Lola, I so felt for her, devastated after her husbands death, left with four small boys, she’s kind of running through life on autopilot, and anything that affects that fine tuned organisation she has is disastrous. So she’s not in the best mood when she meets Jack. Her boys though – he’s one of their idols.
Jack’s actually a really good guy, though his background leads to him to deny that, to think he’s like his parenst and incapable of love. Yet the things he does for Lola show us otherwise and how he is with the boys, (one, two and three…and four the later addition!!) well, that’s heart melting.

We meet up with the gang again, I loved Dorie and Nate from the first book, somehow missed out on book two, but its the same great group of characters, who’ve known each other for years, who feel so real.
Its another story I loved, that pulled at the heart strings, made me laugh and feel tearful all within a few pages sometimes.
Its a great summer read, one for when you’re feeling a little down and want something to make you smile and feel really good at the end.

Stars: four and a half. I have to take off a half star for that huge, unresolved issue, the thing that’s such a catalyst for the story and yet gets left hanging. ( but may not be in final version)

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

** that may have been only in ARCs. Seems debut had her losing the baby. Hopefully thats clear in final version**

Fraud Twice Felt, J.T. Hall

Fraud Twice Felt (The Oddities Book 2) by [Hall, J.T.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I hadn’t read book one. Occasionally I have to restrict myself and catch up on the TBR list and must have missed it that way because its a series that’s got so much I love.
Still, looking at sample and reviews it was pretty easy to catch up.

Derwin and Elliot are finding a new life together. It seems strange to think they’ve only been together three weeks but I guess its been very intense so that’s why they feel as though they’ve known each other longer. They really are Jack Spratt and his wife with Derwin needing pain to feed, and Elliot getting enjoyment from being hurt. Makes them perfect for each other.

Now Elliott’s given up the rent boy gig and moved in with Derwin, he’s also working at Bob’s Bail Bonds. Just filing currently but hoping to learn more and be a bounty hunter himself. For now though he’s enjoying having some autonomy over his life, its not been that way for a very long while.
He’s still in danger though from the head of one of the local gangs who sees Elliot as his special plaything, his to hurt, his to keep. Derwin is determined not to let that happen and with most people his strength would do it, but Roy seems to have some abilities of his own, plus of course backing of a gang…

As well as the relationship issues, and the gangs there’s a supernatural bent to this series too with some people like Derwin and Elliot having extra abilities. That’s good – and not good. It helps keep them alive and in work but if the government gets to hear about it they’ll be whipped off to some science lab, no doubts there.
So they need to fly under the radar carefully. The last book put them in the eye of some of the local cops, so caution is needed.
Life isn’t like that though, and long time friend and colleague Connie’s son is missing. That leads them into an adventure that brings in more people, the cops, the underclass of homeless and prostitutes Elliot knows so well, Roy and his gang, along with another local gang, and of all things a sea serpent, a huge sea dwelling dragon…

Its a breathtaking adventure with a bit of everything thrown in, romance and esp m/m romance, the issues of homophobia, the police/government and the bias against Oddities, the danger from the local gangs, who of course don’t work together so cause issues everywhere, the bounty hunters, the sea dragon and in that mix they need to find and rescue Connie’s son and his girlfriend without getting caught in any of the competing dangers.
Well, there’s so much going on, so much action, planning, thinking on the fly when plans go wrong that its a solid read, and yet its not five stars for me as I expected.
I’m not sure why but maybe its just that there’s a bit too much of everything happening. That kind of diluted some of the effects, and the constant crisis to crisis action didn’t really leave much time for thinking, for seeing how the relationship between Elliot and Derwin was developing.
Its romance, but really more an action read than romance read IMO.

Its a good read, I enjoyed it but its not (yet) a series I’m in love with. time will tell I guess, there;s the potential from far more from this setting.

Stars: Four, an action packed read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Surrender the Dark, Tibby Armstrong

Surrender the Dark, Tibby Armstrong

Surrender the Dark by [Armstrong, Tibby]

Genre: Romance

Vampires and Romance, check and request. sadly though its a fail for me.
I didn’t like the characters, didn’t follow all the odd terms though most could be guessed at. I couldn’t get a feel for Benjamin or Tzadkiel as people, didn’t feel I knew them, and they certainly have a real hate going on.
I know its said there’s a thin line between love and hate but here I just didn’t feel the lust between them was genuine, they were both so mired in hatred.
Its that old bearing a grudge for history, we can’t change it, both sets of ancestors did things that were wrong, but which they felt justified. someone has to make it stop sometime.

There were things too that just didn’t feel right for me, the times something weird, different, new comes up that gets them out of a tight spot, the way Benjamin’s freinds take off when he gives them some patently untrue lies, I didn’t feel they’d have believed him or abandon him like that.

I gave up about halfway through, just couldn’t bring myself to read more.
Shame as it sounded perfect for me, and maybe sometime in the future I’ll give it another go?
I can see others love it so perhaps I’m missing something, need to be in a different mindset to appreciate it? Who knows…it happens. Everyone likes different stories so some will love this, others like me won’t connect.

Stars: Two, just not the right story for me, but perfect for others. You choose.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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