Tag Archive | sensual

Summer Stock, Vanessa North

Summer Stock,  Vanessa North

Summer Stock by [North, Vanessa]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

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

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

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

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

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

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Back to Us, Phlox Beauty Series Book 2, Julia Gabriel

Back to Us, Phlox Beauty Series Book 2, Julia Gabriel
Back to Us (The Phlox Beauty Series) by [Julia Gabriel]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved Julia’s DRawing Lessons and Chiarascuro, but somehow I missed the first book in this series, featuring Jared and Phlox. They appear in this book too as secondary but important characters and I worked out much of their backstory from that but its a book I’d like to read. sometimes. when the TBR list drops a bit….

So even though this is a second in sereis its a stand alone, and it didn’t matter I hadn’t read book one.
I really enjoyed this story, felt so much for both characters and as before Julia doesn’t just stick to a standard romance of man meets woman, they fall in love, have a hiccup and then a HEA. No, Julia adds more and that’s what makes it perfect for me.
Its not just that Colt and Zee were in love four years ago, not that they are perfect for each other, but that they somehow lost their way, had a big breakup but after being captured and tortured Colt had lost huge chunks of his memory, including the fact he doesn’t live with Zee now….

Poor Zee comes home after a busy day, crawls into bed, only to find Colt in it. Colt who she’s not heard from in four years after living with him for a while and he left!
What a huge shock..and then he explains and she feels for him, but won’t open her heart again, it took her too long to recover the first time.
Since then she’s had more issues with her love life, when her lover who worked for the company she and best friend Phlox own sabotaged it, and nearly brought it to collapse. Its taken hard work and money to keep things going, and somehow Zee feels all the blame, has lost confidence in her judgement so has sworn off men.
And then Colt comes back, and she can feel him all over again, feel how right for her he is. Still, the reasons the broke up were solid, she can’t let herself go that route again.

Colt goes to stay with Max, her grandfather and the man who inadvertently brought them together.
He was Max’ writing professor, and there’s still a lot of respect between them. Colt has literally just left hospital and doesn’t know where he lives, doesn’t have access to his bank, which was emptied by his captors, so is in a really hard postition. As well as the memory loss, he’s physically weak from being beaten and starved and having a badly broken leg.
The trauma has left him with nightmares and he keeps losing bits of the present, such as forgetting where he is, right now. Its clear he can’t live alone so Max takes him in, although he’s away for a few days.
The first night he has a terrible nightmare, and in desparation somehow phones Zee, who collects him, takes him home and he ends up staying there for a few days til everything is sorted.
Of course Zee can’t stay in bed when she can hear him screaming in terror – who could, and slowly he works his way back into her heart.

She won’t tell him why they split up though, still trying to keep him at arms length and like Colt I was desperate to know. And when we did find out I was heartbroken for her, even though knowing Colt’s background I can see why he made the decision he did.
We all think time is limitless when we’re young, that there’s another chance, another time. Carpe Diem is a good motto, who knows what’s round the corner?
Trouble is when its two people who have different priorities for right now, different things they want to seize on the day.

Poor Zee, still working long days, trying to assuage her guilt over the sabotage, trying to put things right even though it wasn’t her fault, and now she’s more pressure with Colt back in her orbit.
He’s determined to wear her down, to get her back. he knows that for him she’s it,. and now he’s a better sense of life priorities.
Zee can’t trust he’s changed though, and she’s her own background issues to contend with. her mother is famous, an award winning actress and for much of Zee’s life she was dragged around, tutored privately and following her mother as she worked on yet another film. Her only stability came from her grandparents and after her grandmother died Max is the closest person in her life.

Its a book full of love, full of small and bigger dramas and one I loved. I was so wanting Zee to let Colt in, so understood why she didn’t though and was engrossed in seeing how on earth Julia could resolve things for them. And she did, in a perfect way.

Stars: five,a lovely story, sensual romance, with real issues and characters

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Solo, Lauren E. Rico

Solo, Lauren E. Rico

Solo (Symphony Hall) by [Rico, Lauren E.]

Genre:  Romance, New Adult.

Well, I hesitated over reading this one. I read book one of Lauren’s music trilogy, and though there were parts I loved, such as the music, there were parts I found really hard to get along with, and haven’t yet decided if I’m going to read parts two and three. Eventually I took the plunge with Solo – and I’m So glad I did.

Its a wonderful story, perfectly written as far as my reading tastes go, mixing story, sex, drama and intrigue to make a tale I was gripped by. I’ve said often I hate when sex becomes the story, here its just right, sensual and erotic but fits within the book so very well.
I have to say though, that cover is just awful, really tacky and just doesn’t do the novel justice IMO. I’m one who rarely looks at covers, just reads the blurb, its only the brilliant or awful ones that catch my eye….

I loved Katherine, such a hard worker, so loyal to her father even when he’s acted so harshly, when she could make her life easier if she did things another way.
She doesn’t though, she’s strongly moral, and just keeps her head down, works hard, and struggles through whatever the personal cost.
I so felt for her all the awful things she had to endure. Drew’s hassling of her, he really picked on her, her advisor Tessa, wasn’t any help, she seemed to dislike Katherine so its no wonder she didn’t go to her for help, the other students were horrible to her.
She’s so alone, friendless, family less and just has learned the only person she can rely on is herself. Isn’t that horrible? When Drew asks her when was the last time someone gave her a present and its years, my heart cracked a bit, such a simple thing, a gift that shows someone cares about you and she’d had nothing from her father, had no freinds with whom she could exchange gifts, just this lonely, solitary life.

Drew, he was a real piece of work the way he singled her out, the way he picked on her for every imagined infraction. I did wonder how he got away with it, and I guess its only because Katherine avoided anything that might throw controversy on her father that she didn’t complain.
Then they get thrown together and he sees a different side to her, sees that he’s projected his anger at Cassie onto her. There are some really emotional moments when the penny drops as to just how awful he’s been to her over the last five years. We see a different side to him too.

Of course as student and professor anything between them is forbidden and they’re risking so much, and they do try to stay on the right side. Still, you know how it is, in the first throes of attraction we tend to think we’re being careful when it reality we’re anything but.

There’s drama here too with the press, in particular one sleazy guy, always sneaking round for a story, trailing her for months, asking everyone about her, trying to find dirt, especially now her father may announce his bid for presidency.
With their actions and they way they don’t see just how much they’re giving away its not long before it all goes wrong.

When it does,  well – boy – is Drew a first class jerk!
I kind of understood where he was coming from, understood that he hadn’t really let go of the past, and I’d guessed who was behind things and why – well, part of the why 😉
I loved the way it wasn’t all hate on one page all love again on the next. I like my drama dragged out, I like to wallow and poor Katherine really hit the depths.

I did find the way they fell headlong into romance despite the risks a little bit, teeny bit difficult to take, both had so much to lose, but I put that to one side as it made such a great read for me.
See, I like some realism in my novels, but this wasn’t too far off course, people do act in stupid ways when in love 😉

Stars:Five, a story I really enjoyed, Lauren’s love of music really comes through and gives a solid, realsitic background to the novel even to someone like me who knows little about orchestras, composing, conducting and the world of Classical music.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Asher Black, Parker S. Huntington

Asher Black, Parker S. Huntington

Asher Black: (Book 1 of The Five Syndicates Series) by [Huntington, Parker S.]

Genre:  Romance,

After reading this I was looking for more info on author, and astonished to read that its her first book and…she’s only 21! That came as a real shock as IMO its a very well written, polished novel, and I can only imagine what Parker is going to produce with a bit more experience! An author to watch.

So…I rarely read Mafia/biker/MC type novels. I just find usually they’re a combination of pet hates, grunting, monosyllabic alpha males and improbable story-lines.
I don’t mind a bit of artistic licence, a small leeway in what’s credible, but find these tend to stretch my beliefs too far.
Then there’s the Mafia type ones, where the MC kills indiscriminately all the way through but – hey he’s very good looking so we’ll just ignore all those dead bodies…that really annoys me.

Parker contacted me though and offered an ARC.
As I have KU I chose to read it that way, feeling as its a genre I wouldn’t usually choose that was fairer than accepting an ARC and writing a low review if I didn’t like it, when I know that its very likely it won’t be a read that suits me.

And I was wrong, very wrong.
Yes Asher is Alpha male, but very literate, very intelligent and not prone to the grunting commands I so hate. His decisions are thought through thoroughly, he works hard at his business, has built it up from nothing and is careful about his position.
There are rumours about his Mafia background, it suits him to say nothing. He’s killed in the past, had Mafia connections but as he explains to Lucy, that’s not who he is now. Even the murders when explained I could understand. I don’t need to agree always with a characters actions, but I do need to understand the motivation, the reason why, before I can say – OK that’s in the past and get behind him or her.

The plots in this book are pretty well set out, easy to follow and felt credible, maybe stretched what’s acceptable a bit much at times ( the way he can sort Anything, literally anything it seems, whether its a parking ticket, ticket for something sold out, Lucy’s school issues or just having the cops help him cover up or gloss over an event) but somehow it all worked out and felt good.
So yes, the reason he’s needs a fiancee isn’t that original, but it works, and with so many stories around there’s always an overlap of some plots.
For me Parker made this story work, caught me up in the tale, anticipating events that played out, getting caught out by ones I didn’t see.
I love drama, its the one thing that Mafia/MC reads do well and I enjoy. Its just the rest of the plots that usually have me avoiding them. Maybe I need to take a closer look at some in future 😉 Here Parker got plenty of it in – and I loved it. I would have liked a bit more downs towards the end, I do love sad parts too so long as I get a HEA!

There’s a great group of characters here, and I love that Parker includes some nasties, some real bi tch ladies. They always add to the fun for me, I do love to see them built up then brought down 😉
There’s some great heat in this, some serious sensuality that’s well done. I hate when sex overtakes a story, here Parker has the balance just right.

Overall its a book I loved, totally against what I expected. The Mafia connection is mainly in the past and really only a small part of the story, and there’s so very much more to this read than Mafia murders…

Stars: five, a really fun and sensual read, a romance I thoroughly enjoyed. Perfect drama for me 😉

Read via KU at authors request.

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

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

Genre: Romance,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
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Wake Up Call,  JL Merrow

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

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Home Fires, Common Law 4, Kate Sherwood

Home Fires, Common Law 4,  Kate Sherwood

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

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Strays, Garrett Leigh. Legacy Lost, Jillian David

Strays,  Garrett Leigh

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

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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

Legacy Lost, Jillian David

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

Genre:  Romance,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

London Bound, Heart of the City series book 3, CJ Duggan

London Bound, Heart of the City series book 3, CJ Duggan

London Bound (A Heart of the City romance Book 3) by [Duggan, C.J.]

Genre:  Romance,

I read Paris Lights just before requesting this – it was on KU and I really enjoyed it. This book links slightly with that, we met Kate briefly in book one, and as I haven’t yet read book two there may be more link ups. Each are stand alone books though so no nasty cliff-hangers!!

Kate’s a lovely girl but I kept wanting to say to her “stand up to Nana Joy”. If ever a woman was misnamed that’s her…Still, I guess Kate was afraid of being sent back, not living out her dream. The way she is though she isn’t doing it either…but bullying is pervasive, it has a build up effect so that the person being bullied gets more scared, loses more of their character and becomes intimidated easily. That was clearly happening to Kate.
She gets to go out slowly, little increments of freedon aided by carer Vera, who’s a real gem
.
Jack seems very arrogant when we first meet him, but slowly we meet the real person and when we find out more about him his first reactions were understandable. I really liked him, a true gentleman. They get closer, balcony meetings leading to some steamy encounters and things heat up.
Kate’s discovery about the secret room in Nana Joys house leads to her moving on with her new blog, starting at last some of the things she’d hoped to do when coming to London.
Then the blog picks up, the heat between her and Jack picks up, what she doesn’t realise is that secrets are also picking up and when all is revealed she’s distraught.

I love a bit of drama, and that was perfect for me but…its over far too soon. I need to wallow a bit in heartbreak, and though Kate was gutted she soon got over it. Small crit but the difference between a four and a five for me.
I found the same thing with Paris Lights, a great read but the drama soon over. Others want their stories that way though, its the old horses for courses thing where you simply can’t please everyone one.

Its a fun read, with some great humour tucked in, fabulous clothes, and a snapshot of the London Experience for Kate.

Stars: Four, an enjoyable read, with realistic characters and scenes.

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

The Discipline, Jade A. Waters. America’s Next Reality Star, Laura Heffernan

The Discipline,  Jade A. Waters

The Discipline (Lessons in Control) by [Waters, Jade A.]

Genre:  romance, erotica

I hadn’t read book one, just the amazon sample, but thought this sounded fun and I’d be ok without the full story.
Well, I found I could follow the story easily, but there are clearly things there that build up to this book, and really I think you need to read both to fully enjoy this.

I never really got a sense of “knowing” Maya or Dean, that I knew them as people apart from their sexual inclinations. Maybe if I’d read book one?
I don’t think it would have made much difference in that the book seems to concentrate on the erotic aspects rather than them as people with outside lives.
The plots are really build ups to the next erotic section.  Those are written very well, but for me I need that sense of empathy for the characters to make them feel more that just a sensual sex scene.
That’s just me though, clearly others want the erotic parts more than the story as evidenced by the sale of books now that are just excerpts of sex scenes from popular novels.
I needed to really understand Maya and Dean, to feel for them, to want them to work things through and…I just wasn’t that invested in them.

When the secrets start to come out it makes clear some of the earlier issues they had, but when the big stumbling block hits I felt Maya was being very obtuse, it was very, very clear that they weren’t both happy at what was happening, and I think she only saw what she wanted to. A bit of thought for Dean and his actions might have made a huge difference – that would have changed to story though 😉 so it needed to unfold that way of course, but for me I needed it to be done a little differently.

Its a good book, five star on the erotic part, but I felt the romance side fell down and I didn’t really get that feeling of understanding the characters, feeling as though I could “know” them and as if I was there in the story.
For me that’s important, but not necessarily for everyone. That’s why it only gets three stars rather than the five the erotic section would get. I want eroticism AND romance, but felt I really just got erotic storyline line here.

Stars: Three, good sex scenes but bland romance IMO.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

America’s Next Reality Star,  Laura Heffernan

America's Next Reality Star by [Heffernan, Laura]

Genre:  romance,

I don’t watch TV now, give me a good book, but even when I did “reality” TV wasn’t my thing. Its so scripted, the title Reality is a real misnomer….Still, it makes for some great stories, I’ve read some real crackers – and some huge fails too 🙂

So where does this one fit? Well, to begin I thought it was going to be great. I loved Jen, love the way the build-up brought her to the point of the show.
Some great characters in the mix of the 12 people selected, a real cross section with – hurrah – someone to dislike intensely. Those characters always add such interest. the games were good too, and we got to see just how some people can manipulate things to get their way.

I did get a bit irritated at the relationship drama, the does he/doesn’t he, did they /didn’t they stuff. It seemed very high school/teen thing, not the 21-25 age group, but I guess when you’re stuck in that intense, focussed, hot house environment with people no doubt chosen to provide friction and good TV, then it’s kind of inevitable.
As a fun read it was great, as a romance not so for me, it was more speculation than actual happening most of the while, so the ending felt a bit strange. I couldn’t see it working like that.
In fact I felt the ending was very rushed, at about 85% we still seemed to be only halfway through the show, still very much into the games and the voting, then suddenly it was all ended.
Very abrupt and unexpected. I had flipped to the end at the 85% mark just to see if maybe there was a second book, it seemed so far off being completed, so for me that part spoiled it. I wanted the drama, the tensions etc to play out more, but its was like wow, x happens, y happens and suddenly its z and we’re finished.

Stars: Three, a fun one off read for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

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