Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Worth Waiting For by Wendy Qualls

Title: Worth Waiting For
Author: Wendy Qualls
My Rating: B-

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Heart of the South #1
Main Characters: Paul and Brandon
Release Date: August 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
A small-town in the Deep South isn’t where most gay men would choose to go looking for love. But open hearts will find a way…

Growing up in the Bible Belt, Paul Dunham learned from a young age to hide his sexuality. Now he’s teaching psychology at a conservative college in Georgia—and still hiding who he really is. If Paul hopes to get tenure, he needs to keep his desires on the down-low. But when an old college crush shows up on campus—looking more gorgeous than ever—Paul’s long-suppressed urges are just too big for one little closet to hold . . .

Brandon Mercer has come a long way since his freshman year fumbling's with Paul. Now he’s confident, accomplished, proudly out—and the sexiest IT consultant Paul’s ever seen. When Brandon asks Paul to grab some coffee and catch up, it leads to a steamy reunion that puts their first night of passion to shame. But when Paul’s longtime crush turns into a full-time romance, he receives an anonymous email threatening to expose their secret to the world. If Paul stays with Brandon, his teaching career is over. Yet if he caves under pressure, he risks losing the one true love he’s been


My Review:
The hard thing about writing book reviews is figuring out why sometimes a book works for you and sometimes it doesn't. This was a book that didn't work for me. I'll be honest...I almost DNF'ed it several times in the last 25% of the book, but by that time, I'd already put in so much time to reading it. 

But the question is...why didn't it work for me. I think the answer is this...the main hero, Paul. This book is told entirely from Paul's point of view and Paul is really not that great of a character. It's hard to feel empathy for him when his goal is to lie about his sexuality for the rest of his life, then lie to a woman and marry her under false pretenses. That was his plan pretty much all the way through the book...and it's hard to like a guy who'd be willing to be such a jerk. Seriously. 

BUT the whole setup of the book is a good one. I think if the author had taken half the points of view and given them to Brandon, who is a MUCH more likable character that I could empathize with, I think this would have had a much better rating. 

As it is, though...I just didn't care. I didn't care whether Paul got his HEA or not. Honestly, Brandon deserved someone better. 

But there are moments when the story was good and that kept me reading...and those moments were times when Brandon controlled what was happening in their lives. The trip to Atlanta, showing Paul how life could be was a great sequence of scenes. 

There's also a bit of a mystery story line that had the potential to really drive the story, but then it almost became a side story that fell kind of flat. 

Potential...this book had it. It just didn't live up to the possibilities, and I'm really sorry about that because I really wanted to enjoy this story.

(The cover is gorgeous.)

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Title: Illegal Contact
Author: Santino Hassell
My Rating: A+

Genre: Sports Romance (m/m)
Series: The Barons #1
Main Characters: Gavin and Noah
Release Date: August 2017
Publisher: Intermix
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:


The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel. 

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin's timeout is over…

My Review:

Hands down, this was one of the best books I've read this year. Seriously, I cannot share with you how much I loved this book. I started it this morning (I'm writing this on a Sunday) because I like to spend a little bit of time for me on weekend mornings. But I was only going to read one hour and then do my work...(I personally had plans to finish writing my book today, so I had a FULL day of writing ahead of me). Well, it's now 1:00 in the afternoon and I kid you not, I'm tempted to open up this book and start reading it all over again. OMG, it was so freaking good!

Gavin is a jerk, but he's a talented jerk who plays as starter for the Barons, the NFL team just coming off their first superbowl win...thanks a lot to Gavin. But he has anger control and rage issues which landed him in hot water. After being caught on tape chasing down a guy and punching him, he was suspended from the NFL and is on a 6 month house arrest/probation. The thing is no one really knows or likes Gavin. He's brash and rude and truly doesn't care what people think of him...hint: most people don't like him. He has two friends, but they both play for the Barons and it's football season. Gavin is on his own. That's why his manager thinks he needs a personal assistant. Gavin isn't allowed to leave his house. He needs someone there to manage his life and buy him groceries, and...oh yeah, maybe keep him from going stir crazy. (Six months...he can't leave his huge empty mansion.)

Noah is a social worker who has screwed up his life. His last job was his dream job, but he got mixed up with his boss who wasn't a good guy (he totally had Noah fooled). When Noah found out he was having sex with the kids at the center where they both worked, Noah reported it and somehow ended up being the bad (and fired) guy in the scenario. He desperately needs another job. If that means working for the grumpy NFL spoiled jock, then he'll make do. 

This book is so good (I know I've said that before, but it definitely needs repeating...multiple times). Because neither of these guys holds back the book reads like an enemies to lovers story. Their relationship is very contentious and they are constantly fighting. Gavin has anger issues that he's always been able to work out on the field. Suddenly that's been stolen from him and he doesn't know how to work through that aggression. But Noah is not going to be bullied, no matter how much he needs the job. I loved that he stood up for himself, time and time again.

These guys are magic together. It's a very slow burn, but they truly do bring out the best in one another. Suddenly, Noah can see the real Gavin below all the bluster and anger. And Gavin wants Noah so, so much. He's truly happy for the first time...ever. I kind of loved everything about that.

I loved this book and cannot wait for book #2 in the series...Simeon...YES! 

I highly, HiGhLy, HIGHLY recommend!!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Three Player Game by Jaime Samms

Title: Three Player Game
Author: Jaime Samms
My Rating: B

Genre: Erotic Romance (m/m)
Series: Bluewater Bay #20
Main Characters: Vince, Pete, and Lee
Release Date: August 2017
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Vince’s life has improved immeasurably since he moved to Bluewater Bay two years ago. He’s gone from working for a man he hated, to helping found a company he believes in. And he and boyfriend, Pete, have built a delicate balance of power between them that keeps them both grounded and thriving.

Almost, anyway.

Pete’s job on the set of Wolf’s Landing is demanding. He needs lots of downtime off set, and that’s where Vince’s firm but gentle control isn’t always enough. And for Vince, Pete’s constant high-energy needs are turning out to be more than he can handle alone.

It’s no surprise to either of them, then, that sparks fly when Vince’s coworker Lee enters the picture. Outwardly, Lee is tough and confident, but when a bad back confines him to Pete and Vince’s spare room, the cracks start to show and his desire for connection begins to peek through.

Pete and Vince both like what they see under Lee’s prickly outside, but now the three men must learn that love isn’t about beating the game—it’s about balance, trust, and letting each other in.

My Review:
On the surface there is nothing wrong with this book, but for some reason I just had a hard time connecting to the story. And I even liked all three of the characters...but especially Lee. But something about the dynamic here just didn't work for me. There's a lot that's happening that's beneath the surface that's never truly discussed either in dialogue or even mentally for a lot of the story and the conflict and I think that was why it was so hard to make this relationship work in my mind. 

BDSM at its simplest is a difficult dynamic to sometimes explain. Add in the emotions of three very different men who don't talk and that becomes even more complex. I guess I just didn't get that whole aspect of their relationship. I think this book would have worked better without that whole thing which a lot of the time in the story came across as manipulation. 

Vince is the Dom. He does better with action. Pete is a sub. He's good with words. In the story, Lee is a sub who's unwilling to accept that part of himself because it's gotten him hurt in the past. That makes sense but not really the way the dynamic worked between the three of them. There was so much made in the book about that conflict between them that it made it hard to see the possibility of a forever for the trio. Something felt off in the dynamic. 

So, not the most positive review, but the book was an easy read. I liked the way the point of view switched regularly between the three main characters and individually, I did like all three of those characters.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Controlled Burn by Erin McLellan

Title: Controlled Burn
Author: Erin McLellan
My Rating: A

Genre: New Adult Romance (m/m)
Series
Main Characters: Joel and Paulie
Release Date: August 2017
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
At eighteen, Joel Smith’s life fell to pieces. His boyfriend died in a car crash while reading a sext from him, the local newspaper outed them both in the aftermath, and his parents got a divorce. Joel did everything possible to outrun his past: he moved to Oklahoma for college, legally changed his name, and started over.

Since then, he hasn’t let anyone get close—not his classmates, not his roommate, and definitely not his hookups. The strategy has served him well for over three years. Why would he change it now?

But Joel doesn’t plan on the articles about his boyfriend’s death being used as a case study in one of his classes. And he doesn’t plan on Paulie McPherson, who is sweet and giving and fun. In Paulie, he finds a home for the first time in years.

But love isn’t simple, and lies have a tendency to get in the way. Joel must figure out if he’ll allow his grief to rule him, or if his connection with Paulie is worth letting all of his walls come tumbling down.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this book and am astounded that it was Erin McLellan's first book. Wow...really impressive because there is a lot of depth to this book. 

Joel and Paulie are in college and they both come from tragic family backgrounds. The entire book is told from Joel's point of view and he's definitely the more broken of the two. His boyfriend in high school died reading Joel's sext, but there's so much more to the story and it's left Joel with some really deep scars. Truly, the boy needs some therapy to work through his grief and anger because he is NOT coping well...or really at all with the reality of what went down. 

The flipside to Joel's angst and emotion is Paulie, who is truly a bundle of sunshine and happiness. Despite his really difficult background, he's one of those guys that people just smile with because he's enthusiastic about life. 

Despite himself, Joel finds himself intrigued and enchanted. But until Joel sorts through his issues, he can't be with someone else and that's truly where the conflict comes in. 

Like I said, I truly enjoyed this one. Both of the guys' families come into play in the story although they aren't really a part of their lives anymore. Their scars come from those interactions so it's important that they have that closure. There is a lot that happens over the course of the book. The story covers almost an entire school year, but that was perfect because it makes the ties between the two men just that much deeper. 

NOTE: I adored Joel's roommate, Travis. I hope he gets a story too...maybe with a certain red-headed cowboy.

Overall, I really liked this one. The symbolism of the controlled burn was gorgeous and I loved the imagery of Kansas...something I never thought I'd say. But this author did an amazing job making this state sound incredible. Emotion, entertaining, moments of lightness and great, deep, highly developed characters. I can't wait to see what Erin McLellan writes next. I'll be in line to buy it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Irresistible You by Kate Meader

Title: Irresistible You
Author: Kate Meader
My Rating: A

Genre: Sports Romance 
Series: Chicago Rebels #1
Main Characters: Harper and Remy
Release Date: August 2017
Publisher: Pocket Star
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
*** Special pre-order price of $1.99. First in series! *** 

Three estranged sisters inherit their late father’s failing hockey franchise and are forced to confront a man’s world, their family’s demons, and the battle-hardened ice warriors skating into their hearts.

Harper Chase has just become the most powerful woman in the NHL after the death of her father Clifford Chase, maverick owner of the Chicago Rebels. But the team is a hot mess—underfunded, overweight, and close to tapping out of the league. Hell-bent on turning the luckless franchise around, Harper won’t let anything stand in her way. Not her gender, not her sisters, and especially not a veteran player with an attitude problem and a smoldering gaze designed to melt her ice-compacted defenses.

Veteran center Remy “Jinx” DuPre is on the downside of a career that’s seen him win big sponsorships, fans’ hearts, and more than a few notches on his stick. Only one goal has eluded him: the Stanley Cup. Sure, he’s been labeled as the unluckiest guy in the league, but with his recent streak of good play, he knows this is his year. So why the hell is he being shunted off to a failing hockey franchise run by a ball-buster in heels? And is she seriously expecting him to lead her band of misfit losers to a coveted spot in the playoffs?

He’d have a better chance of leading Harper on a merry skate to his bed…
 
My Review:

Wow, this was a fantastic first book for this new series, and omg, I love the premise. Three sisters...all with different mothers, but all fathered by their famous hockey player/obsessed father. He died and left the THREE of them his hockey team...something that should have been Harper's alone, since she's grown up in the front office of the team. Add to that, as the oldest, she also has a bit of a chip on her shoulder about the sisters that were born later and stole her father's love away from her. Oh, and daddy dearest didn't just screw her over in the will. No, if the team isn't winning by a certain point in the season, they'll have to sell. This is the second worst team in the league and now they're the laughing stock because three women are in charge of running it. The world is just waiting for them to fail. 

This is where Remy comes in. Harper wants and needs him for this team if she has a chance in saving it. The thing is...this is Remy's last year to play, his last chance at the Cup. There is no way in hell he wants to play for this crap team. He's better than that and he's worked hard to get himself where he has a chance. So, he makes a deal with Harper. He'll give it his all if she agrees to give him up to a team with a chance in January. She agrees. 

But neither one of them counts on the heat between the two of them that builds in that time. 

There's a ton at play in this book...the hockey team, Remy's dreams, Harper's shattered dreams, a new hockey team trying to find its feet, the really awkward dynamic between the sisters...and every single piece of it was so, so good. I loved the way this book was set up and the plots interwoven between each other. It was truly expertly crafted. I cared about Harper and Remy, but I also really cared about the team, the struggling team Captain- Bren, the sisters' dynamic, even Remy's family down in NOLA. It would have been so easy, with this much going on, for the book to feel frenetic and rough. But that wasn't what happened at all. Each little story line played into the big one to make it all that much stronger, and more emotional. I know that's the way that it's supposed to be done, but very few authors can make it work. Kate Meader did a phenomenal job with that! Seriously, so well done. 

She also set up the next two stories...for the sisters...and wow, I simply can't wait to read both those books. Already there are hints of the deep emotions to come. I'm ready. These girls all have their scars leftover from their dysfunctional father, but they haven't been left unscathed by life and love, either. It's going to be amazing! 

And can I just say I love this....three strong women running a hockey team...I ADORE this premise. 

Highly RECOMMEND!! 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review, but then bought a print copy for my print shelf to reread later.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Boyfriend Makeover by River Jaymes (audiobook)


Title:  The Boyfriend Makeover
Author: River Jaymes
My Rating: B
Narrator: Marc Bachmann

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: The Boyfriend Chronicles #3
Main Characters: Noah and Ky
Release Date: April 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
12 hrs 28 mins

Noah Tanner loves life and the gay men who live it. Bisexuals rock too. Questioning? Even better. Random hot encounters are almost as regular as his nightly cocktail, but it’s his friends and his calling that feed his soul. He’s spent years raising money for San Francisco’s homeless in honor of the boyfriend who died. His most important objective? Ensuring the success of his upcoming, upscale charity event. He’s closing in on his goal, but the deliciously scruffy, oh-so-sexy Bachelor Bid contestant, Dr. Kyland Davis, is proving far too distracting.

Former Texan and no-nonsense surgeon Ky Davis prefers his beat-up Stetson boots to polished dress shoes. But after a difficult year for his sister, he’ll do anything to see her smile again, even participate in the fundraiser she’s coordinating. He’s sacrificed a lot to help raise his siblings—including keeping his sexual orientation a secret. Unfortunately, the accompanying makeover by Noah Tanner might be his undoing…
 
My Review:
Overall: 3.75
Performance: 4.0
Story: 3.5

This is going to be a quick review. I'll admit to being a little let down by this story. It was good...just not riveting. But I absolutely do not regret spending the time reading/listening to it.

The book is about Noah, a slightly flaming gay guy who's wracked with guilt over his partner's death. He's obviously gay and the party guy in this group of friends, but that happy exterior is hiding some dark secrets. The other half of this duo is Ky, a good old boy surgeon from Texas who's very much in the closet. He doesn't know what to do with Noah. 

The two had good chemistry. It was just at times the story kind of dragged with the same mental debates over and over again. I think a few thousand words could have been cut and this book would have been stronger for it...because it was good. The story just didn't move fast enough...for my liking.

My two cents. It was good enough and definitely if you're a fan of the series, you will want to read Noah's story. There were moments that I really enjoyed and definite highlights. I loved the scenes at the ranch when finally things began to move forward.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fish Out of Water by Amy Lane (audiobook)

Title:  Fish Out of Water
Author: Amy Lane
My Rating: A+
Narrator: Greg Tremblay

Genre: Romantic Suspense (m/m)
Series: Fish Out of Water #1
Main Characters: Jackson and Ellery
Release Date: October 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Listening Length: 9 hours and 20 minutes

PI Jackson Rivers grew up on the mean streets of Del Paso Heights—and he doesn’t trust cops, even though he was one. When the man he thinks of as his brother is accused of killing a police officer in an obviously doctored crime, Jackson will move heaven and earth to keep Kaden and his family safe. 

Defense attorney Ellery Cramer grew up with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, but that hasn’t stopped him from crushing on street-smart, swaggering Jackson Rivers for the past six years. But when Jackson asks for his help defending Kaden Cameron, Ellery is out of his depth—and not just with guarded, prickly Jackson. Kaden wasn’t just framed, he was framed by crooked cops, and the conspiracy goes higher than Ellery dares reach—and deep into Jackson’s troubled past.

Both men are soon enmeshed in the mystery of who killed the cop in the minimart, and engaged in a race against time to clear Kaden’s name. But when the mystery is solved and the bullets stop flying, they’ll have to deal with their personal complications… and an attraction that’s spiraled out of control.


My Review:
Overall: 4.75
Performance: 5.0
Story: 4.75

I didn't really have high expectations for this book. Although I love Amy Lane, that cover just didn't do it for me and really messed with my perceptions of what this book would be. OMG, was I ever wrong in my pre-judgment of this book. This story was PHENOMENAL...seriously, almost perfection and the audiobook version of it was perfection. It truly took an incredible book and the audio raised it just one notch higher. Greg Tremblay...happy sigh...he is just a fantastic narrator. I love what he does with his voices. 

So, this book. Ellery is a lawyer. Jackson is a PI that works for his law firm. They've worked together for years, but have basically just circled around one another. They really don't even like one another, but that's because they really have no idea what the other one is about. To Ellery, Jackson is a manwhore. Jackson thinks Ellery has a stick up his butt. They are both right and wrong. What they're missing in their perceptions is exactly why the other is like they are and as they begin to work together to get Jackson's brother cleared of killing a cop, they begin to get to know one another...and realize there is so much more. 

Jackson...OMG, my heart wept for him. His story is just so tragic. And I loved how protective and alpha Ellery became about that and Jackson. OMG, Ellery started out this book as such a beta, but by the end he was kicking butt and taking names. I loved that. The two of them together were just EVERYTHING. The romance in this story is perfection...everything I love about romance. They grow to respect one another and that becomes so much more as the relationship evolves and deepens. I LOVED JACKSON AND ELLERY TOGETHER!

But there is also a mystery about what really happened in that gas station that night that is also really well done. I loved the corners they wended their way through and all the places their investigation took them. 

It was just an incredible book. I HIGHLY recommend it and am so excited to read book #2. I'm just sad it's not out in audio yet. So, I'll read it first...and then listen to it when the audio comes out, too. I LOVED THIS BOOK!