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Currently Browsing: LGBTQ
May
23

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Nothing Serious by Jessica Jarman Welcome to my feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Nothing Serious Author: Jessica Jarman Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.5x Series: Bound #3 Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, LGBTQ m/m Audiobook Source: Purchased Listening to Nothing Serious is a revisit to one of my all-time favorite stories. The narration by Greg Boudreaux added emotional depth to this passionate tale. From my original review: The story unfolds organically and beautifully, giving both Jack and Aaron time to figure out what each wants from the other and for his own life. While the couple has a history of amazing sexual chemistry, the two men are in different places in their lives, creating a tension that causes the story to hum and vibrate rather that sit stagnant. It is evident right from the get go that Jack is deeply emotionally attached to Aaron, while Aaron hasn’t really taken the time to realize what Jack means to him. Jack has always accepted this, enjoying their passionate, yet infrequent rendezvous with everything he has. He is fun and gentle, unwilling to push Aaron into something he’s not ready for, endearing him to me so very much. Their dynamic captured me completely, and I was thoroughly engrossed in their romance. At first, the narration by Mr. Boudreaux threw me because his “neutral” narrator voice is an unaccented English accent, sounding very much like Aaron. So when it was Jack’s point of view, I wanted the narrator to have a similar English accent that Jack had. But I got used to the back and forth after a couple chapters. His accents are convincing to this untrained ear. His female voices are higher-pitched and decisively feminine, many strong and matching the characters’ personas.  In the end, I absolutely love Nothing Serious and the timeless romance between Aaron and Jack. The narrator does wonderful job with intensity and non-verbal sounds and cues, bringing the entire experience up a notch.  My Ratings: Story: A+ Narration: A- About the Book: Aaron Stevens likes his life the way it is. As a surgical resident, he is perfectly content with the fact that the precious hours he has outside the hospital revolve around taking care of his mother and sister. He doesn’t have the time or inclination for a serious relationship. So the fact his lover lives halfway around the world and is fine with jetting off to exotic locales a couple times a year for a few weeks of hot sex is as close...
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May
22

Review + Blog Tour: Wash Out L.A. Witt

Review + Blog Tour: Wash Out L.A. Witt Wash Out Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Having lost far too much to his memories and resulting addiction, Logan Carter is finally turning his life around, finding help in the most unlikely of places. After watching too many of his fellow Marines die on the battlefield, he’d used alcohol to quiet the past, nearly destroying any chance at a decent future. Now, six months sober, he’s getting a fresh start as a civilian contractor at NAS Adams, rebuilding a friendship with his ex, and going to regular therapy sessions. The only thing that would be better—or worse—would be falling for the handsome Gunner’s Mate in the next cubicle.  GM2 Casey Olsen has had one goal his entire life: to be a Navy SEAL. He’d never questioned his ability to fight on the front lines, until a horribly broken leg yanks that destiny out from under him, leaving him angry and unsure about his own future. Unable to chase his dreams, but too fit to be medically discharged, he’s in limbo and frustrated. At least his current officemates are fun—especially the sexy new guy who draws him like a magnet. After all, what could possibly be wrong with having a little fun while the Navy figures out what to do with him? Like the other stories in the Anchor Point series, Wash Out is a standalone that manages to successfully tie in characters from previous stories, which I greatly appreciated. As is also the case in earlier narratives, Logan and Casey are trying to find their place in the world with regards to the Navy, and are carrying around some serious burdens to boot. Though I feel bad about the reaction, I don’t think that Wash Out was as balanced as some of the pervious titles, and couldn’t help siding with one character more than the other on occasion.  The requisite instant chemistry between MCs is very much present as well, and Casey and Logan don’t wait long to explore it. Casey’s injury forces them to go a little slower than they might have otherwise, however, which works to the story’s advantage. Instead, they engage in other avenues of physical intimacy, and I found the combination of tethered impatience and joyful curiosity refreshing. One of my favorite things about Wash Out is that its ending is a HFN, rather than a HEA. The narrative makes it clear that everything can change in an instant,...
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May
9

Review: Lock Nut by JL Merrow

Review: Lock Nut by JL Merrow Lock Nut Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: As they merge the rest of their lives, working together should be a natural progression of things for recently affianced Tom Paretski and Phil Morrison. And, that seems to be the case, at least, until a favor for a friend of a friend results in yet another dead body. Now, with tensions rising at home as well as in the field, their happily ever after may not be as certain as they thought. In this final addition to The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, Tom and Co. (i.e. the survivors to date) are all back and gearing up for the wedding we’ve all been waiting for. With his best friend and sister both happily married to the respective loves of their lives, and his own nuptials fast approaching, Lock Nut sets out to be the perfect ending to a series that has been somewhat, if comically, less than kind to its main characters. Not to change a good thing however, the author still has a plenty of torture in mind for Tom after all. As was the case with the previous story, there were a few specifics in Lock Nut that felt incomplete. These were mainly questions raised during the course of the narrative that never seemed to have been fully answered. Although my overly picky sensibilities were incapable of ignoring them, they don’t really impact the outcome in a meaningful way, leaving the mystery itself, along with happenings of all the characters, to carry the plot as they should. The whodunit half of Lock Nut kept me guessing for quite a while, which I enjoyed a great deal, even though I wasn’t entirely convinced of the villains’ cleverness so much as their good fortune via the mistakes of others. There was also an “ick factor” regarding a younger character’s age that I agreed with Tom’s initial reaction about, but it wasn’t anything explicit (or even immediate) and things worked out in the end. Overall, Lock Nut delivers the HEA that the author has been teasing her audience with for a long time. Tom and Phil’s relationship is more comfortable and sincere than ever—which, of course, allows Tom to find even more things to worry about. Though certainly not perfect, there’s an ease to their interactions, and the taunting and poking they aim at one another was among my favorite aspects of the whole story. This no-nonsense sort...
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Apr
17

Review: A Gentleman Revealed by Cooper Davis

Review: A Gentleman Revealed by Cooper Davis A Gentleman Revealed Author: Cooper Davis Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: While A Gentleman Revealed is the beginning of a series, I believe that the narrative would have benefitted greatly if I’d read the original stories that prefaced it. There are private jokes and intricacies which are crucial to the various relationships that define the characters, but left me confused, and sometimes very irritated, without an understanding of these previously defined behaviors. After carefully perusing several synopses and lengthy reviews of the first series, things made more sense. As such, it might be helpful to new readers to do some research into the earlier novels if reading them in their entirety isn’t an option.  With that in mind, and in a unique and promising twist, A Gentleman Revealed is set in a universe where same-sex unions are not only accepted, but encouraged. At least, that seems to be true most of the time. Alistair’s foster brother, the current king, was apparently forced to marry a woman in order to produce an heir before her death opened the way to his pursuit of a male concubine (who he is now married to). Marcus’ father, however, is fine with the idea of Marcus and Alistair adopting, which is wonderful. Other particulars of the story regarding scandals and the tarnishing of reputations led me to believe that these relationships were actually more “tolerated” than truly celebrated.  Another thing that made it easier to distance myself from the narrative were some of the modifiers used to describe Alistair’s form—especially when thought or implied by Marcus. Phrases like “generous proportions” and “heavyset,” etc. are moderate, yet forthright enough, but I was a little horrified that Marcus considered him as “big as a barn” in his own head. There were a few similar incidents, as well. I expected that kind of phrasing from other characters, but not Alistair’s lover. Despite the above, however, Marcus was a favorite of mine in the story, and I wanted him to find happiness with Alistair a great deal.  On a far more serious note, A Gentleman Revealed takes a unvarnished and oftentimes brutal look at Alistair’s constant battle with negative body image and alcoholism. While Alistair’s struggles are specific to him, they illustrate a universal and very real need for patience, acceptance, and support on both sides of the situation. The vast majority of the novel concerns Alistair’s self-loathing and the downward spiral he’s in, and...
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Apr
10

Review + Blog Tour: Once Burned by L.A. Witt

Review + Blog Tour: Once Burned by L.A. Witt Once Burned Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: On the surface, Once Burned has all the elements this series has been built on: undeniable physical temptation that evolves into real affection, the Navy’s unyielding and destructive rules, and an eventual path to happiness for the two heroes. Unlike its predecessors, however, this story not only concerns Naval policy, but also delves into the even more infuriating topics of immigration and veterans’ rights. While there’s no denying the physical—and later emotional—connection Diego and Mark share, the familiar feeling of time running out was much more palpable here than in previous Anchor Point titles. Though it is certainly a romance, complete with a HEA, the real purpose of Once Burned is to highlight the predicament faced by too many U.S. veterans. Without knowing the specifics of the author’s research, Diego’s situation reads as a conglomerate of other potentially true stories that absolutely engaged both my heart and my anger. At one point, Diego remembers his employer stating that it’s not “right for a man who’s been shot at for his country to be screwed by it—” a sentiment I found easy to agree with. There were a few details in Once Burned that seemed somewhat implausible, but which still highlight the desperation and unfairness of Diego’s situation. One that I had trouble with was Mark’s invitation to Diego to attend a “Hail and Farewell” party, disregarding that it would be fairly callous given Diego’s experience, as well as being overly risky with the other personnel likely to be in attendance. So much importance is placed on the threat of deportation throughout the narrative—Diego can’t even go to the VA for medical assistance—that moments like these stood out. While it has a few uncomfortable scenes (i.e. Mark’s role as savior, even though he tries to minimize the fact), Once Burned served as a launch pad into a problem that I’m eager to learn more about. While researching the topic for this review on my own, I quickly realized that one evening (which turned into two) wasn’t remotely enough time to scratch the surface of the issue. Fortunately, a bill was introduced in the House last year—H.R.3429, or the “Repatriate Our Patriots Act”—that shows promise, but who knows when, or if, it might ever become law. On the plus side, the author has pledged half of her royalties from the sale of Once Burned “to charities supporting U.S....
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Apr
4

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow

Review: Blow Down by JL Merrow Blow Down Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Several months have passed since Tom Paretski got engaged, saw his best friend married, found out his “Dad” wasn’t really his biological father, and became the resident hero by saving a barmaid from dying in a fire. Now something of a minor celebrity thanks to news coverage exposing his psychic “gift,” he’s in demand for more than his plumbing skills—this time finding himself obligated to unearth a stolen necklace for a recently-wed, high-ranking member of the local diocese (who nobody seems to like very much). At least his life’s not boring. As was the case with the previous titles in the series, Blow Down begins with the discovery of a corpse. Poor Tom’s knack for finding dead bodies hasn’t subsided at all, and has once again placed him in the crosshairs of a murderer. With multiple suspects all capable of rampant greed, hatred of the deceased, or both, this was an interesting crime for Tom and Phil to crack. Although, in truth, I had more fun waiting to see what they, and the other returning characters would do than I did trying to puzzle out the mystery itself. One aspect of the earlier stories I wasn’t sure about, but which I thought was among the most enjoyable parts of Blow Down was Tom and Phil’s relationship. While they’re still learning about each other outside of their shared past, I found the teasing, protectiveness, and fondness that’s so evident between them to be endearing. In fact, the entire narrative is more affectionate than its predecessors, yet it maintains the familiar and comforting level of snark that has so strongly contributed to the personality of the series as a whole so far. Though I wasn’t able to get quite as wrapped up in the mystery of Blow Down as I was in the previous stories, it moved things along just fine. Despite the entirely new group of characters introduced for the purpose, there were somewhat limited options when it came to the sinister narcissism that seemed most indicative of the killer. While there’d be no story without the whodunit, it felt more like a vehicle for everything else that’s going on with Tom, rather than the objective of the narrative. Having missed the original publication of The Plumber’s Mate Mysteries, I admit that it has been nice to read them so closely together. As someone who is unfamiliar...
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Mar
7

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow

Review: Heat Trap by JL Merrow Heat Trap Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Having enjoyed the first two Plumber’s Mate Mysteries a great deal, I was happy to jump into Heat Trap fairly soon after finishing the second story. And while the half-year interim in the timeline is plenty long in some ways, certain aspects of Tom’s life appear not to have progressed much at all. Granted, Tom was dealt a tremendous shock at the end of Relief Valve, but I was left feeling uncertain at times as this narrative unfolded. Tom continues to be a likable character, even though I was disappointed by some of his reactions, especially towards Phil. The two have been together for more than six months at this point, during which time they’ve exchanged both house keys and “I love you’s,” and are making plans for the near future. Rather than appearing more solid, however, it felt as if Tom’s faith in him was too easily shaken when tensions began to escalate, resulting in him keeping Phil at a distance in the process. Phil, on the other hand, I liked more than ever. While I was initially skeptical of his interest in Tom—his seeming lack of regret over his earlier treatment of Tom being a sore spot—his affections in Heat Trap are indisputable. He has the anxious, yet hopeful demeanor of someone who has already put his heart on the line unreservedly, and I couldn’t help but be firmly in Phil’s camp for most of the story. Happily, some of my other favorites are back, and better than I remembered. Darren and Gary, in particular, are delightful in their pre-wedding bliss, and I honestly would have been glad to see them turn up in even more scenes. Tom’s sister, Cherry, is also a more constant presence in his life now, and was a lot of fun when she popped up. The mystery in Heat Trap involves some noteworthy characters from Tom’s preferred pub, “The Devil’s Dyke,” and it was nice to gain more insight into their roles, as well. Overall, I had mixed feelings about Heat Trap. While I don’t think it shows Tom in an especially favorable light at times, I was thrilled with the way things seemed to be going for him and Phil by the end of the story. The mystery itself was likewise interesting, although it felt secondary to the relationship struggles Tom is trying to come to terms with....
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Feb
22

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Sightlines by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Sightlines by Santino Hassell Welcome to our feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Sightlines Author:  Santino Hassell Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.0x Series: The Community #3 Genre: Paranormal suspense, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://thesaltminers.tumblr.com/post/171680546960/the-santino-hassell-debacle). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== In this third, and final, addition to The Community series, author Santino Hassell brings all the conflict and suspense that has been building since the beginning to a compelling and satisfying end. As both prize and project, Chase has been the realization of the darkest machinations of the Community itself his entire life, as well as the common thread between all the other characters we’ve gotten to know so far. Additionally, Chase and Elijah have been favorites, if captivating unknowns, throughout the many twists and turns of the series, so I thought it especially fitting that this part of the arc is theirs. While I had a little difficulty keeping track of how much time passes in the very beginning of Sightlines (which is fitting, since time is a means of control on the farm), the speed with which the plot starts unfolding takes effect fairly early in the narrative. What’s been done to Chase all his life is completely abhorrent, and I found that hearing his perspective in the audiobook version was as devastating as it was during my initial reading of the story. Elijah, too, has unhealed wounds, inflicted by people who should have loved him, making his hidden strengths the inverse—yet perfectly matched—answer to Chase’s necessarily unacknowledged need for support. Narrator Greg Boudreaux likewise sees the series through with just as solid a performance as when he began. With all the characters reuniting for much of the story, eventually leading to an emotionally fraught and fast-paced conclusion, his ability to maintain each distinctive voice was more impressive than ever. His unflinching portrayal of the sometimes wildly shifting emotions of the characters was equally noteworthy, and he remains one of my favorite performers. Although The Community series has been a departure from most of Mr. Hassell’s other stories I’ve read, I believe it is an indisputably successful one. Common themes such as greed and fear are explored in an entirely different way in...
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Feb
13

Review: Going Overboard by L.A. Witt

Review: Going Overboard by L.A. Witt Going Overboard Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having been born into a Navy family, MA2 Chris Ingram always knew that following in his parents’ footsteps was what he wanted to do. Even though being a coxswain in charge of a ship and progressing through the different rates has made up the last fifteen years of his life, the high-year tenure rules in place mean that he’s running out of time to advance. At least he’s not alone, his best friend (and long-time crush), Dalton, being in exactly the same situation. But, coming out just isn’t in the cards right now—that is, until Chris almost loses Dalton for good. While he may have joined the Navy to get away from his life in Nebraska, Dalton Taylor knew that becoming a Sailor was his calling. Being out and proud hasn’t always been easy, but with the repeal of DADT he doesn’t have to hide, at least. Serving with his friend Chris makes his assignment to NAS Adams just about as perfect as he could have hoped for. Still, nearly dying in a boating accident upends all of Dalton’s best-laid plans, and wanting Chris may not be a secret he can keep for much longe—except that losing his heart to “straight guy” Chris will hurt far more than anything else Dalton’s ever known. Having read all but one of the Anchor Point stories with somewhat mixed opinions, I have to say that Going Overboard is probably my favorite so far. While I had a little trouble accepting that Dalton had no idea at all about Chris’s sexuality after so many years of being best friends, I wanted them to be happy very much. Additionally, the fight that they both have to make under the circumstances surrounding the accident that nearly killed Dalton was highly engaging, and made the bad guys involved extremely easy to hate. I liked Chris and Dalton as a couple very much. A lot is made later on about how both men feel like they’ve been together longer than the calendar suggests, and, in this case, that rings true in the narrative. From the beginning their friendship seemed to be not only solid, but positively drenched in “if I could I would” longing. The author makes it clear that this isn’t insta-love, but something far stronger which culminates in a sexual chemistry that seems to be more of a relief that they’re both...
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Feb
8

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Down by Contact Author:  Santino Hassell Narrators: Alexander Cendese + Eric London Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Barons #2 Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio 3/10/2018 Edited to Add: Please note, this review was written and posted prior to the occurrences brought to light in recent days (https://goo.gl/Y7WB7F). The book was read and reviewed in good faith and as presented at the time. The posting of this review in no way condones the actions of author. ======== Simeon and Adrián have been rivals for four years, ever since Simeon was traded from the Predators to the Barons. When the pair match up in a preseason game, the summer after Simeon came out of the closet, Adrián can’t stop himself from making jokes at the expense of Simeon’s sexual preferences. This leads to an all-out brawl, leaving both suspended for six games and forced into joint community service. Can the pair back away from their rivalry long enough to become friends? or more? I have to admit, I struggled a quiet a bit when I first started Down by Contact. I was disappointed the story once again relied on an NFL suspension to make it work (which is what happened in the first book of the series). Additionally, both main characters come off juvenile and immature mostly because of their speech. The characters weren’t clicking for me, and I didn’t feel any sexual tension or connections between the pair like I did in the first book. But mostly, the narration didn’t work for me. I did not care for Mr. London’s voice for Adrián, nor his interpretation of Simeon, and at times couldn’t tell the difference between who was speaking. After taking a short break away from the story and then coming back to it, I found things turning around. As the story progresses, the characters develop and their interactions become more meaningful. I liked the play between Adrián and Simeon when they’re just being themselves. And although everything starts off as a dare and a game, real emotions surface, and I liked that the pair is accepting of what is happening. What shines in the story is Adrián’s self-reflection and analysis of his actions and ideals. And not just about being queer. But on being a better person. About thinking before speaking. About caring for others. His constant contemplation is thought-provoking. I enjoyed seeing him change...
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