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Currently Browsing: LGBTQ
Jan
17

Review: Trick Roller by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Review: Trick Roller by Cordelia Kingsbridge Trick Roller Author: Cordelia Kingsbridge Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Three months after the Seven of Spades went to ground, Levi Abrams and Dominic Russo have made a lot of progress—professionally as well as personally. Dominic is training to be a private investigator, while Levi has his own apartment and is ready to put his last long-term relationship behind him for good. Best of all, though it’s still early, both men have begun thinking about a future together. But, with shadows from the past starting to gather, and a serial killer biding their time, Dominic and Levi discover that the real test is just beginning. After having enjoyed Kill Game, the first novel in the Seven of Spades series, as much as I did, I was really excited to jump into the second so soon. While there are some significant differences between the two stories, I found Trick Roller to be just as intriguing. This time, the Seven of Spades is a dormant factor for a good bit of the narrative—although we’re reminded throughout that they’re still out there waiting to pull the strings again—allowing us to get to know Levi and Dominic more comprehensively, including their triggers and tipping points, as well as some of the things that haunt them. Dominic and Levi’s journey from “enemies to lovers” has evolved into something much deeper by this point, as well. Though the heat between the two was evident before, it was tempered by their respective situations and a mutual agreement to “take things slow” in the wake of the abrupt demise of Levi’s last relationship. In Trick Roller, they not only dive headlong into the sexual attraction that’s been tempting them, but each has begun turning to the other for help and comfort above anyone else. I especially liked that they know which tells to look for before things go really wrong and are willing to intercede—even physically, if necessary—to keep one another from self-destructing. Compatibility between the two main characters aside, Trick Roller still has lots of suspense and crime-solving to maintain the story’s balance. Between a truly loathsome murder victim, blackmail, infidelity, robberies, false accusations, etc. there’s plenty of badness to keep Levi and Dominic busy at their day jobs. Add in the “independent investigation” they’re both doing on the Seven of Spades, and the plot advances at a pace that kept me reading well past when I’d planned to stop for a break....
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Jan
16

Review: Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker

Review: Seduction on the Slopes by Tamsen Parker Seduction on the Slopes Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Miles is veteran skier on the U.S. downhill team. In the sport longer than some of his competitors have been alive, it’s his last year participating in the prestigious Snow and Ice Games (SIGs), and he plans on taking home two more gold medals. However, after that, Miles isn’t really sure where his life will lead. Crash is the up-and-coming newest downhill sensation, and after Miles mentions to the U.S. coach the potential he sees in Crash, coach gets Crash on the SIG team and assigns Miles with mentoring duties. Crash loves to ski, but doesn’t love the endless press events and media time required at the SIGs. When his childhood idol, and long-time crush, Miles takes the time to help Crash, he will do whatever Miles says. Seduction on the Slopes is the standalone sophomore title from Ms. Parker’s Snow and Ice Game series. This time around, romance blossoms between two men on the U.S. downhill team, and wow! is it hot. I like that both Miles and Crash are secure and confirmed gay men – albeit not entirely out of the closet. There is no confusion over preference, allowing for other conflicts to cause hesitation. The primary being that the pair are teammates and competitors. Yet, when Miles discovers why Crash struggles with the media, he genuinely wants to help him, even if that means helping him off in a sexual way. As the pair spend time together, the mentor/mentee line blurs and a true bond of friendship develops. Their similarities and ability to relate so easily go a long way in closing any age gap that may make things awkward. And while Crash may be younger, he can be wiser at times. The two are competitors first, but because they are both truly good people, they can coexist as friends and lovers. The romance moves quickly and the story comes with an HEA. I love how they come together and love the simplicity of the title. Sexy athletes falling in love? Sign me up for more! My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Welcome to the Snow and Ice Games where competition is not the only thing that is heating up! The second book in bestselling Tamsen Parker’s romance series continues with two competitive teammates. Miles Palmer has dominated the downhill slalom in every Snow and Ice Games...
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Jan
9

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell

Review: Down by Contact by Santino Hassell Down By Contact Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Down by Contact has been on my personal “long-awaited” list since it was first announced that it would be Simeon’s book. Flirty and charming, with a huge personality, Simeon was an instant favorite in Illegal Contact, the introductory story in The Barons series, and I had high expectations for the outcome this title. While this story had a significantly different feel to it than its predecessor—which I viewed as a strength—I believe it holds its own just fine. Simeon’s situation seemed to be improving by the end of Illegal Contact, with both he and Gavin Brawley coming out on their own terms in order to thwart an imminent blackmailing and involuntary outing. There’s much more to what he’s going through, however, and, although it’s not easy or “fun” to see, I appreciated the significance of the more painful reality that he was still living everyday. I started Down by Contact firmly on Simeon’s side, and that feeling was reinforced over and over as the story progressed. New to The Barons series is Simeon’s arch enemy, and former friend on rival team, the Predators, Adrián Bravo. While I didn’t love him as much as I did Simeon, he had an extremely powerful effect on the story in other ways. At the beginning, Adrián has no idea that he’s even closeted, just that he’s never been able to forgive Simeon for joining the Barons. That denial costs them both quite a lot as they strive to work together, falling hard for one another in the process. One thing I discovered about Down by Contact is that there’s so much to pay attention to, I couldn’t distill it to a few easy-to-dismiss notions in a review. This story has a lot of important themes, such as, trust is both dangerous and necessary. Or, until you live through something, you can’t really know what it’s like. Pretending a truth doesn’t exist isn’t the same as real acceptance. And, wanting someone to experience the same hurts you have so they’ll understand won’t work if you care about them so deeply you’d do anything to keep them from feeling that pain at all. Another consistency in nearly every one of Santino Hassell’s stories I’ve read has been his ability to create stunning secondary characters. Down by Contact is no exception, with the return of Jasmine and Marcus, Gavin and Noah, agent...
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Jan
4

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Insight by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Insight by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Insight Author:  Santino Hassell Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.0x Series: Barons #1 Genre: Paranormal suspense, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio Being part of the Black Family has always been its own punishment for Nate. As the only openly gay guy in his tiny Texas high school, in addition to his family’s sketchy reputation, he was always an outcast among outcasts. After the presumed death of their mother, Nate and his brother, Theo, ought to have been as inseparable as identical twins are supposed to be, but that didn’t work out, either. But when Nate’s world is turned inside out by visions of Theo’s murder, he heads to New York for answers and discovers a secret society of fellow psychics, conspiracy theories, and more murders. Meeting Trent, a gorgeous, compassionate, protective Engineer along the way—who’s also the one person who’s ever given Nate a sense of peace—must be fate. If only he can find enough faith in himself to believe it. Having enjoyed the entire The Community series by Santino Hassell, I admit to being a little worried about how the audiobook would turn out. Much to my delight, I really liked this version of Insight, and found that everything that initially drew me in was not only undiminished by the performance, but that even more details revealed themselves through listening. Based on a fascinating premise—an attempt at world domination with a psychic twist—there’s an awful lot to keep track of in Insight, but the narration made doing so a pleasure, and I was able to happily surrender myself to the story the author originally created. Although he’s appearing under a different name here, I already own several titles read by Greg Boudreaux. As was the case with the others, I found his performance to be extremely enjoyable. Nate’s Texas twang wasn’t too overdone, and tended to deepen believably when he was upset or excited. The other characters were treated similarly, with Mr. Boudreaux’s inflections and tones shifting and softening almost delicately sometimes, making each character sound unmistakable and distinct. I absolutely recommend the audiobook version of Insight for any fan of paranormal suspense, m/m romance, or if you simply like Mr. Hassell’s stories. Mr. Boudreaux treats the material very well, and I can’t fault his handling of so many different characters as they cross paths and advance the narrative. I’m excited to see if the same will...
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Jan
3

Review: Pressure Head by JL Merrow

Review: Pressure Head by JL Merrow Pressure Head Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I was immediately curious about Pressure Head based on the premise alone: a plumber who has an affinity for water, uses his “gift” that causes him to be drawn to “hidden things” to find clues—and dead people. Tom won me over quickly, his funny (and often snarky) observations combining with his inability to keep himself out of trouble to make him a generally lovable character. As the sole narrator, his perspective did a lot to counter the more significant issues that I had with the other MC, Phil, and trusting Tom with his own choices made the romantic aspects of the story easier to accept as the narrative progressed. Despite such an intriguing framework and Tom’s winning personality, I never felt the same for Phil. While it is absolutely true that people change, and that Phil was right to apologize for his role in the worst parts of Tom’s past, his “second chance” got off to a bad start for me, some of those negative traits seeming to have stuck with him into adulthood. He is at once dismissive and controlling, and engages in some victim blaming that didn’t endear him to me. I understand the likely intent, though—we have to do better collectively to accept others as they are. I did like Phil more by the midway point, however, and it’s hinted that we’ll learn more about him in the future, which I’d like to see. Something that I enjoyed tremendously about Pressure Head was the cast of secondary characters, Tom’s best friend Gary and his new boyfriend Darren, most especially. These two are among my favorite characters ever, I think, and I was delighted each time they made an appearance—particularly during their post-service discussion outside a local church. Others, including Edith and Pip, also threatened to steal every scene they’re in, and allow Tom to shine even more as an incorrigibly charming flirt. And although theirs isn’t a comedic presence, Merry the vicar and Graham Carter are differently powerful entities that left a strong impression in their own right. Of course, the cats—Arthur and Merlin—have to be given their due, as well. What Pressure Head lacked in romance it made up for in the whodunit itself. It’s a mystery, after all, and Merrow serves up a good one here. Not overly complex, it doesn’t try too hard while being highly entertaining at the same...
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Dec
27

Review: New Hand by L.A. Witt

Review: New Hand by L.A. Witt New Hand Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Having read nearly every Bluewater Bay story since the beginning, I’ve been increasingly anxious lately about the series’ end. Many of the characters introduced in these titles have meant a great deal to me, the glimpses into lives that might be led making me think about how I view the world on the other side of my own door. New Hand, the final book in the series by inaugural author L.A. Witt, brings everything to a close in some very familiar ways: with heartache, laughter, hope, and a lot of love. Though every character in the Bluewater Bay universe has had significant conflict to work through, Jesse and Garrett face an uphill battle from minute one. Garret’s (ongoing) grieving, Jesse’s (also ongoing) experiences with regards to his status, their age difference, lingering wariness from previous relationships, and—of course—the opinions of others all contribute to an intimidating assemblage of obstacles that tests both men throughout the narrative. One of the longer titles in the series, New Hand covers a lot of territory as Jesse and Garrett navigate the beginning of their relationship. The loss of Garrett’s husband illustrates the very personal nature of grief, and the ease with which those around us can affect that process. How soon is too soon to love again? And who gets to decide? Another complication which I’d originally thought applied more to Garrett—that some burdens simply aren’t transferrable nor shareable—actually applies to both men. As does the fact that similarities between two people doesn’t make one a replacement for another. Even though all these issues and questions are extremely important, the “informative” feel of some of these passages did seem to weigh the story down in places. While I liked Garrett—and adored Jesse—my favorite part of New Hand was the return of the main characters of the previous title, Outside the Lines. I knew they’d be back, but I was thrilled with how often they appeared in Jesse and Garrett’s story. Simon and Ian were a welcome sight, but Lydia is still just about the best thing ever. In truth, I don’t think the story would have worked nearly as well without her being there as much as she was. The Bluewater Bay series has always been unique among many of the other long-running series I’ve read. The thoughtful, and generally respectful, approach the authors tried to take with regards to...
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Dec
19

Review: Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo

Review: Outside the Lines by Anna Zabo Outside The Lines Author: Anna Zabo Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Finding romance—or even the occasional hookup—in a little town like Bluewater Bay has been far more complicated than miniature set designer Ian Meyers would have liked. Meeting a gay man not involved with Wolf’s Landing isn’t all that easy, plus there’s always a chance that they’ll try to use him to be closer to the show. Going home with someone from work is just begging for a lot of awkward afterwards, and is a bad idea all around. Giving up on the whole thing seems like his only option, at least until a collision between his finished model and a stuntman leads him to the local hobby shop—and Simon Derry. Sweet, geeky, and completely adorable, Simon is exactly the kind of guy Ian’s been looking for. As if the ideal mix between shy and flirty wasn’t enough to make Ian want him, Simon is also a highly skilled miniature painter himself, and is willing to work by Ian’s side to get his set repaired on time. Add to that Simon’s obvious (and welcome) interest, and the situation would be absolutely perfect—if it weren’t for Simon’s wife. Having enjoyed another title I’ve read by this author, I was very excited to see what they might bring to the Bluewater Bay universe. After reading Outside the Lines, I can say that it’s easily one of my favorites of the entire series. Somehow capturing the ZING! of Simon and Ian’s new relationship energy and combining it with the comfort, support, and irrefutable trust that anchors Simon’s marriage to Lydia, Anna Zabo has crafted a truly beautiful love story. Without a doubt, there is a lot going on in this story. Outside the Lines examines the distinction between polyamory and open relationships, bisexuality and acceptance, romantic versus sexual attraction, a couple of different kinds of kink, and more. That said, not once did I get the impression that the author was ticking boxes on a list, nor did the tone ever shift to preachy. On the contrary, while fundamental to the makeup of the main characters, those things seemed almost tertiary to the larger, and more basic, feeling of warmth and wanting between people in love. Though we only see the events of the narrative from Simon and Ian’s POVs, I was most taken with Simon’s wife, Lydia. She is rock solid all the way through, only needing support...
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Dec
14

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

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Illegal Contact Author:  Santino Hassell Narrators: Alexander Cendese + Eric London Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Barons #1 Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio Star football player Gavin Brawley has a temper which has branded him as the bad boy of the NFL. It’s also what landed him under house arrest for six months, benched for the entire season. Recognizing he’ll need help, his manager pushes the solitary Gavin to hire a personal assistant to run the household and help with day-to-day tasks. Noah Monroe was forced out of his last job after he tried to out his boss for inappropriate behavior. Now he’s desperate to find work, and acting as a PA for a self absorbed jock will have to do. Determined to keep his job, Noah does what it takes to impress Gavin and make the arrangement work. However, when Noah learns Gavin’s secret – that he’s bisexual – Noah wonders if he can fight the constant flirting, or if he’s doomed to repeat past mistakes. I’ve been wanting to read Santino Hassell for a while now, so I jumped at the chance to review Illegal Contact. Overall, it is an engrossing story with a heartwarming, sexy romance. Gavin and Noah are like two rough-edged pieces that fit together perfectly, once you work to find how they mesh. Both slow to trust, they find common ground because they truly like and respect the other. They want to do things to make the other happy. The story starts rough. I mean, Gavin has issues. He’s angry. But every time Noah challenges him, Gavin comes back stronger and better. And Noah sees the real person in Gavin-not just some pro-athlete. He stands up for Gavin. Slowly each realizes there are real feelings forming. The characters are given time to work out feelings and issues, creating a stronger bond in the end. Additionally, I appreciate that the author doesn’t blow off the employee-boss relationship and its impact on power exchange. The pair discuss the issues and try to ensure that it’s not part of their relationship, yet it never really goes away – just gets fluffed over by their lust. Each narrator is great for his given character. Gavin’s narrator is very aggressive and rough around the edges, just like Gavin’s persona. He’s got a strong accent and can be abrasive at times. Conversely, Noah’s narrator is...
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Dec
13

Review + Blog Tour: Operation Green Card by G.B. Gordon

Review + Blog Tour: Operation Green Card by G.B. Gordon Operation Green Card Author: G.B. Gordon Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Though the Bluewater Bay series is drawing to a close, I was happy to see that the storytelling that originally pulled me in is just as strong as ever. Despite an initial moment or two of hesitation on my part, Operation Green Card, by G.B. Gordon, turned out to be a very sweet, hopeful tale of against-the-odds romance that I ended up enjoying quite a lot. Jason, whom we briefly met in Bluewater Blues, is as solitary as anyone could possibly be, keeping everyone—including his own daughter—at a distance. Between not wanting to be hurt, and not wanting to hurt those he cares about, he’s far too lonely for someone with such a giving heart. Arkady, whose loneliness is borne of fear and necessity, isn’t prepared to need anything more from Jason than the means to acquire his green card. But, having always wanted a family to call his own, he quickly realizes that almost finding one only to lose them again too soon might be more heartache than he can bear. While I ended up getting into Operation Green Card fairly well, there were a few things—that were mostly tied to Jason’s part of the story—which I had a little more difficulty accepting at first. I felt that his will to provide for his daughter was wonderful, but it made his determination to risk imprisonment if he and Arkady are caught seem somewhat reckless by comparison. And although I get why he’d want to avoid any pity that might come from those around him knowing about his prosthesis, I just couldn’t see how he planned to keep it a secret from the man who was supposed to be his husband—or how he thought immigration would react under those circumstances. Before long, however, I was very much interested in Arkady and Jason’s story, and eager for them to work things out. I found both men to be interesting characters, but, by the end, it was Arkady that I’d become most attached to. Open, giving, and ready to live and love again, I really wanted him to be happy, especially knowing he was exactly what Jason needed, too. Even with the moments that caused me to stumble a bit in my reading, I couldn’t help but cheer Jason and Arkady on in the end. The author took what could have been a fairly common theme (a...
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Dec
12

Review: How To Blow It With A Billionaire by Alexis Hall

Review: How To Blow It With A Billionaire by Alexis Hall How To Blow It With A Billionaire Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Opening with a prologue tinted with such sinister and brutal (and potentially prophetic) avarice that my nerves were on edge for the entirety of the narrative, How to Blow It with a Billionaire was as wonderful and absolutely crushing as I’d hoped—and feared—it would be. In a fairly seamless a transition, it picks up where How to Bang a Billionaire left off, continuing Arden and Caspian’s story with all the potential their new, and hard-won understanding might bring. Told entirely from Arden’s POV, How to Blow It with a Billionaire felt remarkably well-balanced and generous with regards to the other characters in Arden’s world. Arden is very easy to love, and I was instantly caught up in every hurt or happiness he experienced. Unguarded and generally hopeful, he views everything with an artist’s eye, always referencing various movies, music, novels, etc., to provide context for the situations he finds himself in. His awkward, often hilarious internal commentary provides most of the story’s humor, as well its heart. As was the case in How to Bang a Billionaire, I found the cast of secondary characters to be yet another highlight of the story. Ellery—Caspian’s younger sister and an absolute favorite of mine—is back, and her presence was both welcome and far better than I expected. Bellerose has returned, as well, and is even more charming and prickly than before. Arden’s expanding post-Oxford life also includes several notable additions, specifically the staff at Milieu—George the photographer, most especially. Never tidy nor easy, How to Blow It with a Billionaire is substantially darker than its predecessor, Arden’s increasing intimacy with Caspian exposing many of the latter’s secrets which were only hinted at before. Caspian is not at all what he appears to be, and Arden’s determination to make him at least accept the validity of Arden’s feelings and desires indicates a resilience that neither of them seemed to expect. As their relationship involves a particular kink, there is a significant emphasis on the difference between taking something unwillingly sacrificed and accepting something willingly given, and the inherent complications that must surely arise, allowing that a snapshot of either circumstance without proper perspective might look much the same. If you haven’t read How to Bang a Billionaire yet, I strongly suggest doing so before starting How to Blow It with a Billionaire. If you’ve already...
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