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Currently Browsing: LGBTQ
Sep
25

Review: Rank & File by L.A. Witt

Review: Rank & File by L.A. Witt Rank & File Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Although he’s never sure what kind of challenges each day will bring on NAS Adams, Senior Chief Will Curtis has always loved his career in the Navy. And, despite the toll it’s taken on his personal life, he can’t imagine doing anything else. Even so, a one-time only, forbidden hookup with a sexy younger officer might be exactly what he needs to get over his lying, cheating ex. It would have been perfect, if once had been enough. Having been surrounded by his family’s military heritage his entire life, Lieutenant Brent Jameson always assumed he’d spend the rest of his days continuing the tradition. Following any other path was, literally, unthinkable. But, choosing between a future he doesn’t believe in and the “unduly familiar” relationship that makes him happy won’t be easy—and it’s bound to hurt either way. While I’ve generally liked the other stories I’ve read in the Anchor Point series, Rank & File is my favorite yet. PTSD and alcoholism are extremely important issues, and I think the author has always dealt with them well. But, Will and Brent’s struggle to find happiness was more external and possibility-oriented, and I became increasingly invested in the outcome as the narrative progressed. Rank & File is also one of the steamier novels in the series. Brent and Will’s relationship begins with a very naughty hookup in a public place, and it’s indisputably clear that they’re both getting exactly what they want. The frequency with which their encounters continue could have strained the other aspects of the story if it was the only indication of their compatibility, but it’s not. On the contrary, sex between Will and Brent has another welcome purpose: it opens the door to the kind of intimacy they both crave, but would never explore otherwise. Another refreshing thing about Rank & File is that it handily dodges the “anything for love” trope that would likely have diluted the internal conflicts both men deal with throughout the story. The unfairness of the policy that is technically causing Will and Brent problems on the surface is certainly noted, but the narrative wisely doesn’t rely on it as a scapegoat. Each must make a difficult choice based on certain things they can’t change, even if an intersection of those paths in the future isn’t guaranteed. Rank & File is absolutely among my favorite of the...
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Aug
30

Review: Three Player Game by Jaime Samms

Review: Three Player Game by Jaime Samms Three Player Game Author: Jaime Samms Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: While I generally like the Bluewater Bay series, and even though I found the previous story that revolved around these characters (How the Cookie Crumbles, Bluewater Bay #12) to be sweet as well as charming, I was considerably more conflicted about Three Player Game. As intricately tied to its predecessor as it was, I ended up stopping to do a thorough reread—which I actually enjoyed very much—in order to fill in some blanks that came up early in this story. Despite that necessity, however, this resulted in a more severe comparison between the two, which might have done more harm overall. Initially, I had a difficult time reconciling the Lee and Vince in Three Player Game with the conniving and “mousy” (respectively) personalities they exhibited in How the Cookie Crumbles. Early in Three Player Game, Vince claims that he’s more than what anyone else believes him to be, but, his saying so wasn’t enough to outweigh my doubts. It took a little while, but those misgivings were ultimately replaced by varying degrees of fondness for all three men, although Pete and Lee were my favorites. Another problem that I never was able to see past was that both Vince and Pete seemed to view Lee as a target or acquisition—no matter how precious to them he might be. Having said that, the lack of pre-existing definitions, in conjunction with Pete’s raw earnestness, helped make the affection between Pete and Lee feel more honest and easy to me. In contrast, Vince deliberately—though not with any force—overstepped Lee’s boundaries more than once, which kept me from fully accepting their connection as an entirely healthy one. Regardless, the “means to an end” nature of their actions was uncomfortable at times, and affected the entire narrative for me, as a result. Although I had a difficult time with several elements of Three Player Game, there were quite a few things that I liked, as well. One of the most important, I believe, is that the narrative doesn’t gloss over the complexities a polyamorous relationship likely entails. I felt that, while the issues these characters face are worthy of serious consideration, the author didn’t insinuate that they are applicable to everyone. I also appreciated that, while the three men eventually form a cohesive unit, the individual relationships in play within it are unique and must be treated as such by all...
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Aug
21

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon

Review: Dirty Deeds By HelenKay Dimon Dirty Deeds Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: B. Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Cultivating a reputation for having an unflinching ruthlessness towards his competitors, family, and lovers alike has served Alec Drummond well over the years. Forgoing intimacy in favor of sacrificing himself to the recovery and increasing prosperity of his family’s business has likewise suited him fine. Yet, when a problem from his past resurfaces, dragging an annoyingly capable and sexy complication with it, his hard-won empire isn’t the only thing that’s rattled. Gaige Owens has had his fill of paying for the sins of another. Yet, here he is—again—up to his neck in lies and manipulation. Although he desperately wants his freedom, chasing that particular carrot across a tightrope strung by a covert government agency is wearing more than a little thin. Still, locking horns with the notorious eldest Drummond brother has appeal on several levels, especially in the bedroom. Dirty Deeds is the first story I’ve read by HelenKay Dimon, and, overall, I enjoyed it. As it’s a spinoff of another series I missed, I think that my reading experience might have benefitted from a little more knowledge of the characters’ backgrounds, as well as the author’s writing style, but it stands on its own just fine. I was definitely intrigued by such a unique premise, and I felt that the “whodunit” aspect of the story evolved very nicely. About midway through, Dirty Deeds really picks up its pace, and the remainder of the narrative kept me engaged until the end. Having said that, there were a couple of things that kept me from fully sinking into the story. Although the big, bad government agency blackmailing Alec and Gaige into helping easily dictated where my allegiance lay, I was never comfortable with their (Alec’s, especially) acceptance of the situation. Both are so adamant about their independence and abilities, that I wanted them to break the reins a bit sooner. Additionally, the rapidity of their trust in one another, as well as the three-week relationship incubation mandate at the end of the story, also felt a little off to me, though neither was a deal breaker. While both characters had their strong points, it was Gaige who truly stood out to me. He’s funny, intelligent, extremely capable, and his reasons for essentially recreating himself won me over without much of a fight on my part. That his participation in the events of Dirty Deeds was solely the...
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Aug
14

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Review: Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell Illegal Contact Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Santino Hassell has been a favorite author of mine for some time now, and, while I fully expected to like Illegal Contact, I wasn’t prepared for how much I completely loved it. Having been raised on college football in the South, I wondered if my own limitations might affect my reading of a story about a pro team in NYC. Turns out, I needn’t have worried. Mr. Hassell made the whole affair feel both technically sound, as well as inviting, allowing the personalities of the characters to take center stage. Punnily-monikered tight end Gavin Brawley could very easily have been a stereotype of every “misunderstood-angry-athlete” ever written, but that wasn’t the case. Despite the technical applicability of all three of those things, Gavin deserves a full retraction of the hyphens and quote marks, his cynicism about the press and the public proving just as well earned in the present as it was in his past. Disinterested in either fame or retribution, however, his true love is simply playing football. He knows how slim the odds are that he was able to find salvation in the sport, and, as long as he has it—and the loyalty of his two best (and only) friends—that’s all he really needs. At least until Noah arrives. After having been recently fired from his job at an LGBT Youth Center in NYC due to his own choices and the bias of those in charge, Noah Monroe is more than a little bitter. Yet, from his first inner snipe about Gavin appearing to be the “ideal candidate for society’s irritating version of masculinity,” it’s clear that Noah has some prejudices of his own. Still, he is fiercely protective of those he cares about—one of several traits he and Gavin share—and, even though he might be preemptively defensive, he’s willing to really listen and open his carefully guarded margins to include others. Though it certainly doesn’t ignore familiar headlines often associated with professional sports—players’ reputations, public opinion, privacy (or the lack thereof), money, etc.—Illegal Contact gets its heart from its attention to the things you don’t normally see. Gavin’s anger over the exploitation he’s not supposed to notice, Noah’s determination to avoid repeating the past, and their mutual aversion to and unwillingness to play “the game” all coalesced into what amounted to a wonderful reading experience. Another element I appreciated about Illegal Contact is...
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Aug
1

Review: Chasing Destiny by Megan Erickson

Review: Chasing Destiny by Megan Erickson Chasing Destiny Author: Megan Erickson Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Bay has had something missing in his life since losing his best friend and future mate when they were teens. But to lose Nash again after he was rescued then sacrificed himself to save the Silver Tips from a Nowere attack, left Bay empty and near ruin. Volunteering for a highly dangerous and potentially deadly scouting mission, Bay finds life again when he discovers Nash living in isolation with the Whitethroats. Nash has spent over half of his life in deplorable conditions as a prisoner; used for experiments and worse. Now that Bay has found him, he’s torn between his love for Bay and a pack long forgotten and the need to protect them from his once captors. With warring emotions, Nash walks the fine line between redemption and hell. Fans of good ol’ shifter romance and sizzling m/m lovin’ rejoice! Ms. Erickson’s Silver Tip Pack series is just what you need. After enjoying the world building and character development of first book, Daring Fate, I found Chasing Destiny all the more intense and exciting. The raw need between Nash and Bay is tangible: emotional and sexy. The years of unfulfilled lust and love explode as the pair reconnects. It’s a push and pull story, with a solid foundation established when the pair was younger. While Nash can do little to control his body’s need to be with Bay, his heart and head push him away, thinking he is too broken to be loved by Bay. Their story is emotionally gripping and satisfying. While the romance between first book couple Reese and Dare was the “True Mate” kind, I am thankful that Ms. Erickson did not utilize the same for Nash and Bay. True Mating is rare and special, but the author shows us that it isn’t necessary for true love to develop between a couple, leaving no question of how exceptional Bay and Nash relationship is. Additionally, I appreciate that the author gives Nash the time he needs to be with Bay, rather than skip over his years of physical and mental abuse. Yet, they are firmly a couple before the big climax of the book, solidifying their connection in a powerful way. Ms. Erickson continues to develop her world, as we learn more about surrounding Were and werewolf packs, making connections with other packs, and witnessing anomalies involving the zombie-like Noweres. Having to spend...
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Jul
25

Review + Blog Tour: Get a Grip by L.A. Witt

Review + Blog Tour: Get a Grip by L.A. Witt Welcome to the Riptide Publishing/L. A. Witt blog tour for Get a Grip, the latest Bluewater Bay story! Every comment on this blog tour enters you in a drawing for a choice of two eBooks off my backlist (excluding Get a Grip) and a $10 Riptide Publishing store credit. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on July 29th, and winners will be announced on July 30th.  Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. More info at the end of this post Review: Get A Grip Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: insert your letter (only) grade rating What I’m Talking About: Like anyone else would surely be, Shane Andrews was completely unprepared to be a teenaged dad, especially when he ended up raising his daughter alone. Now, two more kids and two divorces later, he’s ready to reach beyond his role as the responsible father and experience some of the fun and sexual abandon he missed out on all those years ago. When an unexpected disaster on the Wolf’s Landing set brings him together with a sexy firefighter, Shane gets more than he bargained for. Having been burned in the past in more ways than one, Aaron Tucker gets his kicks via random hookups, rather than jumping into fires—or relationships. Casual suits him just fine, thanks. Until the lonely father of three he wanted in his bed suddenly claims a piece of his heart without his noticing. But, Aaron’s new longing for a commitment with Shane can’t go anywhere if the latter won’t stop running. Get a Grip, the latest in the Bluewater Bay series, has a lot going for it. I thought Shane was pretty relatable as a single father of three who had to grow up too fast, and is trying to work through the guilt and accept his own desire to play for a while, now that his kids are getting older. Aaron was just as intriguing, if not more so, given his openness, enthusiasm, and increasing affection for Shane. And while it wasn’t without an awkward moment or two, there were plenty of very nicely written scenes in the story that kept me involved and eager to stick with the narrative to the end. Even though the protests from both Shane and Aaron became a little too rote towards the end of the story, I still found it extremely rewarding when they both realized they’d been in an accidentally successful monogamous relationship the entire time....
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Jul
18

Review: Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang

Review: Escaping Indigo by Eli Lang Escaping Indigo Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Escaping Indigo is a fairly brief, emotional study of the pitfalls of love, loss, anxiety, and misunderstanding. Micah is living a fan’s dream when he’s hired as a roadie for a band he’s loved for quite some time. But, being with them all long-term on a tour bus alters things, and his perspective of the individual members—Bellamy, in particular—begins to change. Unfortunately, both Micah and Bellamy have too many wounds that are still raw and aching to find an easy path to one another, and trying to hold onto something so fragile could cost them everything. As much as I loved the premise of Escaping Indigo, there were a few things that I had a little trouble with. Micah’s constant worry over Bellamy leads to several moments of repetitive inquiry that made Bellamy seem more fragile than he was in other scenarios within the narrative. I also had some difficulties with Micah’s somewhat contradictory stance on Bellamy’s anxiety. While he claims to acknowledge and accept Bellamy’s determination to deal with his issues on his own, he frequently pushes the idea of therapy (including medicinal treatments, to which Bellamy is adamantly opposed). There were other small issues, as well, but they didn’t stop me from wanting the best for these two characters. Romantically, I generally enjoyed the slow build between Micah and Bellamy. There were moments throughout the beginning and into the central part of the narrative where I wasn’t sure about Micha’s stance on the situation as a whole, but things did fall into place later on. Micha’s awareness of Bellamy outside of their roles as lead singer and roadie was very sweet at times, however, and when they truly connected with each other, the story came alive. Aside from these issues, Escaping Indigo makes several important points about relationships. For starters, people aren’t always what they appear to be. Getting to know someone’s truths can be precarious business, and trying to manipulate the outcome is seldom advisable. Another thing that I appreciated was that it’s made abundantly clear that one person cannot “fix” another. There are myriad problems just waiting for anyone who tries, and Micah treads that line a little too closely more than once. In the end, I’m somewhat conflicted when it comes to Escaping Indigo. On the one hand, there were several things that could have been addressed that would have made...
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Jul
12

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield All Wheel Drive Author: Z.A. Maxfield Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Diego Luz had a plan of his own before an accident caused a spinal injury that cost him the use of his legs. Losing his vibrant, wild, beautiful mother shortly afterward was too much for him to take. Relocating to Bluewater Bay was the perfect way for him to start over—and hide from his mother’s legacy. At least, until a haggard, broken survivor shows up on his doorstep looking for some shelter of his own. Born a genius who always knew the direction his life would likely take, Healey Holly wasn’t prepared for the day that script would be utterly destroyed. Now, hurt and lost, he’s struggling to get back to a place where things make sense, even though his “home” belongs to someone else. But, some families are just as good without a permanent zip code, and even a heart that’s been shattered can love again. As should be expected from this series by now, All Wheel Drive left me with a lot to think about. Having first been introduced to Healey in Hell on Wheels, I couldn’t help but be extremely curious about Nash Holly’s intriguing twin brother. Officially meeting Healey as he is in the beginning of this story was a shock, and I felt off balance (in a good way) for the duration. There was nothing easy about Healey’s experience, but I think the story wouldn’t have meant as much any other way. Diego Luz is just as complex, if not more so, but in vastly different ways. Between his heritage and upbringing, his pride and independence, and the obligations he struggles with, he’s a complicated character, and I liked him a great deal for it. He’s unapologetically cynical for much of the story, making his grudging willingness to open his heart and life to another even more remarkable. As has been the case with many of the Bluewater Bay stories, All Wheel Drive tackles some exceptionally difficult topics that most series wouldn’t attempt. As a paraplegic, Diego’s sexuality could have been approached in ways that might have been more “delicate,” but wouldn’t have made nearly the impact as it did here. Healey is absolutely the perfect match for Diego in that respect, but the candid nature of the discussions and mechanics involved felt both necessary and right. Despite the importance of the message of this story, All Wheel Drive still...
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Jul
5

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt Pounding Skin Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Picking up shortly after Back Piece, the first story in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, Pounding Skin introduces readers to jet pilot Jon Russell and inker Matt Huffman, whom we briefly met before. Although the pairing of a member of the military and a civilian employee of the tattoo shop is the same, the characters are so different that there’s very little repetition. While familiar within those parameters, this sequel feels brand new in plenty of other ways, making the entire series better overall. Even more than the first story in this series, Pounding Skin is a tale in which “opposites attract.” Jon throws his candor, which was downright abrasive on occasion, before him as if it were a shield he can hunker down behind, while still feeling blameless for anyone else’s hurt feelings. Matt, on the other hand, seems so genuine—even when he’s clueless—that I worried for him for the duration of the novel. Of the two, I couldn’t help the fondness I felt for Matt from the start, nor the protective irritation that was repeatedly inspired by Jon’s behavior. Nearly all of the emotional ballast is on Matt’s side, but it ended up working out well that way. Although I enjoyed Pounding Skin as a whole a great deal, there were some instances that I found distracting (but not particularly troubling). The sudden reversal of Matt’s old, alcohol-induced amnesia about an important moment with his college roommate; certain phrasing that’s repeated nearly verbatim; the suggestion that women are more easily “charmed” than men when it comes to sex, etc., did pull me out of the narrative on occasion. These moments are few, however, and are nicely balanced out by the more positive aspects of the story. Pounding Skin is a well-crafted second in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, and one I feel certain I’ll revisit soon. While I was never able to fully sympathize with Jon, I felt that Matt was a truly wonderful character. More than a romance, however, Pounding Skin examines the ways we are shaped by our experiences, sculpted by many other hands in addition to our own. I was also very glad to see more of Colin and Daniel from Back Piece, and every bit of the affection I have for them both was not only remembered, but magnified. The tattoo shop seemed like a real family this time around,...
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Jun
28

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Oversight by Santino Hassell Oversight Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: After falling in love with Insight, the first in the Community series, I had high hopes for this story—and the end result far exceeded any expectations I might have had. In fact, I believe that Oversight has elevated the entire series by several degrees, and there’s still one more book to go. With a mix of characters both familiar and new, Oversight is filled with some of the most vivid personalities ever—some good, some bad—and, as was the case in its predecessor, it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes. Although I didn’t care for Holden in Insight, a more thorough examination of his adolescence and the tactics and motives of the Community gave me a much greater appreciation for him and what he’s currently going through. It was Sixtus, however, that won me over completely. His unique talent is a perfect disguise for what simmers beneath the surface, and I found him to be utterly mesmerizing. Mr. Hassell has given life to someone truly remarkable in Sixtus, his gifts as intriguing as the man himself. He’s an immediate favorite, one who makes the entire novel worth a reread as soon as possible just to ensure that I didn’t miss a single detail. I absolutely adored him. While Nate’s story kept me invested from the beginning, the conspiracy that unfolds throughout Oversight felt even more urgent at times, the building suspense making getting through those moments a white-knuckling affair in all the right ways. From the first chapter, the momentum crescendos in extremely well-timed sequences of recollection and desperation, and once I hit the midway point, the narrative owned me until the very end. Although I think it would be enjoyable regardless, Oversight isn’t a standalone. There’s a momentum that was introduced in the first story that works its way to a frenzied pace here that I couldn’t look away from. The return of quite a few characters from book one means that this series needs to be read in its proper succession, but it’s well worth it. There are layers of secrets and machinations that are uncovered methodically through the experiences of these characters, and it’s been a real pleasure to watch things unfold to this point. Oversight is an oftentimes terrifying view of what is at stake when good intentions give way to the commodification of the very people most in need of help...
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