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Currently Browsing: m/m romance
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 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 Sightlines, along with the realization that sometimes there is a disappointingly short distance between good intentions and corruption—and that power is something that ought to inspire wariness, rather than being coveted. As was the case with the ebook/print copy (I bought all three for my bookshelf), I liked the Sightlines audiobook very...
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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 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 most off all, and I’m not just taking about his sexuality. I mean how he becomes aware of his place in the world around him. As I mentioned above, I struggled with the narration. The narrators are the same as the prior book. Alexander Cendese, who was Gavin, is perfect for Simeon....
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Feb
6

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow Relief Valve Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Still recovering from the last case he helped solve, as well as trying to settle into his new relationship with Phil Morrison (a private investigator and former bully), psychically-gifted plumber Tom Paretski could really go for some quiet time and a pint or two at his favorite pub. But, between his best friend’s engagement, the death of a family friend, and his sister’s poisoning (at her own engagement party, no less), he’s not likely to find peace anytime soon. Good thing the pints are a viable option, at least. As much as I liked Pressure Head, the first in the series, I had a truly excellent time reading this story. Despite the grim circumstances surrounding the darker aspects of the narrative, I thought Relief Valve was downright hilarious. Tom’s at his best when he finds himself trapped within the failings of etiquette in the face of death, literary duplicity, and romance, and I couldn’t help snickering and cackling all the way through at his expense. I even guiltily found his discomfort with regards to his own affections nearly priceless. Not just a funny bit of storytelling, Relief Valve is also a gratifying suspense. With questions surrounding the target of the crimes in addition to the identity of the perpetrator, there’s plenty to here to keep readers guessing for quite a while. Although I wasn’t really shocked by the ending of the story, getting there was definitely entertaining. One of my favorite things about this story was the developing romance between Tom and Phil. With their backstory a little less glaring, it was easier for me to more readily support them both, even though I could still appreciate the apprehension expressed by Tom’s family and friends. Tom is an endearing character, making their protectiveness seem more understandable. Speaking of wonderful characters—Darren and Gary continue to be two of my favorites, transforming every scene they appear in into a delight. There’s no way to do them justice here, but I absolutely adore them both. Tom’s sister, Cherry, won me over early, as well, and I even developed a reluctant fondness for the “Worryingly,” “Helplessly,” and “Terrifyingly Reverend Greg” (there are twelve of these constructions in my copy—each more amusing than the last). One of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time, Relief Valve is a strong addition to what has so far been an intriguing series....
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Feb
1

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Oversight by Santino Hassell

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Oversight by Santino Hassell Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Oversight Author:  Santino Hassell Narrator: Greg Boudreaux Audio Speed: 1.0x Series: The Community #2 Genre: Paranormal suspense, LBGTQ, m/m romance Source: Tantor Audio Entitled, gorgeous, and, (somewhat) oblivious, Holden Payne has been an outspoken champion of The Community all his life. Despite his contentious relationship with his father (who happens to be the most powerful of the founders), his devotion to The Community’s ostensible mission to help “lost” psys who flock to his nightclub in NYC is his greatest source of pride. Or, at least it was, until a series of disappearances and murders occurred on his watch, exposing a more sinister agenda at work. Now, inexplicably the focus of an investigation by the very group that raised him, Holden has been given a babysitter in the form of a socially inept, emotionally vacant—and gorgeous—lumbersexual named Sixtus Rossi. Immune to Holden’s usual charms and psychic abilities, Sixtus presents a serious problem—especially since Holden’s attraction to the man becomes more undeniable by the day. With the discovery of another faction working against The Community straining his loyalties, getting closer to Sixtus could either lead to Holden’s downfall or finally allow him to experience the only real love he’s ever known. Once again, Mr. Boudreaux seems to have put a lot of thought and effort into his performance of Oversight, making both Holden’s cultured purr and Sixtus’ deadpan Bronx accent believable and persuasive. One of the most unique things about Six is his inability to process—or express—emotions based on typical cues. As such, he doesn’t have much of a filter, and I found this narrator’s take on the fact particularly amusing as well as more touching than I might have otherwise. Additionally, the accents reintroduced with return of other characters—Nate’s Texas twang, in particular—could have been tempered in deference to those of the main characters, but that’s not the case here. Each remains distinct and vibrant throughout, providing additional strength to the already solid reading. While I enjoyed this version of Oversight tremendously, I think that reading the book first made me fonder of the overall production than if I’d listened to the audio rendition on its own. Given that this is due to personal preference as much as any other reason, I highly recommend both Insight and Oversight audiobooks to fans of the series and new readers alike. I felt that Mr. Boudreaux’s performance fits the narrative extremely well, and...
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Jan
30

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang Scratch Track Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Though it wasn’t a path he’d actively chosen, Quinn has been taking care of others for most of his life. First by looking after his mother and younger brother, then as a roadie/semi-parental unit for the members of Escaping Indigo, he’s always tried to be the dependable one, the son/brother/friend that had everyone’s back. Even after experiencing an earth-shattering loss, he couldn’t allow himself to rely on someone else for a change—even if it cost him the only man he’d dared to want for himself. But, an unexpected reunion convinces Quinn that he can’t pretend forever, and that he’s loved far more than he ever realized. In Scratch Track, the third in the Escaping Indigo series by Eli Lang, we finally get to know more about Quinn, who, in a sense, started everything off by bringing Micah into the band’s company. Though he was a significant presence in the first story, and an absent sort of anchor in the second, I was very much interested in learning more about him. To say that Quinn is “complicated” is an understatement. As Escaping Indigo’s roadie and manager, Quinn’s role has always the one of the caretaker. It’s such an ingrained part of his personality that he has no sense of purpose without it, even when his younger brother died unexpectedly of an overdose. But, that loss causes him question his ability to care for everyone, which, in turn, makes him feel like an outsider to the “family” he’s nurtured within the band. While grief is absolutely a serious matter, most of Scratch Track circles around Quinn’s doubts with little progress sometimes, although I was glad to see him take steps to try and work through his own. The remainder of Scratch Track involves the interrupted relationship Quinn has with Nicky, the drummer for another band (delightfully named Rest in Peach) who are sharing the recording studio with Escaping Indigo. Despite the somewhat implausible idea that Nicky has successfully kept his two-year-old son a secret from Quinn when the two bands are all friends and former tour-mates, I liked Nicky very much. Within the parameters of their reconnection, however, his passion, honesty, patience, and even justifiable hesitancy about starting over with Quinn made him one of the most relatable characters in the story. As was the case with both previous stories in the Escaping Indigo series, Scratch Track leaves...
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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: The Community #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...
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