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Currently Browsing: m/m romance
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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Jun
27

Review: The Cartographer by Tamsen Parker

Review: The Cartographer by Tamsen Parker The Cartographer Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I can’t imagine Rey’s book being more perfect. If you’ve been reading Tamsen Parker’s Compass series, you know Rey Walter—the kink puppeteer/matchmaker. I’ve always been curious about Rey, but never did I imagine the revelations in The Cartographer. As always, I’m keeping this review spoiler-free. Which means it’s going to be short 😉 Allie Hart is an awesome guy. He hasn’t had an easy life but he’s responsible and committed. Not committed to someone else, though. Like, not romantically. I found myself wanting to slap Allie up-side the head and tell him to let Rey help. **pulls hair** We do get to watch Allie grow, too. I like seeing him overcome preconceived notions and become a fly on the wall when he’s with the people he cares about. I think I connected with Allie because he’s had a rough go of it, but seems to have come out the other side of his battles a better person. Rey? Oh, I love the things we learn about Rey. It’s really nice to see his Dominant, match-making tush again. I think parts of The Cartographer were difficult to read for me because I like to have some semblance of control in my life, but the way Rey handles his own control—at times—is difficult for me. I read the words and I’m the person murmuring to my book, “Oh, honey…don’t do that.” Rey has been instrumental to this series. There’s a REASON he’s the Cartographer—he’s been charting a course for everyone else all these years and it’s finally—finally—time for him to travel the road toward his own happiness. I don’t think there’s many people who can write kink the way Ms. Parker does, either. I love her imagery and the depth of the emotions during a particularly harrowing scene. And, you guys? This book is particularly smokin’ hot. But even more than how hot the sex is, and how intense the BDSM scenes are, there’s so much emotion. It’s been absolutely wonderful watching the development in Ms. Parker’s Compass series, and I’m sad to see the series end. But, this is good news for you—in the even you haven’t picked up this series, yet. IT IS COMPLETE. You may now commence the binge-reading. My Rating: A+ Personal favorite About the Book: Reyes Walter is the man who engineers everyone’s happiness, and he’s never wanted anything else. He’s got a...
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Jun
19

Review: Chief’s Mess by L.A. Witt

Review: Chief’s Mess by L.A. Witt Chief’s Mess Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: While he was happy to provide some moral support during his sister’s peace-making visit with her ex-husband and his new boyfriend, what Anthony Talbot really wants is a night of no-strings sex with a hot stranger. Luckily, the sexy chief master-at-arms who takes him home clearly agrees. Noah Jackson quickly gets under Anthony’s skin, however, and their increasingly frequent hookups soon turn into a long-distance relationship that leaves both men hungry for more. But, Noah’s hiding a problem he doesn’t even realize he has, and it’s the one thing that Anthony may not be able to forgive. While the previous story in the series, Afraid to Fly, also dealt with alcoholism, Chief’s Mess is an examination of the denial and consequences of the situation as they’re happening, rather than the aftermath. Here, the reader is witness to the chain of events as Noah’s life begins to fall apart around him. The dual perspectives also cast Anthony’s own feelings in a stark light as they shift from happiness and optimism to fear and pain as the narrative evolves. One thing I especially liked about Chief’s Mess is that it’s not a hearts and flowers kind of romance out of the gate. Noah and Anthony’s story begins with a hookup and grows into something more over time. The initial attraction is purely physical, and I thought the uncomplicated necessity of that beginning worked really well. Their sexual compatibility is evident from the start, the long-distance relationship they slip into providing ample opportunity for the anticipation between them with to build. Sadly, it is precisely that distance, both emotionally and geographically, that allowed the truth to be ignored and hidden so easily. At its heart, Chief’s Mess is about honesty and forgiveness—good lessons to keep in mind regardless of the specifics involved. That Anthony and Noah are a good match for one another is evident from their earliest meeting, and wish I could have seen even more of their interactions outside of the bedroom as the story progressed. Watching their connection falter was hard at times, some of the worst moments being downright painful, especially knowing that things would become more difficult before they could get better. Even though I missed the first of the Anchor Point stories, I’ve enjoyed the two I have read a great deal, and would recommend the series to any fan of the genre....
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Jun
7

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Mature Content Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: From the very beginning, the Cyberlove series has been an unflinching and welcome rebuttal to the notion that the connections, and lives, we find for ourselves online are invalid. Mature Content goes further in that the characters’ challenges, opportunities, and relationships play out where the distinction between “real life” and the internet is no longer distinct—or even relevant in many ways. Zane Brody and Beau Shields are two popular YouTubers in the LGBTQ community whose already overlapping circles are about collide—spectacularly. Beau’s online persona, Beau Starr, isn’t a lie exactly, but rather the version of himself he wants to be. Informative and validating, he tries to be the positive presence that was lacking when he was trying to figure things out for himself. The problem is that living means making mistakes, and Beau has his share like everyone else. But, the past is never very far away, and I was reminded of the Confucius quote “No matter where you go, there you are.” It’s simply too much for Beau to shoulder on his own, and the steadily increasing weight of it all was tangible as the story progressed. Zane, on the other hand, decided long before to live his life openly, his “TrashyZane” identity being the truest version of himself that he could possibly be. He is incredibly strong, unrepentantly sexual, and has an enviably good heart to go with it all. He is sometimes (justifiably) wary, but honest to a fault, and his determination not to hide who he is means that there’s nowhere for him to hide when he might have need of such. I adored Zane from the beginning, and still can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about him. In terms of sex, the aptly titled Mature Content has plenty, and I thought these scenes were some of the best I’ve read. Entire lifetimes could be spent unsuccessfully searching for the kind of sexual compatibility Zane and Beau share. That they despise one another makes the fact as perfect as it is annoying (for them, at least), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find their mutual struggle with that reality as riveting as the encounters themselves. Saying that these two are “smoking hot” together wouldn’t be wrong, but it would be sadly inadequate for the chemistry that Ms. Erickson and Mr. Hassell manage to bring to...
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