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Currently Browsing: m/m romance
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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Nov
29

Review + Giveaway: The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parish

Review + Giveaway: The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parish The Remaking of Corbin Wale Author: Roan Parrish Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Although I’ve read several titles by this author, and have enjoyed each one a great deal, I had a difficult time with both the reading of The Remaking of Corbin Wale, as well as writing this review. Evocative, sensual, and magical—I can’t remember ever reading anything like it, and wanted to love it because of that alone. Each of the five senses is teased into complicity, and the author’s general storytelling abilities are evident throughout. Phrasing such as: “In Alex’s arms, time was measured in breaths and distance in the wrinkles of the clothing between them…” handily caught me up in the narrative are everywhere, seeming almost careless in their delivery, if it weren’t for their undeniable importance. I also thought both Corbin and Alex were wonderful characters, although it was Corbin who repeatedly drew me in and kept the story pleasantly unsteady. Corbin has made a wall of himself, reinforced by a lifetime of inherited hurt and loneliness, and I couldn’t help being fascinated by the increasing fractures along its surface shaped by his wanting of Alex. The two are different in so many ways, but somehow collide at the merging of belief and magic, sensation and desire—the jumble of their pieces sliding together in a cohesiveness that neither is much inclined to refute. Almost a character in and of itself, the Wale curse is an ever-present nemesis, always lurking and threatening, and shaping so much of Corbin’s life that it really does seem to be a tangible thing. At first, I thought the curse begged the familiar question: does it exert a power of its own on those subject to it, or does it derive influence from the strength of their belief in its existence? In Corbin’s case, however, that became irrelevant as soon as Alex joined him in his determination to break it, rather than doubt its actuality. Overall, I found The Remaking of Corbin Wale to be a unique and sweet holiday read. While there were several moments when I was unable to completely immerse myself in the narrative, I’ve decided they are more personal in nature and shouldn’t dissuade anyone else from giving it a try. Additionally, 20% of the proceeds from the sale of this title will be donated to the Russian LGBT Network, which, on initial inspection, seems like a very worthy cause. My Rating:  B+...
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Nov
17

Blog Tour + Review: Citywide by Santino Hassell

Blog Tour + Review: Citywide by Santino Hassell Citywide Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: “For everyone who couldn’t get enough of Jaiden and the Queens Crew. This anthology is for you!” This introduction by the author very neatly sums up everything most fans of the Five Boroughs series need to know about Citywide. Fascinating, complex, and impossible to overlook, these originally supporting characters’ voices resonated so strongly throughout the previous stories that the notion of the series without them has become unimaginable. So, it was with an inordinate fondness and eagerness that I began reading Citywide, and ended up caring even more deeply for each and every one of them by its end. “Rerouted” As previously noted, Chris, Jace, and Aiden have been favorites of mine since they first appeared in the series, and theirs was the story in the collection I was looking forward to the most. Chris has illuminated every scene he’s been in, while Aiden and Jace have always made me crave to learn anything about them that I could. Serving as both introduction and HEA, “Rerouted” exceeded all my expectations, starting Citywide off with as hopeful a beginning as I could have wished for. “Gridlocked” Tough, judicious, and fiercely loyal, Tonya has likewise commanded my interest whenever she’s appeared in the Five Boroughs stories. While she could have been cast solely as the Queens Crew’s walking reality check, it was always evident that she was much more. As the outrageous—though equally devoted—heiress and sidekick, Meredith has evolved quite a bit since her first appearance, and made a more compelling match for Tonya in Citywide than I initially expected. While I imagined I’d enjoy “Gridlocked” primarily for the chance to get to know Tonya better, I was both surprised and very happy that the pair got the new start they did. “Derailed” As the only one of these novellas that focuses exclusively on two of the original members of the Queens Crew, “Derailed” was the most difficult for me to read. The history Stephanie and Angel share is complicated, even taking into account the intimacy of their larger group, and the battleground they’ve taken up residence on for so long is downright brutal. They know each other far too well for their story to be either sweet or pretty, and it occurred to me at the halfway point that a glass of wine or three would have been welcome. Jagged and sometimes devastating, their HEA seemed the most...
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Nov
3

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell

Review: Third Rail by Santino Hassell Third Rail Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Beginning just after Interborough, and supplementing the numerous hints scattered throughout Concourse, this quick, sexy collection of shorts is the perfect precursor to the sixth book in the Five Boroughs series, Citywide. Having been charmed by Chris way back in Sunset Park, and left scrambling for whatever details I could glean about both Aiden and Jace after being officially introduced to them in First and First, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to experience this part of their journey through Third Rail. These three have always been favorites of mine, and I couldn’t have been happier when it was hinted that they’d have their own HEA. Sweet and a little bit shy, Chris has always revealed a significant amount of insecurity in himself that felt unfinished on the perimeter of others’ stories. In contrast, Aiden and Jace’s narrative might have been self-contained, if not for the realization that they, too, have more to experience in the wake of a sexual intersection with Chris. And although I’ve fallen for quite a few of the characters throughout this series, I want these guys to find their way very, very much. Easily read on one sitting, Third Rail requires little investment for the insightfulness its bound to contribute to the series overall. And while it might be fun on its own, it really does belong within the context in which it was intended. Each of the Five Boroughs stories has affected me in different ways, and I’m proud to have them on my physical bookshelf, as well as in other formats. This delightful offering from the author is a much-appreciated gift that shouldn’t be ignored. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Christopher Mendez has always known his sexual identity had a swerve. No straight guy would have low-key lusted after his childhood best friend, right? Unfortunately, a combination of insecurity and overall lack of game has prevented him from further exploring his sexuality. That changes once he agrees to participate in a photoshoot for a queer dating app and meets Jace Fairbairn. Jace is beautiful, fey-like, and in an open polyamorous relationship with his gorgeous linebacker-looking husband Aiden. Once they set eyes on Chris, they’re instantly in lust and determined to broaden his sexual horizons. But what’s supposed to be a straight-forward sexual encounter gets complicated once a one-night-stand has repeat performances, and Jace and Aiden begin...
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Oct
25

Review + Blog Tour: Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge

Review + Blog Tour: Kill Game by Cordelia Kingsbridge Kill Game Author: Cordelia Kingsbridge Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Given that I had mixed reactions to the only other title I’ve read by this author, I was eager to give this new series a try—and I’m extremely glad that I did. From its quick-witted characters to a villain that I found myself sympathizing with on occasion to a plot that kept me guessing the entire time, Kill Game had everything I adore in a good suspense story. Although I did develop a particular fondness for Dominic, I liked both he and Levi a great deal. This isn’t the first time I’ve read a story involving a detective and a bounty hunter, and, while there was certainly the familiarity of strong dislike giving way to an improbable compatibility, nothing felt tired or overdone about either character. Chasing down a serial killer forces them to reexamine their own lives, more than their opinions of one another, and I enjoyed being so drawn in by the evolution of each man so far. With Levi on the verge of an engagement to his long-term boyfriend, and Dominic disinterested in any relationship whatsoever, the author incites a more thorough examination of each character than would be possible if there was a rush to an immediate HEA. Whether it’s addiction, moral ambiguity in the absence of guilt, or the pitfalls of allowing affection to devolve into a kind of currency, there’s a lot to consider here. The use of dual narrators in this case not only allows readers to get to know the characters more thoroughly, but proved to be an effective means of sharing their perceived culpability. One of the things I liked best about Kill Game is that, while the attraction between Dominic and Levi is undeniably there, this story is all about the suspense, rather than romance. Just as the killer exists between the law and “justice,” neither Levi nor Dominic seem likely to solve the mystery on their own. In fact, they make bigger strides when the lines get blurry, which kept the narrative as a whole from becoming predictable. Throughout the story, I examined and discarded plausible suspects, sometimes more than once, and was still delightedly second-guessing myself by the end. Already, Seven of Spades looks to be an exciting, well-written series, and I’m happy to watch it unfold from the very beginning. Likable and imperfect, Dominic and Levi are a great match for one another,...
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Oct
11

Review + Blog Tour: Sightlines by Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Sightlines by Santino Hassell Sightlines Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: After thoroughly enjoying the first two books in The Community series by Santino Hassell, and having built up so much of my own anticipation for the third, I was very happy when Sightlines surpassed all my expectations. Essentially broken down into two parts—a brutal look at the insidious nature of “The Farm” and Chase and Elijah’s attempt to escape, followed by a reckoning for “The Comm” as a whole—this story weaves the previously unraveling threads back together into new possibilities, and gives some extraordinary characters a chance to truly live. Chase has been a perplexity and source of fascination for me since I first read Insight, and Sightlines underscores that his presence in all three narratives is imperative. Both a prize and pariah, he’s too dangerous to be trusted, yet too unique and powerful to be eliminated. Reduced to a thing to be dissected with an eye towards replication, his story was tough to get through, mostly because the monsters here actually do exist in one incarnation or another in the world around us. As he’s undergone what may be the most jarring evolution since the beginning of the series, I found Elijah to be similarly engaging in Sightlines. There’s a purity to him that’s still downright shiny in a lot of ways, and it’s no wonder that Chase finds himself as perplexed as he does. I also felt that Elijah’s loss of naivety beautifully intersected with the stuttering rebirth of Chase’s capacity to hope, and the resulting collision was as provocative as it was sweet. What made The Community so terrifying to me wasn’t any single moment, but, rather, the fear, greed, and twisted purpose that might lead—indeed, has led—some to perpetrate the horrors we ought never be willing to inflict on one another. While it is a work of fiction, Sightlines makes several extremely pertinent affirmations about human nature, beginning with Chase’s early observation that: “Apathy was humanity’s biggest crime. Not murderous intent.” From the beginning, Sightlines proved itself to be a strong and welcome addition to a series I’ve come to care about quite a lot. Chase and Elijah have long been a source of character-driven anxiety—in the best manner possible—for me, and I was very gratified with the way their story ended. Additionally, everyone I came to love from the first two books is back, an eventuality I admit to being especially greedy...
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Oct
3

Review: Cover Up by L.A. Witt

Review: Cover Up by L.A. Witt Cover Up Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Nate Chandler gave ten years to the man who ended up breaking his heart when he cheated on Nate—in their own bed. Never one for random hookups in the first place, Nate was left furious and unsteady when the forever he was counting on disappeared in an instant. Moving on would be so much easier if he could erase Caleb—and that matching tattoo—from his life. And isn’t it lucky that the “cover-up wizard” at the local tattoo shop also happens to be just as gorgeous as the art he creates? Working two part-time jobs in addition to keeping up his apprenticeship at Skin Deep, Inc. doesn’t leave Lucas Brandt much time for anything else. Especially not romance, given his history of bad decisions and more recent pattern of disastrous sexual encounters. Even so, he can’t deny the undeniable heat that the recently separated and still hurting RIO stokes in him from their very first meeting. And, really, if being with Nate feels this good without any strings attached, there’s no way Lucas is going to fight it. Having met Nate and Lucas in the previous story, Pounding Skin, it was fairly easy to jump right into Cover Up without any backtracking. Lucas, in particular, piqued my interest before, so I was very excited to see how his story might play out. For most of the narrative, I stayed connected to what was going on with Lucas and Nate, and was either eager for them to sort things out or worried that the overall surface was too smooth by turns. It wasn’t until the relationship was still predominantly rooted in the bedroom when both men’s feelings had clearly evolved further that I began to hope for more. Although I liked each of the main characters, I definitely have a particular fondness for Lucas. Open about his sexuality, his major worries are about paying off his student loans and getting his confidence back after a mistake on a tattoo leaves him rattled. As for his relationship with Nate, he knows exactly what the situation is, but is just happy to feel good when he can, and makes a conscious choice to let himself keep falling. When he finally realizes that things can’t continue as they had been, I couldn’t help hurting for him. As I have an admitted weakness for returning characters that I like, Cover Up had...
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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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