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Currently Browsing: LGBTQ
Feb
16

Review + Giveaway: How the Cookie Crumbles by Jaime Samms

Review + Giveaway: How the Cookie Crumbles by Jaime Samms How the Cookie Crumbles Author: Jaime Samms Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having survived an adolescence filled with loss and uncertainty, Frederick Jackson thought he’d seen his share of heartache. But, being betrayed by the man he’d grown to care for—along with getting cheated out of a well-earned win on a popular cooking show—proved him wrong. Running away to build his dream in the small town of Bluewater Bay seemed like a great idea. At least, until his past not only catches up with him, but moves in across the street. Blaire Caruthers might have been raised by a domineering, unscrupulous father, but now all he wants to do is escape the man’s control and right the wrongs of the past. Of course, winning back the man he sold out for a flashy diversion and higher ratings is at the top of his list. But, no matter how deeply he regrets the harm he’s caused, Blaire learns that trust broken isn’t easily restored, and that some battles simply aren’t his to fight, much less win. Not surprisingly, I found Frederick to be the easier of the two main characters to like. He’s a survivor, and he inspires a fierce loyalty in those who know and love him. He’s also thoughtful, compassionate, shy, determined—nearly perfect as sympathetic characters go. Far from being predictable or two-dimensional, however, Frederick is also fighting a very personal demon of his own, the nature of which the author allows to build gradually, until I felt like I could truly appreciate the scope of what Frederick is constantly battling. Blaire, on the other hand, I absolutely loathed by the second chapter. His shared history with Frederick ensured my opinion of him as the “bad guy,” an impression that took quite some time to reverse. He has no excuses, but, to his credit, Blaire doesn’t really try to make any. He wants another chance, even though he knows he doesn’t deserve it. Still, if it’s possible to earn forgiveness, then he does about as well as anyone in his situation could. Though he makes mistakes, he comes through for Frederick when he needs him most, which went a long way towards winning me back over. In the end, I couldn’t help but wish that everything would work out for Blaire as much as Frederick. The Bluewater Bay series has provided some wonderfully memorable characters, and this addition is no exception. I’m always excited when...
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Jan
6

Review: Tempted to Death by Jessica Jarman

Review: Tempted to Death by Jessica Jarman Tempted to Death Author: Jessica Jarman Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Tara Wilcox and her brother, Ben, are paranormal hunters. They track down evil, violent paras, hoping to stop them. Ben’s wife Nicole has been captured by a soul eater demon, and Tara knows the only way to find her is with the help of the best hunters in the business, Oliver and Luca. The problem? Tara and Ben are paras in hiding, while Oliver and Luca believe all paras are bad. The other issue? Tara is in love with the couple and left the pair without a word months ago. Tempted to Death is a fun romp in the paranormal romance genre, without being all sunshine and roses. Shared in the shifting third person POVs of Tara, Oliver, and Luca, the reader gets good insight into all facets of the trio’s relationship. The story isn’t overly long, and I appreciate that Ms. Jarman establishes a strong backstory romance for the trio right up front. It makes their romance more believable and allows me to understand and feel their pain over the break up and relate emotionally to Tara. Another great thing about Tempted to Death is that Luca, Oliver, and Tara each love the another: it’s a true menage. I found I enjoyed the story more because it’s three in love and not just two on one. While Oliver and Luca were in love before meeting Tara and remained a couple after she left, they both love her as well, and love being all together. Tempted to Death is an enjoyable, fairly quick paranormal erotic romance. The multi-person POV, gives a balanced view of the relationship and events. The characters are all likable, and with their off-page history, the bonds are stronger and more emotional. It’s one of those stories where you pretty much go in knowing what will happen, and the journey to get there is what makes the book so entertaining. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Months ago, Tara Wilcox ran away from Luca Castell and Oliver Gordon. She’d fallen hard for the pair of hunters and feared their growing feelings for her. But what truly terrified her was the possibility that they’d discover what she really is. That she’s the very thing they hunted.  Luca and Oliver are partners, in every sense of the word, and their lives are spent running toward danger. Falling for Tara...
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Dec
28

Review: Sunset Park by Santino Hassell

Review: Sunset Park by Santino Hassell Sunset Park Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It’s not an exaggeration to say that I’ve been waiting for Sunset Park since I turned the last page of the inaugural novel of the Five Boroughs series, Sutphin Boulevard. The latter marked the beginning of what has, so far, been an outstanding couple of stories, and I was thrilled when the sequel not only lived up to my expectations, but blew them out of the water entirely. Raymond and David may have carved out a place for themselves in the first story, but in Sunset Park, they handily and conclusively outshone everyone else around them. Of the two main characters in this story, David continued to be the more difficult for me to become attached to, even though I already liked him a great deal by the end of Sutphin Boulevard. That isn’t to say that I never grew to love him, because I absolutely did, just that putting a lot of faith in David seemed to be a shaky prospect at times—which is ironic, given some of his actions and comments throughout the story. But, that’s not a bad thing, either, since the result was decidedly sweet. Choosing between stability and being happy is a gamble, and, having been hurt by “questioning” guys before, David likes to hedge his bets by eliminating as many unknowns as he can. I did think that David’s ex-boyfriend, Caleb, got this much right when he says: “and now you are trying to find rational motivation for an irrational action.” Regardless, there seems to be a big difference between David as an observer and David as a participant, and he’s overwhelmingly hyperopic when it comes to himself. Raymond, on the other hand, won me over from the very beginning. He is straightforward, thoughtful, proud, and far more capable than he’s given credit for. What you see is what you get with him, for those who bother to look without their own pre-defined filters, anyway—which most people seem averse to doing. His acceptance of the immediate status of a situation is often taken for indifference, leading to a lot of frustration for both Raymond and those who care about him. But, the lack of an obvious trajectory with regards to these situations in no way means he doesn’t, or won’t, have one, making David’s faith in him even more significant. Raymond has an almost nonexistent “bs” threshold, which I appreciated...
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Dec
23

Review + Blog Tour: Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux

Review + Blog Tour: Part & Parcel by Abigail Roux Part & Parcel Author: Abigail Roux Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: After months of concern over so many beloved characters, and successfully avoiding all of the spoilers I possibly could, I was very pleased to discover that Part & Parcel ended up being even more wonderful than I had anticipated. Nick O’Flaherty and Kelly Abbott have been favorites of mine for ages, and the introduction of the Sidewinder stories helped ease the distress that accompanied the ending of the Cut & Run series, which I have always loved tremendously. Kelly and Nick are absolutely perfect for each other, and, while I’ve always wanted them to be happy, there was never any doubt that their path would be a difficult one. Though it is told primarily from Nick and Kelly’s perspectives, Part & Parcel is inarguably an ensemble effort. All of the surviving members of Sidewinder (and Zane) share a good amount of screen time once their (literal) journey begins—a facet of the novel that was welcome after having just said goodbye to them after Crash & Burn earlier this year. Zane, in particular, even shares narrating duties, which proved to be a very effective way of making me feel like a participant in the narrative, not merely an observer. One of the things that makes Part & Parcel unique is the combination of flashbacks and shifting narrators, along with the humor and answering sweetness and melancholy inspired by Elias Sanchez’s missives, that make up the entirety of the story. The team’s memories and Eli’s own words comfortably fade back and forth from one to the other, effectively transforming the ghost of a man who’s haunted these characters since Cut & Run into a real person within Part & Parcel’s pages. The result is that the audience is able to get to know Elias Sanchez over the course of the team’s journey, just as Zane, who is the “outsider” of the group, does. Ms. Roux is notorious for torturing her characters, and she does an especially thorough job of it in Part & Parcel. Nick and Kelly have been together long enough at this point that the issues they haven’t dealt with yet become a serious problem over the course of the story. Every single one of these men have a lot of lingering darkness from their time in service, as well as many events that followed, but poor Nick is positively drowning in it. On the...
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Dec
21

Review: Stuck Landing by Lauren Gallagher

Review: Stuck Landing by Lauren Gallagher Stuck Landing Author: Lauren Gallagher Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: After the long, painful dissolution of her previous relationship, Anna Maxwell isn’t in a hurry to jump into any new attachments, much less with anyone involved with Wolf’s Landing. But, when the tough, gorgeous stunt coordinator Anna has had a crush on for months suddenly breaks up with her boyfriend and makes it clear that she’s more than willing to help work off their mutual frustrations in bed, Anna sees no reason not to take her up on the offer. Even though Anna’s determined not to fall for a bisexual woman again, Natalya Izmaylova seems to be everything Anna has ever wanted in a partner. And while walking away should be easy, Anna is quickly learning that it most certainly is not. Told exclusively from Anna’s perspective, Stuck Landing follows the developing relationship between two wonderfully tenacious, extremely capable women who are perfect together—if they don’t self-destruct along the way. One thing I was especially pleased about is that both women are so open about what they want sexually. Anna and Natalya like and want sex, and it was nice to see that out there so matter-of-factly. Regardless, the chemistry between them is so obvious and undeniable that every scene they have together practically vibrates with it, whether they’re having sex or not. I was glad, but not at all surprised, to see biphobia addressed so unapologetically in the Bluewater Bay series, and by this author, in particular. As has been the case with just about every other story I’ve read in this collection, the stumbling blocks Natalya and Anna face seemed real, and were far from easily overcome. Biphobia is a serious problem that doesn’t get enough attention in literature, in my opinion, but Ms. Gallagher dissects the issue both thoughtfully as well as candidly, and I appreciated both very much. Once again, the Bluewater Bay series has proven that beautifully written, thought-provoking fiction is alive and well. Stuck Landing is frank and occasionally harsh, yet manages to be evocative and incredibly sweet in places, too. Ms. Gallagher has repeatedly demonstrated that she is an impressive storyteller, and makes quite a few good points here in a relatively short narrative. Although it can be read as a standalone, I recommend reading all of the Bluewater Bay stories, since each is unique, yet often interconnected. The entire series has a lot to offer, and is one...
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Dec
14

Review: Behr Facts by Pat Henshaw

Review: Behr Facts by Pat Henshaw Behr Facts Author: Pat Henshaw Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Abraham “Abe” Behr is the head of his family’s business, Behr Construction. The company is losing money, and it appears it may be the sabotage of disgruntled family members. Abe brings in outsider Jeffrey Mason, CPA, to help with the books and figure out what’s going on with the finances. While Jeff may not know about it, there is bad blood between the Behrs and Masons, making it more difficult for some in the Behr family to accept Jeff’s work. As the pair work together to solve the mystery, they realize that they are becoming more than friends. Behr Facts is the love story of an unlikely pair, making it despite their own hang ups. It’s an enjoyable novella with likable characters. And while not completely original, it’s still a good story. I have not read the previous books in the series, and while loosely connected, they are standalone in nature. The story is shared in the first person POV of Abe, which was a bit off-putting at first, since most romances are usually told in third person POV. I stumbled around the dialogue for a bit until I got used to it. And while it seemed pretty obvious to me as to what was going on at Behr, apparently it took Jeff and Abe several weeks. This seemed a bit unrealistic to me, as who would allow losses like Behr was experiencing for weeks before making a move to stop it? One thing that bothered me a bit was that the author tries to address bigotry and hate in this short story, but it felt forced and used stereotypes rather than integrating actions and reactions in a more original way. The whole story has a cookie cutter feel: not bad but not unique. In the end, Behr Facts turned out to be more about a man discovering who he is and what he wants out of life rather than an engrossing romance. Abe was always doing what was expect of him by others and never anything for himself. His journey is all about self-discovery and finding true happiness. It’s a feel good, everything-turns-out-great kind of story, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. While the story didn’t stand out, it still was enjoyable. My Rating: C+ Liked It, but I had issues About the Book: Big, burly CEO Abe Behr is dismayed to discover someone—possibly...
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Dec
7

Review: Stranded by HelenKay Dimon

Review: Stranded by HelenKay Dimon Stranded Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: As a trained assassin, Kyle Cabe thought he knew a thing or two about betrayal. But, getting shot and left for dead by the man he should have been able to trust more than anyone else took that awareness to an entirely different level. Now, Cabe’s ready to forget the past and start over, or so he tells himself—as soon as he finishes this one last job. Too bad his heart isn’t so easily convinced. Brax Hughes had always known that his plan to save Cabe during his last assignment would cost him dearly, but he’d never given up on trying to win him back. After all, it had been for Cabe’s own good, right? But, lies are still lies, regardless of how well-intentioned they may be, and sometimes telling the truth just isn’t enough to undo the damage. From the beginning, this story wasn’t at all what I expected. Though I was able to finish it in a single day, Stranded had a lot of twists and turns, which made it a real pleasure to read. With a cast of characters composed entirely of highly skilled, often duplicitous assassins, it certainly isn’t your average romance. Of the two main characters, Cabe won me over almost instantly. Wounded inside and out, he’s got a lot of threads to untangle, and even more bad memories to contend with. And that’s before he’s faced with an entirely different version of the reality he’s been living with for nearly a year. Hot-tempered, but extremely adept, Cabe’s loneliness is an undeniable presence throughout the narrative, and I couldn’t help wanting him to be happy. While he does technically owe his life to the apparent treachery of his former lover, I felt that his anger was well justified. Alternatively, I found Brax to be as frustrating as he is lovable, which is actually quite a bit. As the architect of the event that still haunts them both, he’s got all the answers, and the control, making every desperation-induced misstep he takes all the more painful. I thought Brax’s perspective on his faith and profession was an especially interesting facet of his character, and liked him even more for it. Although I did find his conviction in the rightness of his actions, as well as his unwavering love for Cabe, endearing, I could also understand Cabe’s recurring desire to punch him. Regardless of...
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Dec
2

Review: Out of Sync by Bronwyn Green

Review: Out of Sync by Bronwyn Green Out of Sync Author: Bronwyn Green Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Morgan Weaver isn’t happy. He’s in a job he hates, working for the family business. He spends little time outside the office, and he hasn’t composed or played music in years. Once a promising musician, Morgan walked away from what he loved to fulfill his father’s expectations. On the other hand, James (Jamie) Shepherd continued making the music that he and Morgan loved and is now a famous musician. Once roommates, James and Morgan haven’t seen each other in over ten years. However, James remained friends with Morgan’s sister, Tristan, so when he finds out that Morgan is refusing to play at her wedding, he decides to confront the man who used to be his best friend. Right from the start, Out of Sync captured my mind and heart. I found myself engrossed in Jamie and Morgan’s story, uncovering what happened that drove a wedge between them, and watching them rediscover their passion and love for both music and each other. With the time that has passed, both men have matured and hardened, providing a hurdle to overcome, yet allowing each to be more comfortable with himself and the sparks between them. This story gave me all the feels. The author does an amazing job capturing the longing and heartache both men have felt over the years. When they finally come together, it is amazingly sexy and passionate. I ached for the pair as they navigated the bumpy road to happiness. And their journey is filled with detours and potholes, causing this reader to cry out in heartbreak. I love the emotion the author packs into the story, crashing into me from all sides. Additionally, Ms. Greene creates fabulous settings with amazing details and clarity. One of my favorite examples is a scene early on, when James makes breakfast for Morgan. The descriptions were so spot on that I could see and smell the eggs cooking. It’s these kind of touches that make the story come alive and more memorable. In the end, I really loved reading Out of Sync. Jamie and Morgan’s story is touching, hot, sexy, and sweet, but at its core, it is a wonderful romance that swept me off my feet. Out of Sync hit all the right notes and left me satisfied. My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Ten years ago, Morgan Weaver walked away from everything...
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Nov
9

Review: Found at the Library by Christi Snow

Review: Found at the Library by Christi Snow Found at the Library Author: Christi Snow Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Writing science-fiction novels might keep him mostly single, but that dedication has brought Robert McIntyre a great deal of success. He’s a little self-absorbed, maybe, but, when his muse is talking, and the deadlines are looming, he figures it’s to be expected. But, when he gets the chance to redeem himself after a bad first impression, he falls for the gorgeous man who’s upended his world more than he ever thought possible. If only holding on to him could be so easy. After many years of loving the books that his dyslexia prevented him from reading, Tommy Garrett has made a place for himself creating a different kind of art out of the pages themselves. It may not be the way he wanted things to be, but with the help of his collection of audiobooks, all of those other settings and characters have come to life for him anyway. Although falling for an author was never part of his plan, nothing could have prepared him for the quirky sci-fi writer who (literally) broke into his life and turned it inside out. I thought Mac and Tommy were both very interesting characters from the beginning of Found at the Library, and they became even more so as the story progressed. While I’ve often heard that being involved with someone who earns their living in a creative profession carries with it the potential for a variety of issues, Ms. Snow illustrates some very difficult ones here. Initially, their professions—as an author and artist, respectively—make Tommy and Mac perfect for each other. Despite their mutual need to withdraw from all forms of human interaction when they are working on a project, they are generous and considerate of the other’s obligations and needs, and seeing the way they cared for one another was my favorite part of the story. That’s not to say that things are always easy between the two. In fact, their relationship does not begin well at all. Despite an obvious and immediate physical connection, they manage to thoroughly offend one another and generate a startling amount of ill will in the process. Of course, that they do have such an undeniable carnal attraction makes the next few chapters quite a lot of fun. And since neither man is very good at expressing himself verbally, I found it especially endearing that they are best able...
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Nov
4

Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell Stygian Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: As soon as I heard that Mr. Hassell was writing a story for Halloween, I was extremely eager to see what sort of creation he’d come up with. I simply knew this would be different. That my request to review it was met with a warning that he’d never tried anything like Stygian before was a temptation that I didn’t want to resist. I was absolutely delighted to find that whatever expectations I did have were quickly surpassed, and I fell into the narrative with a greedy focus that led to sleep deprivation, as well as a few less than gracious sentiments regarding any interruptions from the world outside of the story. Stygian is the story of an up-and-coming band of the same name trying to break through to bigger and better things. Yet, to say that they’re dysfunctional is an understatement. Collectively, the band is carrying around a freight train worth of hurt, guilt, and memories, and the weight of it all is about to tear them apart. Jeremy, the youngest member, is in an especially precarious position, having recently joined the band after the death of their previous drummer. Told from Jeremy’s perspective over the course of a summer “retreat” the guys have embarked on in an attempt to pull things together, Stygian, as it turns out, is far more than just a horror story. One of the things I loved most about this story is that the characters, along with the experiences that have shaped them to this point, are one-of-a-kind. It isn’t just what’s happened to them all, but how they’ve dealt with the blows. Isolated and “different,” I found Jeremy to be the easiest to become attached to, his role as narrator, notwithstanding. Quince, however, absolutely broke my heart as the story progressed, while Kennedy gradually earned both my respect and admiration. As to the lead singer, Watts…well, he and I never really did get on well, and I say that in appreciation of his complexity and the fact that he left his mark on the narrative as irrevocably as the others. Even the monsters in Stygian stood apart from others I’ve encountered in my reading. Though they preserve enough expected characteristics to be creepily familiar, Mr. Hassell’s vampires are still atypical and unique, each retaining distinct personalities in spite of what they’ve become. While they are certainly insidious, they are opportunistic,...
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