RELEASE DAY REVIEW – No Small Parts by Ally Blue

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I’ve never read any Ally Blue novels before, but after this, I shall DEFINITELY be giving her a go. This is book sixteen in the Bluewater Bay romance novels series (although they can be read as standalone, and I’ve been reading them completely out of order). Some I didn’t finish (Selfie, How the Cookie Crumbles), some I wish I hadn’t finished (There’s Something About Ari), some just didn’t gel with me (Lone Wolf), some which were solid three-star romances (The Burnt Toast B+B, Hell on Wheels), and some which were absolutely brilliant (Starstruck, Rain Shadow). No Small Parts was definitely in the final category, in fact, was the best Bluewater Bay novel I’ve read since Starstruck, which is no faint praise!

Why did this one beat out all others? I loved the writing, I found it really engaging (which sometimes can be hard to do in romances) and the characters relatable, flawed, adorable, interesting, and found myself rooting for them.

Nat Horn is a werewolf extra on Wolf’s Landing, the supernatural show that runs through the whole series of books. He’s got a crush on the female star, Solari, but she hasn’t noticed him. Instead, they become friends and he ends up seeing Rafael; caring, funny, cute Rafael, and they tentatively get together. Rafael is Solari’s assistant, comes from Hollywood and has dreams of become a director.

Their relationship, and how it was written, was gorgeous. More so than some romances, where characters are just ciphers, or names, I felt like I got to know Nat, with all of his bloke-ish reserve and problems with his pill-addicted father, and Rafael, optimistic, charming, sometimes interfering. The supporting character of Solari is well fleshed out, and regular character Anna is featured quite a bit, and there’s a good few cameos from other characters in the series.

Oh, and did I mention that this book is sexy. Something about the way that Blue describes Nat, I could picture him perfectly, and I could see, and feel, the growing attraction between him and Rafael, and the resulting sex scenes between him and Nat were perfect; hot, descriptive, not too long, or frequent, with a real connection forming.

In short, if you like m/m romance, I heartily recommend this and congratulate Ally Blue on a wonderful book – I’m already looking forward to her next Bluewater Bay novel!

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: My Cowboy Freedom by Z. A. Maxfield

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Z A Maxfield is one of my favourite romance writers. She manages something that so many don’t – believability. Her work just rings so true, so genuine, so authentic that it’s impossible not to love it, especially since it’s so well-written, above and beyond most romances.

My Cowboy Freedom is the fifth book in her Cowboys series. The first two were set around the J-Bar Ranch (I liked the first book, My Cowboy Heart, but the supporting characters from that book who really irritated me, got their own book in My Heartache Cowboy which I skipped) whilst the remaining three are set around the Rocking C Ranch.

I haven’t (yet) read the third book, My Cowboy Homecoming, although I will. The first book in this series that I read was the fourth book, My Cowboy Promises, which I loved. I will say that although you could read My Cowboy Freedom without having read Homecoming or Promises, it would definitely benefit have read them, at the very least Promises whose characters feature heavily (props to ZAM for having one of my favourite characters steal one of the chapters with his scene! Declan and The Joy of Gay Sex!).

Enough preamble. Freedom tells the story of Sky(ler) who after eight years in prison has gotten a job at the Rocking C, following in the footsteps of his cowboy Daddy. He’s been given a few grand by his prison lover, ‘Nando, who looms large throughout this book, having provided so much security and affection for Sky throughout the years, something he is now bereft of on the outside world.

Rock is a big guy, but he was hit by lightning and now has seizures and a watch dog called Maisie (and ZAM characterises her so well, I felt like giving her a Best Supporting Actor Oscar). His family are super-religious – touring tv pastor religious – and they’re not happy with him being gay, at all. Given his special needs, since being hit by lightning, he’s treated like a child by everyone at the Rocking C and by his parents. He has little autonomy and despite his boss Sterling, a vocal homophobe, knowing he’s gay, he’s not allowed to be how he is at all. He is trapped by his parents’ wishes and by his condition, despite being in his twenties and a fully-grown man.

This book is, in a lot of ways, about how other people see you, and what that can do to people’s impressions of you; Sky, the murderous ex-con and Rock, the ‘retard’ that was hit by lightning, as one character calls him in the book. As such, Sky and Rock’s romance are against all the odds, and is beautiful, tender and heartfelt. It’s a slow burn that when it gets together throws certain things on its head (for example, Rock, the guy who has seizures and needs a dog being, well, Sky’s Rock, the warm pair of arms around him).

A great, great supporting cast with welcome returns for Andi, Ryder and Dr. Declan from Promises. I wonder if there will be any more books in this series, as this feels like a concrete and definitive end to the story of the Rocking C. Perhaps, if there’s a book six, we will return to the J-Bar, or go to another ranch [Update: I’ve just noticed that Andi is getting her own book next year, an m/f romance that is billed the start of a new series] . Either way, Sky and Rock were the most beautiful romance out the five books, written with a depth and heart rare in the field of romance. Here’s to ZAM and her cowboys!

 

Static by L. A. Witt

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Well, as premises for a book goes, this is definitely something that I’ve never read before. Alex has been with Damon for two years but has never told him that he’s a shifter: he can switch genders at will. Damon has only ever known Alex as a girl but Alex’s staunchly religious parents have forced Alex to get an implant that will make him static, and unable to shift. Such implants are not only incredibly costly to remove but are also major surgery, with serious health risks.

There’s a lot of great ideas going on in this book. The parallels between shifters and trans* people is something that is explored (but also differentiated with, at times, which is nice) as is the hatred that such people get in everyday life.

Really like the supporting cast, such as Tabby, Alex’s employer, owner of bar The Welcome Mat, who is trans* and saving up for the operation – there is a gorgeous set of parallels when Alex has lost his ability to shift genders and he realises that such an ability is something that Tabby would kill for.

His boyfriend, Damon, is incredibly supportive and I liked their relationship. I felt though that when Alex in his male form and Damon and Alex get physical that its ease was a little unbelievable – I know that Damon loves Alex but he’s never even thought of being with another guy before. I would’ve like a bit more buildup with that BUT that said, I really liked the book and that was only a minor quibble.

An enjoyable, easy read that I read rather quickly, this is one of Witt’s better books.

You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: The Photographer’s Truth by Ralph Josiah Bardsley

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The first thing that strikes me upon finishing this book, which I did over lunch yesterday, is how perfect, and important, telling it in a reflective past tense is.

Ian, a computer programmer from San Francisco with a wife and two teenage boys, gets sent to Paris to work on a long project; setting up a digital museum and corresponding storage for the sprawling collections of famous French fashion house, Môti. He starts to investigate the city and slowly becomes friends with Luca Sparks, who he later finds is one of the most famous fashion photographers in Paris, who shot not only for Môti but all over the world, and has since given up taking pictures. Pictures that Ian keeps coming across in his work each day.

I really liked this, a lot. It’s very different from Brothers – which I also loved (and why I was delighted to get this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review) – as its tinged with sadness throughout. You are aware for this romance to have the ending you think, that Ian has to completly overhaul and rethink his life, and this from a man who’s had only one homosexual encounter in his youth that he’s very carefully buried away.

Things I really liked about this book:

– the characters are older. They’re not in their early twenties. I think it’s specified (I can’t recall) but I pitch them in their late 30’s/early 40’s. And the cover is lovely; classic and gallic, and it represents some that age/close to that age, instead of most romances where the characters are that age and the cover is represented by models in their early twenties (this BUGS THE HELL OUT OF ME).

– I really liked the slow burn of their relationship. How it seems like a friendship and you realise that not only are they slowly falling in love, but that their outlook on the world is being changed too, Ian’s in particular.

– This is a book in love with Paris and photography, a love that is skilfully brought alive by the author. I’ve been to Paris twice and I could feel myself walking the streets with Ian and Luca easily.

– That the book is from Ian’s POV and that has interesting ramifications later in the book (it’s just a minor thing – not a huge difference in the POV – but simple things like Ian having misunderstood something and it being explained to him later, were nice little suprises/friction).

– The supporting characters were well drawn and interesting, in particular Ian’s teenage boys, and Luca’s friend Michele.

– The ending, how it’s done, the last couple of pages and the last paragraph. I won’t spoil it.

These are men in love, with all of the beauty, and seriousness, and disruption it can sometimes bring. In short, another absolute winner from Bardsley! I must also get a review organised for Brothers too.

Also, for those that it’s important to you (it’s not to me, although it’s a nice change from some romance which can be very sex heavy, something which can turn me off at times) – there’s no explicit sex in this book (same with Brothers) and it suits the prose really well.

[Postscript: The book appears to be released exclusively on Bold Strokes Books today, with all other retailers following on the 12th July]

You can reserve a copy of The Photographer’s Truth online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here, and a copy of Brothers by the same author here.

A Simple Romance by J.H. Knight

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Never has a title been so fitting.

Skip’s partner of nearly a decade, Monty, leaves him and stuck in the house they shared, he decides to upsticks and move back in with his mother to lick his wounds. It’s through doing that that he ends up teaching at his old high school, where a guy who came onto him in the locker room, Paul, is now the Physics teacher and their mothers are friends and have decided that they’d be good together.

What follows is a sweet romance where they fall for each other. It’s quite tender and touching at times, and quite steamy in places too (which is a nice contrast). There’s little big external forces at play here, mainly a man trying to move on from the hurt his ex caused him and learn to trust the man who’s clearly the one.

Nicely plotted and paced, JH Knight has a great way with words and both novels I’ve read from her have been surefire hits (although I preferred The Last Thing He Needs, purely because the cast was bigger and the book was longer).  Recommended.

BONUS POST – 5 Gay Romance Books to Watch Out For

Here’s five new and forthcoming gay romance novels (also referred to as m/m or male/male romance) to watch out for:
[All links below direct you to our online catalogue where you can reserve a copy]

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Men in Love – Edited by Jerry L. Wheeler (12 Apr 2016)
Spring approaches with the promise of new beginnings, fresh adventures, and the thrill of romance rekindled or discovered. Hot, sexy guys abound-meeting on the ball fields or the boardroom, at the theater or the classroom-falling in love and lust for the first time or celebrating a lifetime. Come join the rites of spring and indulge yourself in the passion and pleasures of our luscious men in love. Stories from some of today’s popular m/m romance authors explore the many faces of men in love: gay for you, seductions, weddings and more.

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Selfie by Amy Lane (18 Apr 2016)
One year ago, actor Connor Montgomery lost the love of his life to a drunk driver. But what’s worse for Connor is what he still has: a lifetime of secrets born of hiding his relationship from the glare of Hollywood. Unable to let go of the world he and Vinnie shared, Connor films a drunken YouTube confession on the anniversary of Vinnie’s death.

Thankfully, the video was silent-a familiar state for Connor-so his secret is still safe. He needs a fresh start, and a new role on the hit TV show Wolf’s Landing might be just that.

The move to Bluewater Bay may also mean a second chance in the form of his studio-assigned assistant. Noah Dakers sees through Connor’s facades more quickly than Connor could imagine. Noah’s quiet strength and sarcastic companionship offers Connor a chance at love that Hollywood’s closet has never allowed. But to accept it, Connor must let Vinnie go and learn to live again.

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The Heart as He Hears It by A. M. Arthur (19 Apr 2016)
Love can slip through the smallest crack in the door.

While most of his friends have moved on to “real” careers, Jon Buchanan is content skating through life as a part-time waiter and gay porn star. Firmly single thanks to a previous relationship disaster, he focuses his spare time on Henry, a dear friend dying of cancer.

And with Henry’s happiness paramount, Jon is on a mission to help Henry meet his recently discovered grandson.

Isaac Gregory hasn’t set foot outside for the past year. He has everything he needs delivered, and his remaining family knows better than to visit. When a complete stranger shows up claiming to be his grandfather—with a distractingly handsome younger man in tow—his carefully structured routines are shaken.

Despite his instant attraction, Jon senses Isaac is too fragile for a relationship. Yet tentative friendship grows into genuine companionship. And when Henry’s health begins to fail, they realize Fate brought them together for a reason.

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Triad Blood by ‘Nathan Burgoine (17 May 2016)
The law of three is unbroken: three vampires form a coterie, three demons make a pack, and three wizards are a coven. That is how it has always been, and how it was always to be. But Luc, Anders, and Curtis-vampire, demon, and wizard-have cheated tradition. Their bond is not coterie, pack, or coven, but something else. Thrust into the supernatural politics ruling Ottawa from behind the shadows, they face Renard, a powerful vampire who harbors deadly secrets of his own and wishes to end their threat. The enemy they know conjures fire and death at every turn. The enemies they don’t know are worse. Blood, soul, and magic gave them freedom. Now they need to survive it.

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All the Wrong Places by Ann Gallagher (13 June 2016)
Three cheating girlfriends in a row have given skateboarder Brennan Cross the same excuse: he wasn’t meeting their needs. Desperate and humiliated, he goes to the professionals at the local sex shop for advice.

Zafir Hamady, a sales clerk at Red Hot Bluewater, has an unusual theory: he doesn’t think Brennan is a bad lover. In fact, he doesn’t think Brennan is heterosexual. Or sexual at all, for that matter. He also can’t stop thinking about Brennan. But even if he’s right and Brennan really is asexual, that doesn’t mean Zafir has a chance. Brennan’s never dated a man, and Zafir’s never met anyone who’s game for a Muslim single father with a smart mouth and a GED.

Brennan’s always thought of himself as straight. But when sex is explicitly out of the mix, he finds himself drawn to Zafir for the qualities and interests they share. And Zafir can’t help enjoying Brennan’s company and the growing bond between Brennan and his son. They work well together, but with so many issues between them, doubts creep in, and Brennan’s struggle with his identity could push away the one person he didn’t know he could love.