Suddenly Yours by Jacob Z Flores

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So, working in a library mostly caters for my book addiction but a little while ago, I went on a book splurge and this was one of the titles I bought. I’ve read plenty of Dreamspinner Press books, but I hadn’t read any of their Dreamspun Desires range.

Three things about that. First, I can’t speak for the rest of the range, but this book was kitschy, corny and light. I saw a reviewer online state that the range was fluff, but fluff that was as addictive as crack. Secondly, the book can be a little silly at times, but so is the age-old trope of getting drunk and marrying a stranger in Vegas, which does happen in real life (Britney Spears, anyone?) so you know, I forgave that. This Dreamspun Desires range also seems to be going for the Harlequin-type of romance novels, those light, fluffy, slightly ridiculous reads with titles like The Cattle Baron’s Bogus Boyfriend and Romancing the Wrong Twin – both titles in this series – and this put me off a little, as it was my stereotypical view of romance before I read it, and I wasn’t sure I’d like it, however I thought I’d give it a try. The writing is mostly good, although occasionally there are some cringeworthy lines but overall they’re forgiven because the rest of the book is written very much with an awareness of what kind of book this is (at one point, a character points out says that they’re not in a romance novel!). Thirdly, and this strikes me as a definite point of praise – I really liked the cover. So often, romance books have terrible covers, and more so, the models on the front (almost uniformly in their twenties, with abs, and white) don’t look anything like the characters in the book, but the guy on the cover fits the character of Cody to a tee (also, and let’s be real here, the guy on the cover is cute, so that helped the purchase along quite nicely). Also, here’s to handsome guys who aren’t skinny tall and six packed to high heavens being on the cover!

As for the plot, Cody, an aspiring writer and waiter, gets drunkenly hitched to Julian, a US senator, who is an out gay man but has always advocated for marriage. He also doesn’t believe in love, and thinks that it complicates things. Cody does too. They’ve both been hurt before. You can see where this is going, right? It’s a very enjoyable book that I zipped through in a couple of days. If you’re looking for something fluffy, give this a try – and here’s a perfect example as to why you should, there’s a scene where big lug Cody reveals he’s a secret soap fan, and tries to get stuffy Julian to watch it, who protests that the plots are stupid, and contrived, but of course, an hour later, Julian’s fallen for it hook, line and sinker. An epilogue would’ve been nice to cement their relationship in the end, but overall, an enjoyable read.

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

 

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Wanted, A Gentleman by K. J. Charles

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This was my first book by K J Charles, whose historical romances I had seen about, but never tried. I thought I’d give this a shot, having really liked the premise (a writer of romances, who also runs a gazette called The Matrimonial Advertiser) and props to Riptide for the way they blurbed the book like an advert featured in the gazette:

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It’s a bit of a romp, this. Martin St. Vincent, a black business owner at a time when they were very much a rarity is trying to get his former slaver’s only daughter away from the man who has been secretly wooing her through the personals. Cue Theodore Swann, operator of The Matrimonial Advertiser and their meeting.

It was quite a solid, short book that was well written. Charles has a great command of using language to evoke a time, and slipped in then regularly used words into the prose almost unnoticed (although, it took me a little while to realise what she meant when she referred to ‘the stand’, which I found quite funny when I realised!).

Liked Theo and his writing of romances as Dorothea Swann. Wasn’t as much a fan of Martin, who is described well, but I feel overall the book is a little skewed in his view, despite Theo arguably being ‘the main character’; almost the whole way through Theo is referred to, disparagingly, as ineffectual, slight, and forgettable, which left me wondering by the time they got together, why they did considering those comments. This was reined in a little when they did get together, but it felt like the damage was done and I had real trouble connecting with and believing their connection. If this aspect wasn’t there, the book would’ve been much improved, I feel. Still, there are plus points, such as Theo’s ‘dirty mouth’ wonderfully puncturing the Victorian air and posturing, which grounded the book quite well. Their characters and their motivations are understandable, as is the ‘twist’ about two-thirds in.

Overall, a book that I’m sure will appeal to Charles’ many fans, and I shall be definitely reading more of her books, and while this was a little disappointing it still has lots to recommend it, especially Charles’ evocative way with words. If any of you have read more KJ Charles, what book of hers should I read next?

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!

 

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.