Pickup Men by L. C. Chase

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First LC Chase book for me, and I really liked it.

Martin Fairgrave is a rodeo pickup man and in a relationship, and in love with, World Champion bull rider, the closeted Tripp Colby. What follows is a relatively straightforward but detailed and likeable romance.

Marty is fed-up of being Tripp’s little secret and after Marty is in an accident in the Rodeo, and Tripp doesn’t even check on him, Marty’s had enough, and dumps him. This sets the pair of them on a voyage of discovery about themselves and each other.

Liked Marty and Tripp’s story, and the very plausible romance between a main and a secondary character – it even had me wondering if perhaps, they’d go off together instead of the main characters. The secondary characters are well drawn and the book well-written, giving a real flavour of Rodeo life. Looking forward to reading the next two books in the series (Let it Ride and Pulling Leather) which look very intriguing from their synopses!

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

Faking It by Christine D’Abo (Ringside Romance)

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The first book in this series, Working It, I reviewed on the blog in February calling it ‘one the best romance books I’ve read this year’ so as you can imagine, I was very excited to get my hands on Faking It, especially since it was about Zach’s friend Max, who runs the gay bar Frantic.

But. This was just. No. Not for me.

My main problem with it was the absolute change in tone – which, look, is fine, but just rubbed me up the wrong way here. Working It was a workplace romance with a stressed out boss and anxiety ridden assistant. It was very grounded in reality and dealt wonderfully with a romance featuring a character with anxiety. Faking It features Max pretending to be a rich boy reality tv star’s fiancée, so he’s not forced into an arranged gay marriage for business. I mean, what?

It was just so far removed from Working It, that I never really got into it. I mean, I didn’t expect it to cover the same topics, but it was such a shift that it threw me. Despite this, I liked Max and Grady, although, strangely, I think I liked Max more in his supporting role in Working It, than I did in this. I liked the emphasis on father-son relationships, and the prickly problems they can cause, but overall, this book didn’t really work for me. I stayed up late to finish it, and then thought to myself that I should’ve gotten the sleep instead.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad book. It’s a pretty solid romance, I suppose though it’s the trope that just throws me – I like my romance believable, and though D’Abo does try her best, and it very nearly works, it doesn’t completely for me. That said, I absolutely will read the next two in the series, as I enjoy the shared setting of Ringside (especially since it’s getting more prominent in each book). Do give it a go if the blurb tickles your fancy, but ultimately this just wasn’t for me.

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

Just Drive by L. A. Witt

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I love L. A. Witt. She has written some brilliant books (eg., Starstruck, If the Seas Catch Fire) and some that just didn’t grab me (eg., Rules of Engagement).

Something about this book didn’t work for me. I liked the book all well and good – it was fine but I didn’t feel particularly connected to the characters, I think because they were trying to deny their connection all along. Also, Witt writes from no sex, to some, to lots, to FULL ON KINKY and there was quite a bit of sex in this book (a little too much for me, but given the relationship – what it is, and how they deal with it – it makes perfect sense)

Sean is a full-time student, part-time taxi driver, and son of a Military Man. One night he picks up the freshly dumped older Paul and they start a whirlwind affair, comprised initially of some hot and heavy hook-ups, and naturally feelings develop.

I liked both characters but I didn’t love them, if you know what I mean. I understand why they can’t be together (Paul is Sean’s Dad’s boss) and that that’s a big deal in the military but it didn’t feel it to me – that’s probably just me though. I never really got completely sucked into their relationship, there’s a bit of a dreamlike quality to it, especially the ending. I really liked the town of Anchor Point though, and will definitely be reading the next Anchor Point books (and I’m eager to read the next book where Travis, supporting character in this book, gets his own story). A solid romance, with lots of angst and sex, that unfortunately wasn’t for me, but as I said, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series (the second book of which, based on supporting character Travis, is out now too).

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.

 

Bluewater Blues by G. B. Gordon

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This is a solid addition to the Bluewater Bay canon. Jack Daley runs the local shop, Your Daley Bread (yes, really) with his autistic sister, Margaret. Mark Keao is a costume designer on Wolf’s Landing, local big budget Hollywood TV show that has transformed this sleepy town.

Jack meets Mark, and given that he basically parented his sister, is completely unfazed by Mark’s autism. On the spectrum, Margaret is more severe than Mark, and the treatment of autism in this book was in-depth, fascinating, and had a huge impact on the romance; specific issues such as touch, sex, or sleeping together, and how that works with an autistic character, was really interesting. All three characters were very well drawn, as were their hobbies/loves (music, books, antique hunting).

This was a solid four star read – the only reason it didn’t get a full five was that the underlying mystery of why Jack and his sister moved there, when addressed, seemed to fizzle out. I wanted more of a definitive resolution to that, and unfortunately didn’t get one.

Still, this book has a lot to recommend it, and given that Bluewater Bay is looking to do lots of different types of romance, this is a perfect fit. And since I’m reading the series out of order (which is fine, since they stand alone), I’ll definetly be reading Gordon’s previous BWB book, When to Hold Them.

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

5 Gay Romances to Watch Out For

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Dearly Stalked by Allison Cassata (23 Jan 2017)
Writing crime novels catapulted Memphis native Silas Cooper to fame and fortune, but when his words backfire and he becomes trapped in what could be one of his books, he needs a hero of his own.

Silas’s publicist insists he hire a personal assistant, and Silas chooses Scott Kramer. But before Scott starts, he already has a round of steamy phone sex to hold over Silas’s head, and his interest in his boss isn’t decreasing.

Benjamin Logan joined the Army to see the world, and while deployed he read every one of Silas’s books. With his military career over, Ben is back in Memphis working for the police department—and attempting a deeply closeted relationship with fellow cop Morgan Brown.

Over coffee, Silas and Ben become friends who support each other as relationships fall apart, and the attraction between them slowly emerges. When a dangerous stalker threatens Silas, it’s up to Ben to stop him.

If Ben fails, Silas might not live to tell this story… and Ben might not be able to live with himself.

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Clean Slate by Heidi Champa (30 Jan 2017)
Wes Green keeps everyone at arm’s length, either by pushing buttons or simply pushing them away. When that doesn’t work, Wes runs, as far and as fast as he can. This time, bolting from his boyfriend also costs him his professional organizing job. His last resort is to retreat to his brother’s basement and try to pick up the pieces. The only bright spot in his new life is his niece, Kelsey.

One day, while in Kelsey’s school drop-off line, he meets Sam Montgomery, the father of Maya, Kelsey’s best friend. When Wes finds out Sam is gay and interested in some no-strings-attached fun, Wes thinks he’s hit the jackpot. With boundaries firmly in place, keeping Sam at a distance should be easy.

What starts out simple quickly gets complicated when fun turns to feelings between Wes and Sam. But the baggage both men carry threatens to stop things before they start. Can Wes stay put long enough to find real love, or will old habits be too hard to break?

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As I Am by A.M. Arthur (1 Feb 2017)
Will Madden is healing.

Thanks to therapy and a growing support system, he’s taking baby steps into a promising future. One of those steps leads him to an online chat room, where he quickly bonds with fellow PTSD sufferer Taz Zachary.

Despite their virtual connection, Taz is initially freaked out at the idea of meeting Will face-to-face. A sexual relationship may be the last thing on his mind, but his craving for human interaction—and more of the way Will makes him laugh—gives him the courage he needs to take the next step.

In person, the chemistry between them is undeniable. But Will is hurt when Taz doesn’t seem to be in any rush to get him into bed. Still, acceptance, love and happiness all seem within reach for the first time in forever—until demons from the past threaten the future they both finally believe they deserve.

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Witches of London – Eagle’s Shadow by Aleksandr Voinov and Jordan Taylor (4 Feb 2017)
What if the new love of your life also holds the keys to your past?

When Chicago journalist Tom Welsh meets British banker Sanders Templeton at a conference, Sanders insists they have a connection, though he does not know what it is. They’ve never met before—but the strangest thing is, Tom can also feel it.

Sanders Templeton is a highflier who has it all—the money, the lifestyle and a rare intellect. Only a few chosen people know that he also suffers excruciating pain since childhood, with no cure, a mystery to western medicine.

Sanders knows that meeting Tom may be the most significant event of his life. As their relationship deepens, they learn that this is not the first lifetime in which they’ve fallen for each other. This time, true love can be theirs if they find the courage to forgive.

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Shards in the Sun by Trina Lane (14 Feb 2017)
The heart of Texas beats strong, fueled by the love between two men whose lives are interwoven like the long grass of the hill country they call home.

Brandon Blackstun has spent the last decade moving on from the hellish halls of high school. With an invitation to his reunion in hand, he plans to show his former classmates that not only did the repeated occurrences of being slammed into lockers not cause brain damage, but he’s now a successful cover artist for the very books they buy off the shelves.

Tyler Synder was determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps as head of the international corporation that bears the family name. Instead, his heart is tied to the beat of his horses’ thundering hooves. He operates a breeding program for Tennessee Walkers and a guest ranch a couple of hours from the urban luxury of Dallas where he was raised.

The two men might live very different lives, but the heat between them is hotter than any Texas sun. With the help—or meddling—of an unlikely pair of friends, the two explore a relationship that stirs something deep inside them. Distance and misunderstandings force Tyler and Brandon to consider whether the fulfillment they’ve experienced in each other’s arms is worth the sacrifice of the lives they’ve built individually.

Texas may be the second biggest state in the union, but is it large enough to embrace the love between these two men, or will their deeply hidden fears shatter the boundaries of their hearts?

 

RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Working It by Christine D’Abo

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One the best romance books I’ve read this year.

My first by Christine D’Abo – I was kinda glad that I just read the description and saw the cover and requested it through NetGalley based on that, as she’s a lot of kinky dom/sub books which I wouldn’t read that would’ve probably tarred me against this, rather unfairly.

This was a flawless romance. Strong, well-written characters, clear arcs, good supporting characters, realistic problems.

Nolan suffers dreadfully from anxiety after a car crash that resulted in PTSD. It impacts all aspects of his life, but he is still a bright, confident, attractive young man.

Zack is an asshole – almost everyone in the book calls him one, including himself – but not in a boring Christian Grey dominant way. An astute and dedicated businessman, he has anger issues and somewhat realistic expectations on people. He takes a chance on Nolan, his first male assistant, as he’s been burning through his assistants at about one a month, and has been told off by HR for it.

What follows is a great workplace romance. They are both complicated men, but their lust, and love, is remarkably simple, and grounding for both of them. They fight it, of course – one is the other’s boss – but there is something beautiful about their relationship.

Beautifully written, with a very sure hand on the wheel, D’Abo’s well-crafted prose looks effortless. I’m even tempted to dip my toe in her kinkier romances, due to her way with words.

The subtitle, A Ringside Romance, is interesting. Ringside was a boxing club that Zack attended as a teenager, that had a boxing program for LGBTQ teens, something that helped that often furious Zack channel his anger in a healthy way. Zack wants to reopen it, and reinstate that program. This introduces a whole world of possible romances that D’Abo can write, which excites me greatly (although I suspect – and hope – that the next Ringside Romance will feature this book’s supporting character, Max, owner of the nightclub Frantic. UPDATE: I was right!).

A perfect romance that had me zip through it, and left me eager for the next installment. Recommended.

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.

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.