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: 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: 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.