anxiety

Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Amy Jo Cousins 4 Star Review

    Between a Rock and a Hard Place (Bend or Break Book 6)  by Amy Jo Cousins 4 Stars!

When friends lose the benefits, can the friendship be saved?

Love Me Like A Rock

With the right art tools, there’s almost nothing Austin can’t make real. Except an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.

Emotional and sexual frustration fuel a spark between Austin and Sean, the nude model in drawing class. After a quick and very dirty encounter, all the reasons Austin has been waiting for Vinnie go fuzzy in his mind.

But if Austin can’t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose both his friend, and his lover.

Hard Candy

Vincent always assumed he and Austin would eventually end up together. But now that Austin’s in love with another man, Vinnie is at a loss.

After the world’s most awkward one-night stand with Bryan, a dance major, Vinnie is drawn to his vibrant spirit and calm center.

Physically, the rowing jock and the glittery dancer can match each other stroke for booty pop. But for the lovers to meet on common ground, they’ll have to find a way to get moving in the same direction.

 

Review

This is a lovely pairing of a romance.

We get two best friends Austin and Vinnie who are not good romantic partners for each other. They each find love that helps them grow and become their richer selves.

I enjoyed Austin and Sean romance a great deal. I do wish that we had been in Sean’s head. He was a great character I loved how he went after his crush on Austin. This is a wonderful coming of age story for Austin where he learns to love and be loved. Sexy too with lots of fun moments.

Vinnie and Bryan’s romance is a bit more moody. As they come together to trust as well as like each other the tenderness of the romance comes in. There is an intersting discussion of sexual desire that I wish had more page time but overall I was really happy with this queer New Adult Romance.

The overlap and braid of the two love stories makes this book special.

Short Stay (Love Lessons, #3.5) by Heidi Cullinan 4 Star Review

Review:

Short Stay (Love Lessons) - Heidi Cullinan

Hot messes have a hard time with happily ever after.

 

Baz Acker and Elijah Prince have it all. They’re engaged, and their wedding is guaranteed to be a spectacle no event will ever top. So why are they hunkered down in a quiet corner of the Acker mansion, restless and edgy while they wait out the holidays?

 

When Baz suggests a road trip with Walter and Kelly to Las Vegas, it sounds like an ideal escape, but it turns out Vegas only amplifies their unease. Elijah can’t slough off the self-hating his parents programmed into him, and he worries how that will affect his marriage. Baz, crippled en route because of too much time spent in the car without rest, must face the truth that his wealth and influence can’t always counteract the limits his disability will put on his–and Elijah’s–life.

 

With help from their friends, a wily poker player, a take-no-prisoners drag queen, and a smooth-talking casino owner, they face the truth that happiness is a state of mind, not a destination where they book a stay. What happens in Vegas won’t stay in Vegas–it will follow them all the way down the aisle.

 

Review

 

At first I was reluctant to read this short story with Baz and Elijah because I wanted no more drama for them.

I am glad I did. This is a wonderful New Year’s Eve romance that puts all the whipped cream and cherries on their happily ever after.

They struggle through self esteem, chronic pain, and lack of communication issues but they learn how to be a unit. 

There are ton of easter eggs in here for Cullian’s other series.

It is a great big romantic time.

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Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane 5 Star Review!

  Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane  5 Stars!

Sometimes the best thing you can get for Christmas is knowing what you really want.

Rusty Baker is a blond, rich, entitled football player in a high school full of them — just the type of oblivious jock all the bullied kids hate. And he might have stayed that way, except he develops a friendship with out-and-proud Oliver Campbell from the wrong side of the tracks. Rusty thinks the friendship is just pity — Oliver is very bright, and Rusty is very not — but then Oliver kisses him goodbye when Rusty leaves for college, and Rusty is forced to rethink everything he knows about himself.

But even Rusty’s newfound awareness can’t help him survive a semester at Berkeley. He returns home for Thanksgiving break clinging to the one thing he knows to be true: Oliver Campbell is the best thing that’s ever happened to him.

Rusty’s parents disagree, and Rusty finds himself homeless for the holidays. Oliver may not have much money, but he’s got something Rusty has never known: true family. With their help and Oliver’s love, Rusty comes to realize that he may have failed college, but he’ll pass real life with flying rainbow colors.

Review

Wow. At first, I was leery. I don’t love New Adult. I am not always a fan of characters who are not self reflective. But this book is lush and keeps going and going and gives me all the love.

Rusty (awful name but then he has awful parents) is a slow processor who works hard, has been taught to have good manners, and is miserable as he doesn’t even see himself in an effort to get along with parents who see him as an asset rather than a person.

Oliver is quick witted, determined, and loved. And he loves Rusty because Rusty is kind and hot.

This is a very New Adult Romance as our heroes meet in high school. We get a wonderful friends to lovers troupe with a lot of finding yourself. There are all sorts of amazing moments in this book.

Rusty is wonderful and his struggle to become himself powerful and endearing. Oliver is just the best. I wish we were in his head as well. The cast of characters are just great.

The happily ever after is well earned and left me so happy.

Sink into this lovely, sexy, sweet romance.

One Small Thing by Piper Vaughn and M.J. O’Shea 4 Star Review

Review:

One Small Thing - Piper Vaughn O'Shea, Finn Sterling

Daddy” is not a title Rue Murray wanted, but he never thought he’d have sex with a woman either. Now he’s the unwitting father of a newborn named Alice. Between bartending and cosmetology school, Rue doesn’t have time for babies, but he can’t give her up. What Rue needs is a babysitter, and he’s running out of options. He’s on the verge of quitting school to watch Alice himself when he remembers his reclusive new neighbor, Erik.

Erik Van Nuys is a sci-fi novelist with anxiety issues to spare. He doesn’t like people in general, and he likes babies even less. Still, with his royalties dwindling, he could use the extra cash. Reluctantly, he takes on the role of manny—and even more reluctantly, he finds himself falling for Alice and her flamboyant father.

Rue and Erik are as different as two people can be, and Alice is the unlikeliest of babies, but Rue has never been happier than when Alice and Erik are by his side. At least, not until he receives an offer that puts all his dreams within reach and he’s forced to choose: the future he’s always wanted, or the family he thought he never did.

 

Review

 

I loved this feel good romance with hidden depths. I adored the premise.

 

Rue is a wonderful hero. He works hard and loves his baby. He is fun and loving. This is book is a compelling look at single parenthood particularly with an infant.

 

I like romance novels that balance family life and friendship with the love story. One Small Thing does this well.

 

Erik is a great hero too who blooms as he falls in love and friendship.

 

I love the nerd aspect and the becoming friends and then lovers as well as the acceptance of each hero exactly how he is.

 

I wanted more time after they got together and after the first major couple crisis I honestly wanted more sexy times as well but what I got was very good and I know I will see more of this family in the next book in the series.

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Nachos & Hash (Mary’s Boys, #1) by Brandon Witt Review

Review:

Nachos & Hash - Brandon Witt

Darwin Michaels is living his dreams in the Mile High City. While Denver offers the perfect job, scrumptious dining, and whirlwind dating options, Darwin is losing hope he’ll find the right man to spark his interest for more than a one-night stand—until he sets eyes on Cody Russell.

Cody has just accomplished his life’s goal—get the hell out of Kansas. In one fell swoop, he lands a job at Hamburger Mary’s and gets a newfound family and the chance to be with other gay people! All that’s missing is someone special. But when Darwin shows his interest, Cody is sure it’s too good to be true. After all, what can Darwin possibly see in the high school dropout serving him nachos?

As Darwin falls in love, Cody struggles to realize his worth. When his past threatens the fragile life he is building, Cody spirals into a moment of dark desperation. But Darwin is determined to show Cody that love and family and home are there for him… will Cody accept what is offered?

 

Reviews

 adore Darwin and I adore Cody. The yearning in each of them is tender. 

Darwin wants to find an man to love and Cody doesn’t think he can ask for more than what he has. 

The courtship of this book is great as is the circle of friends.

We are moving through a sweet and sexy romance when the plot takes a dark turn with some internal struggles for one of the heroes. 

And while this turn is realistic and the issue (not to give spoilers) one that deserves attention especially in a series that look critically at issues within the gay community, the turn is sharp and a more developed understanding of the character would have enrich the book.

The aftermath is better handled and we end in a very loving place.

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Bookmarked (Heartsville) by Piper Vaughn Review

Review:

Bookmarked (Heartsville) - Piper Vaughn

To save his bookstore from closing, Mark Werner realizes it’s going to take a miracle—like getting reclusive, best-selling author Shepherd Knight to agree to appear for a signing. 

After their disastrous last encounter, Mark doesn’t hold up much hope Shepherd will agree. Shepherd’s never made a single public appearance. In fact, Mark wouldn’t even know what he looks like had he not accidentally discovered the sexy stranger he’d been flirting with for months, aka “Tall-Dark-and-Grumpy,” was also his fanboy obsession.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. If Mark can convince Shepherd, it’ll be a major coup in the book world and might just save Bookmarked from sinking. Too bad Shepherd won’t reply to his e-mails. Yet Mark didn’t earn the reputation of having a “sunshine-and-rainbow-fart” personality for nothing. He’ll do whatever it takes to get his man… and hopefully not make a fool of himself in the process.

 

Review

 

This is quick romance set in a wonderful neighborhood so you get the pleasure of a small town, circle of friends romance with recurring characters.

 

I love the bookstore setting and the romance had some intersting turns. I wanted the heroes to be a bit more complex and detailed than they are but it is a nice read.

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No! Jocks Don’t Date Guys (Jock, #2) by Wade Kelly Review

    No! Jocks Don’t Date Guys by Wade Kelly 3.5 Stars!

What is a sexy soccer stud supposed to do when “following family tradition” falls 180 degrees opposite his closeted ideal?

From birth, Chris Jackson has been schooled on how to land a cheerleader. After all, his father married one, and his father’s father before him. Heck, even his older brother married a stereotypical cheerleader the summer before Chris went off to college. For two years, Chris dodges invasive questions about relationships by blaming his lack of female companionship on grueling practices and heavy course loads. But his lack of interest in girls should’ve given his family a clue. It isn’t until Chris mentions meeting a boy that his father’s synapses short-circuit.

Alonzo Martin is anything but a buxom blond. From his black hair, combat boots, and trench coat to his nail polish and guyliner, the mysterious introvert isn’t easily persuaded to date. Alonzo’s insecurities keep Chris at arm’s length, but Alonzo’s painful past might meet its match in the charismatic jock’s winning smile and sense of humor.

When opposites attract, only cheerleaders and gummy bears can help overcome fear and family tradition.

Review

Despite the light hearted title, this New Adult romance does some heavy emotionial lifting.

Chris is a sunny extrovert hero who is kind and while not out yet is very much out to himself.

Lonnie is an introvert who we slowly open himself to Chris and a circle of friends that show him it is okay to be his full self in a a safe place.

The love story and healing of Lonnie is really well done and Chris is someone anyone would fall in love with in his steadfast, attentive, and brave ways.

The cheerleader side story is just awful, creepy, disjointed and weird and almost ruins to the book. I elected to ignore it.

Single Player (Slices of Pi #3) by Elia Winters Review

   Single Player (Slices of Pi Book 3) by Elia Winter 4 Stars!

Matthew Abrams finally has the life he’s always wanted—a promising career as a programmer at PI Games, a decent apartment in a nice neighborhood, and a thriving social life. And he’s perfectly content until he has a one-night stand with Silas Benson, a biomedical engineer with a charitable side to boot. Suddenly Matthew is doubting his life choices and worrying he might not be living up to his full potential.

Silas Benson doesn’t have time for much else outside of work, and that’s how he’s always liked it. As a biomedical engineer, he’s at the cutting edge of advances in the field, and he’s not going to waste his life partying when he could be doing actual good in the world. After a one-night stand at his friend’s twenty-fifth birthday party, though, Silas feels his focus shifting toward a certain tall, dark, and handsome almost-stranger.

When an emotional breakdown requires Silas to take a leave of absence from work, Matthew rushes to his aid and teaches him the merits of frivolity. Silas is an unwilling student at first, but Matthew soon has him in the groove, which makes for one steamy, wild ride. But is this a forever sort of affair, or will Silas abandon Matthew’s wanton ways in favor of a life of serious-minded solitude?

Review

This is a thoughtful sexy book. I liked it so much I bought the rest of the series.

Matthew and Elias are really different people with great chemistry. They are are also at crossroads in their lives.

The met and fall for each other. They learn to support each other and there is a kitten.

This love story has a lot of really deep bits mixed in with the erotic. Its a nicely done HEA where both heroes grow.

I was given this book for my honest review (though I accidentally bought it again later doh!) So, there you have it.

Disasterology 101 by Taylor V. Donovan Review

  Disasterology 101 by Taylor V. Donovan 4 Stars!!

Kevin Morrison had it all. A house he worked hard for, a loving wife, and three beautiful children. But it wasn’t until his marriage ended that he realized what the void he’d felt almost all his life meant. Coming out as a gay man at thirty-six is not an easy feat, but he is determined to be true to his heart. Meeting a man who shares his values, and is good with his children would be a bonus, but when the guy arrives in a uniquely wrapped package, and has very specific handling instructions, Kevin needs to decide if he’s up for that kind of love.

Obsessed with order and symmetry, and a paralyzing fear of germs, Cedric Haughton-Disley has lived with isolation and loneliness as long as he can remember. Desperate to be normal, he makes some much-needed changes in his life. If he can commit to his treatment, he might very well be able to procure some quality of life… even if that’s all he can get, as finding love and having a relationship are only possible in Cedric’s wildest dreams. But when a chance encounter leaves Cedric wishing for more, he decides to take a leap of faith, and pursue the guy he wants.

Together the two men make an unlikely match. Cedric needs organization, and Kevin represents chaos. In order to stay together they both need to compromise, but will they be able to deal with Cedric’s issues and the potential disaster, or let it break them apart?

Review

This is a tremendously good book.

At the center of its goodness is the weaving in of topics that don’t often get discussed in romance novels but should. Realistic sex with differing sex drives or interfering issues. The impact of anti depressants which are needed to manage chemical imbalance but play havoc with your sex life.

This is a romance book and like life the sexy times are still hot as hell but they are in context of having other factors and how we manage and don’t mange them.

As over the top as this book is, in terms of Cedric’s wealth and Kevin’s wonderfulness, at the heart of that fantasy is a compelling look at intimacy, trust, and vunerabilty.

Kevin, while he doesn’t have OCD, brings his own complications to the relationship with Cedric. Cedric has to figure out how to be Kevin’s safe place as well.

This is a moving and intimate romance with compelling conflicts, great secondary characters and wonderful love story.

Dance With Me (Dancing, #1) by Heidi Cullinan 4 Star Review

Review:

Dance With Me - Heidi Cullinan

Sometimes life requires a partner.

Ed Maurer has bounced back, more or less, from the neck injury that permanently benched his semipro football career. He hates his soul-killing office job, but he loves volunteering at a local community center. The only fly in his ointment is the dance instructor, Laurie Parker, who can’t seem to stay out of his way.

Laurie was once one of the most celebrated ballet dancers in the world, but now he volunteers at Halcyon Center to avoid his society mother’s machinations. It would be a perfect escape, except for the oaf of a football player cutting him glares from across the room.

When Laurie has a ballroom dancing emergency and Ed stands in as his partner, their perceptions of each other turn upside down. Dancing leads to friendship, being friends leads to becoming lovers, but most important of all, their partnership shows them how to heal the pain of their pasts. Because with every turn across the floor, Ed and Laurie realize the only escape from their personal demons is to keep dancing—together.

 

Review

 

This book hovers between 3 Stars and 4 Stars for me but keeps sneaking back up to a 4 Star read.

This book does a relationship really well.

Laurie and Ed have a lot of stuff they need to work out in their own heads and yet they are able to make a wonderful space for each other to have a loving relationship while they heal and grown as individuals. This dynamic makes for a very good romance.

The cover is amazing as is all the dancing in the book. The thinking about failure and self and career is engaging. Ed’s struggle with his new identity as a disable person is powerful. There is a really moving scene about life goals that is so tender and wonderful example of seeing oneself through the eyes of love.

What makes the book less successful isn’t the love story but some dangling threads and just some weirdness.

We get hints that Laurie struggles with sex (its messiness for example but other things as well) and this doesn’t really get addressed or worked through in a way that would be up to the rest of the work Instead, we get a very out of character moment with another couple (not cheating) and really its has an eww factor (on several levels) that really knocked me out of the book. I am not sure why this scene survived the editing of the book.

The Mom stuff Laurie has going on as well as the Dad stuff and business partner stuff is left a mess and maybe it just stays a mess but it felt unfinished.

There other little irritants like that that keep the book from being flat out wonderful.

However, I am glad I read it and enjoyed it overall.

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