contemporary romance series

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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Cover Up (Skin Deep Inc. #3) by L.A. Witt 4 Star Review!

   Cover Up: A Skin Deep, Inc Novel (Skin Deep Inc.) by L.A. Wit 4 Stars! 

After ten years of blissful marriage, Navy Pilot Nate Chandler is divorcing his cheating husband. Single for the first time in years, Nate is numb to all emotion and kisses any chance of another relationship goodbye.

Not only is Nate struggling to get through this divorce, but his body is branded with a permanent reminder of his failed marriage: a matching tattoo with his ex. Searching for a place to cover up his old tattoo, Nate finds himself at the Skin Deep, Inc., where he meets the young and charming cover-up tattoo apprentice, Lucas Brandt.

From just flirty glances to steamy hot encounters, Nate and Lucas dive headfirst into a fling of hookups. But worried that he’ll forever be Nate’s “cover up” rebound relationship, Lucas fears that their love won’t be anything more than just skin deep. What was once just a casual attraction, Lucas now hopes to turn into a real relationship. But will he be able to convince the still tender-hearted Nate to fall in love again?

Review

I  read this in one sitting. I am fan of the series and I hope there will be more books though it doesn’t look like there is another couple teed up.

Lucas is a wonderful hero who is struggling to regain his feet after two divorces and starting his tattooing career. I love the way his bisexuality is presented in the book.

Nate is in the process of getting a divorce. This love story pivots on the question of rebound or not rebound.

It is a lot about loss inherent in a divorce as well. I really liked this part of the book.

The circle of friends is a real treasure in this book as is the tattooing and Navy aspects.

There could have been more depth with the family of the two heroes but overall this is a really nice read from a great series.

Loving Jay (Loving You, #1) by Renae Kaye 4 Star Review

Review:

Loving Jay - Renae Kaye

One thing Liam Turner knows for sure is that he’s not gay—after all, his father makes it very clear he’ll allow no son of his to be gay. And Liam believes it, until a chance meeting with James “Jay” Bell turns Liam’s world upside-down. Jay is vivacious and unabashedly gay—from the tips of his bleached hair to the ends of his polished nails. With a flair for fashion, overreaction, and an inability to cork his verbal diarrhea, Liam believes drama queen Jay must have a screw loose.

An accident as a teenager left Liam with a limp and a fear of driving. He can’t play football anymore either, and that makes him feel like less of a man. But that’s no reason to question his sexuality… unless the accident broke something else inside him. When being with Jay causes Liam’s protective instincts to emerge, Liam starts to believe all he knew in life had been a convenient excuse to stay hidden. From intolerance to confrontations, Liam must learn to overcome his fears—and his father—before he can accept his sexuality and truly love Jay.

 

Review

 

Like most readers of the this book, I adore Jay. I end up adoring Liam as well.

Jay is kind, loud, hyper, and loving, Liam is kind, steady, mellow, and loving.

They are super sexy together. I love that they crush on each other.

Jay’s wonderful embrace of all he is makes the book joyful.

Liam struggle with all he is in teeth grinding at first. Not because of his internal conflict but because of the way its written. Its tedious, doubles back, and unthoughtful while trying to be thoughtful about sexuality. I get the feeling Liam is homo romantic on the asexual spectrum perhaps demisexual since his long crush and watching of Jay has bonded him. However, Liam (who is very bright) never does any research into his sexuality. Instead, we get this gay not gay don’t want to be gay, I am gay, I love Jay loop. Which again I don’t hate because of what is doing so much as the way it is written.

In this book and a later one in the series, Liam talks elegant about outwardly accepting a label that doesn’t really fit and its well done but the first several chapters of this book are not on this issue.

However, the rest of the book is great. Sexy, charming, tender, fun. Everything you would want.

Jay and his car and his family rock. Liam is such a quiet badass with his own great friends and family.

Together, wow. Power couple. Adore.

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Permanent Ink (Art & Soul Book 1) by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn 4 Star Review

Review:

Permanent Ink - Avon Gale, Piper Vaughn

At twenty-three, Poe Montgomery is going nowhere. He still lives in his father’s basement and spends most of his time tagging with his friends. When an arrest lands him in debt, Poe accepts the front desk job at Permanent Ink, the tattoo shop owned by his father’s best friend, Jericho McAslan. Jericho is nearly twice Poe’s age, but with his ink and prematurely graying hair, he quickly takes the starring role in Poe’s hottest fantasies.

Jericho is known for his ability to transform poorly designed tattoos into works of art, but he was once as aimless and misdirected as Poe. Wanting to pay it forward the way someone once did for him, Jericho makes Poe his apprentice and is determined to keep things strictly professional. Easier said than done when Poe makes his interest—and his daddy kink—abundantly clear.

Jericho can’t resist Poe or their intense chemistry for long. But between the age gap, tension with Poe’s father, and Poe’s best friend calling him a sellout, they’ll need to ensure they’re both on the same page before they can rewrite their rocky start into something permanent.

 

Review

I enjoyed this romance between a much older man and and a younger one much more than I thought I might.

 

I love Avon Gale’s writing which is why I picked it up and I have wanted to try Piper Vaughn.

 

I had heard a rumor of some Daddy kink and that is not my thing. And honestly Poe is young and aimless and really my ideal hero to read a love story about and the fact that Poe is Jericho’s best friends kid. A lot of no from me.

 

However, the Daddy Kink is light, Jericho didn’t know Poe as a child, and Poe grows up.

This is really a New Adult book to the max but with one of the heroes being much older so his journey is different. The New Adult, coming of age, growing up piece is really well done on most levels though I would have like more exploration of Poe’s sexual tastes or how something about his sexual self moving into a fuller adult hood.

 

I, like Poe, love Jericho, though I am not always sure why Jericho loves Poe, He explains it a couple times and it has to do with art a bit but I think the book would be richer if Jericho had more of an arc and though he has a backstory there is something missing.

 

I love the setting and can’t wait for more in this series. There are all these moments of emotional complexity seeded in this love story that make it a good read.

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In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish 5 Star Review

Review:

In the Middle of Somewhere - Roan Parrish

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.

 

Review

 

Whoa. This is a good book. The kind I am going to read again and again.

Rex and Daniel are great nuanced characters. Each chapter reveals more and more about each hero. As their love grows, we love them more.

 

This is romance is a lot about emotional intimacy and being vulnerable. Rex has suffered and so has Daniel. But for all that the book is cheerful and funny as much it is shadowed. Just like life.

 

Dialogue, main character development and setting as well as a cast of characters that make each of these men’s lives full, rich and complicated make this book a joy to read. Watching them fall and love and hope for a live together is a real pleasure. Oh, and it is super sexy too!

 

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Fast Connection by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Review

Review:

Fast Connection (Cyberlove) (Volume 2) - Megan Erickson, Santino Hassell

 

 

After a decade of serving in the Army, everyone still expects me to be Dominic ‘Nicky’ Costigan–the skirt-chasing player. They don’t know I’ve been spending my days trying to figure out my post-military life. Including how to pick up guys.

When I meet Luke on a hookup app, he makes it clear it’s for one-night only. That’s fine with me, because I’m down to see what this silver fox can do. But after I arrive at his doorstep, it doesn’t take long to realize we have serious chemistry, and we end up meeting again.

He’s got more walls around his heart than a military base, but I think he’s as addicted to me as I am to him. He can’t resist me for long. I mean, who can? Except Luke’s rules exist for a reason, and when I test his limits, things get complicated. Maybe too complicated

 

Review

 

This is a great book with an unlikely hero in Nick.

This book tackles a lot of crazy topics and it comes out on top. What is it like to be a working class guy in all the ways who discovers he is bisexual? How do you readjust to leaving the service? How do you come home when the messy family life you left behind is still there and you have grown up but no one else has? How do you balance your needs and wants against your kin’s?

Nick is brash and rude and a real jerk in the first book in the series but we see that he is a heart of gold character who really risks himself in all ways and loves deeply. He is charming and silly and intense.

Lucas has been burned in relationships and is raising his teens. He doesn’t see Nick coming and has to learn to love and trust again to really have joy.

Oh, and it is all hot as hell.

Wonderful!

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Daily Grind (Takeover, #4) by Anna Zabo 4.5 Star Review!

Review:

Daily Grind (Takeover) - Anna Zabo

Brian Keppler, owner of Ground N’At, the coffee shop beneath SR Anderson Consulting, doesn’t have time for a relationship. His most recent girlfriend broke up with him because he’d become married to his shop, which is falling apart without his favorite barista, Justin.

As he struggles to stay afloat, the arrival of handsome British high-tech whiz Robert Ancroft becomes another complication. Rob quickly becomes a fixture at the shop with his sharp wit and easy charm, and Brian soon finds himself looking forward more and more to Rob’s visits—to the point where his heart skips a beat when he walks in.  

But will Brian be able to come to terms with his previously unexplored sexual identity and find happiness now that he has a chance?

 

Review

Wow. Runs around clapping! I found a great gifted new to me writer. 

Ana Zabo creates nuanced grown characters who I adore watching fall in love and then work to have a loving relationship. 

I have so many favorite things about this book. It gets all the details just so, This is a full world with lively and complex heroes.

We get a romance that deals with what it means to grown up working class and with addicted parents and be successful, what it means to be bisexual in your late 30’s through this era cultural change, small business ownership, coffee and third spaces, being a workaholic…

Brian is a workaholic. and Rob is workaholic. in recovery but with more resources than Brian. This is the core conflict in the book. Brian can be very annoying but it the true to life kind of frustration that you feel with people you love that have an addiction or point of view problem.

The love story is lush and comforting and sexy. Rob and Brian get a great deal of couple time as well well as time to make their own arcs. All the characters in this book matter and nothing is simplified. The setting is great. 

So well written! I ordered all the rest of the books in the series and can’t wait for more. A great love story. 

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Blind Faith (Blind Faith, #1) by N.R. Walker Review

Review:

Blind Faith  - N.R. Walker

Starting a new job in a new town, veterinarian Carter Reece, makes a house call to a very special client.

Arrogant, moody and totally gorgeous, Isaac Brannigan has been blind since he was eight. After the death of his guide dog and best friend, Rosie, his partnership with his new guide dog, Brady, isn’t going well.

Carter tries to help both man and canine through this initiation phase, but just who is leading who?

 

Review

This book was a nice read but like some of Walker’s other books it seems written with the second in the series in mind and therefore isn’t as lush as it could be to be truly great.

Carter, the Veterinarian, is awesome as vets often are. Walker does a great job saving him from being a saint with Isaac’s mood swings as he good boundaries. He is really kind.

Isaac needs therapy for his anger and grief which is fine for me in a character but this aspect of him is at odds with what a great teacher he is.

I like how the blindness of Isaac was just a part of his character and not the whole of who he was though much more detail in both heroes could have been shaded in.

There are lots of great scenes here and good dates. The conflict is intersting but I would have liked more time after the first set of issues is worked through to get to know everyone better.

I loved Carter’s best friend Mark (funny, crude, and so himself as an unrepentant bi stereotype). I thrilled to see he gets his own book.

 
 

 

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Tigers and Devils (Tigers and Devils #1) by Sean Kennedy Review

Review:

Tigers and Devils - Sean Kennedy

The most important things in Simon Murray’s life are football, friends, and film—in that order. His friends despair of him ever meeting someone, but despite his loneliness, Simon is cautious about looking for more. Then his best friends drag him to a party, where he barges into a football conversation and ends up defending the honour of star forward Declan Tyler—unaware that the athlete is present. In that first awkward meeting, neither man has any idea they will change each other’s lives forever.

Like his entire family, Simon revels in living in Melbourne, the home of Australian Rules football and mecca for serious fans. There, players are treated like gods—until they do something to fall out of public favour. This year, the public is taking Declan to task for suffering injuries outside his control, so Simon’s support is a bright spot.

But as Simon and Declan fumble toward a relationship, keeping Declan’s homosexuality a secret from well-meaning friends and an increasingly suspicious media becomes difficult. Nothing can stay hidden forever. Soon Declan will have to choose between the career he loves and the man he wants, and Simon has never been known to make things easy—for himself or for others.

 

Review

 

I love sports romances and being a rugby fan makes me very interested in learning about Aussie football.

This is a good opposites attract love story written with humor and angst. The setting was great and I liked Simon and Declan and the circle of friends.

For me the plot dragged a bit which made it less engaging and I don’t love the way Declan not being able to be public with who is lover is was handled. I can’t put my finger on exactly why but it impacted the storytelling.

I can see why so many people love this book but it was just an okay read for me.

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Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton and Nina Bocci Review

Review:

Roman Crazy - Nina Bocci, Alice Clayton

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds–and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man–the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and–hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new againromance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

A celebration of great friendship, passionate romance, and wonderful food, Roman Crazy is a lighthearted story of second chances and living life to the fullest.

 

Review

While I love the setting and the female friendship, I never settled into this book.

It felt more like Women’s Fiction or Chic Lit than romance to be.

I am not a huge fan of second chance romance but I do like Clayton’s sense of funny and banter. 

Sun drenched and fun.

 

I was given this book for my honest review. So., there you have it. 

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