emotional bravery

Too Stupid to Live (Romancelandia Book 1) Anne Tenino 4.5 Stars Review

Review:

Too Stupid to Live: Romancelandia, Book 1 - Riptide Publishing, Tobias Silversmith, Anne Tenino

t isn’t true love until someone gets hurt.

Sam’s a new man. Yes, he’s still too tall, too skinny, too dorky, too gay, and has that unfortunate addiction to romance novels, but he’s wised up. His One True Love is certainly still out there, but he knows now that real life is nothing like fiction. He’s cultivated the necessary fortitude to say “no” to the next Mr. Wrong, no matter how hot, exciting, and/or erotic-novel-worthy he may be.

Until he meets Ian.

Ian’s a new man. He’s pain-free, has escaped the job he hated and the family who stifled him, and is now — possibly — ready to dip his toe into the sea of relationships. He’s going to be cautious, though, maybe start with someone who knows the score and isn’t looking for anything too complicated. Someone with experience and simple needs that largely revolve around the bedroom.

Until he meets Sam.

Sam’s convinced that Ian is no one’s Mr. Right. Ian’s sure that Sam isn’t his type. They can’t both be wrong…can they?

 

Review

This isn’t a perfect book but its delightful and if you are a romance novel nerd like I am it is a must read for the meta commentary on the genre, the love of the gerne, and the playfulness Plus, it is a sexy romantic love story.

 

Same and Ian. I love that Ian isn’t attracted to Sam at first because he is shallow but really more because he isn’t attuned to himself yet. A great deal of this book his Ian’s journey to become emotionally connect to himself and others after having lived a closeted life and believed the cultural lies told by hyper masculinity.

 

His journey is moving as his is falling deeper and deeper in love and lust with Sam. I am so happy Ian is already seeking therapy and continues to do so as the plot develops. I love his relationship with his cousin and the developing relationships with the people at his new job.

 

He tries and grows and does great romantic gestures and emotionial bravery and this makes him a wonderful deserving hero for Sam even when he struggles.

 

Sam is everything I love. A nerd, socially awkward bookworm with great friendships and a loving heart. He is super smart and his thinking of the world through romantic novels themes is at once funny, charming, and wise. He is brave and takes risk as Ian learns. Sexy as hell.

 

This is a well plotted book with great charters and love you can believe in. I liked the second book in the series much better after reading this one and can’t wait for a third book.

 

The flaws are slight really. A weird lack of setting in an extra place. Western US not California. We never get to see Same as a grad student, writer, and teacher…just as a reader, friend, and waiter. This leaves some depth out of the novel that matters.

 

This will be a long time comfort read for sure. I am resisting the urge to reread right now!

Original post:
northamericanwordcat.booklikes.com/post/1581219/too-stupid-to-live-romancelandia-book-1-anne-tenino-4-5-stars-review

Cherry Pie (Mercury Rising, #1) by Samantha Kane Review

      Cherry Pie (Mercury Rising Book 1) by Samantha Kane 4.5 Stars!!

You can go home again—if you can get a foot in the door.

A year after packing and moving from L.A. to Mercury, North Carolina, John Ford still hasn’t adjusted to the heat. Or to life without his long-time partner. As he fixes up the old house he bought, the quiet becomes his only companion, and he’s content with that—until a deep-voiced stranger plants himself under a tree across the street.

Eight years ago, Connor Meecham left someone behind in that house—himself. Now he’s back to find the man he used to be, before drugs and prison sent his life careening off the tracks. But it’s not his mother’s face peering through the window any more. It’s a man who seems as lost as Conn himself.

When John learns what the house—and the dying town—mean to Conn, he finds himself opening the door to his heart. Just a crack. But it’s enough to get mixed up in a world of emotions as complicated as the recipe for the perfect cherry pie. Where one misstep can turn something sweet and juicy into one hot mess.

Review

Given the iffy title, I wasn’t expecting a great deal out of this book and was really pleasantly surprised.

I knew the love story would hot because Samantha Kane is an excellent erotic writer who uses sexy times to deepen the connection between characters. And the book has that loveliness for sure but this romance is also emotionial rich and sexy.

Many themes are at play here but the one I think is exceptionally well down is returning to your Hometown. Connor as been in recovery for two years and out of prison for more than a year. He decides to go home (its been the the better part of a decade) to reclaim the parts of himself, heal others, and build himself anew. He has to deal with the fact that someone has bought his family home, his mom has passed while he was serving time for possession and selling sex (though the charge was changed to vagrancy), reckon with how the town has changed, pick up old connection, forge new ones and find work. He left town as a golden football star in a small Southern town. He returns as a much better man in recovery, mindful, out about his sexuality and his past.

John is new to town and healing from the grief of losing his partner.

Class, age , and power difference play out in this romance is a powerful and healing way. They are emotionial equals and the joy of this book is in watching John and Connor fall in love and become partners.

The small town stuff is great and there are some wonderful secondary characters.

The writing is superb. Emotionially compelling, realistic (with the fantasy of less homophobia than there might be and John being really rich), and sexy.

Can’t wait for the next in the series.

Empty Net (Scoring Chances Book 4) Avon Gale 4.5 Star Review!

Review:

Empty Net - Avon Gale

Spartanburg Spitfires’ goalie and captain, Isaac Drake, ended last season with an unexpected trip to the playoffs. He’s found a home and a family with his coach and mentor, Misha Samarin, and he’s looking forward to making a serious run for the Kelly Cup. But things take an interesting turn when Isaac’s archnemesis, Laurent St. Savoy, is traded to the Spitfires. After Laurent’s despicable behavior in the playoffs last year, Isaac wants nothing to do with him—no matter how gorgeous he is. But that changes when Isaac discovers the reason for Laurent’s attitude.

Laurent St. Savoy grew up the only son of a legendary NHL goalie in a household rife with abuse. He was constantly treated like a disappointment, on and off the ice. When a desperate attempt to escape his father’s tyranny sends him to the Spitfires, the last thing Laurent wants is to make friends. But there’s something about Isaac Drake that he can’t resist. Laurent has an opportunity to explore his sexuality for the first time, but he’s cracking under end-of-the-season pressures. When facing the playoffs and a rivalry turned personal vendetta, Isaac’s not sure he’s enough to hold on to Laurent—or their relationship.

 

Review

This is by far the darkest book of the series so far but this love story really shows off what an amazing storyteller Avon Gale is.

 

She takes the villain from the last book in the series Laurents and pairs him with the beloved scrappy Drake in an truely stellar enemies to lovers romance with a healing journey for all.

 

This book delves into the darkness of what happens when someone is exposed to systematic abuse and what it means to love someone enough to stand by as they heal.

Laurents is awful for a reason. However, he chooses to become aware and change and risk loving someone. He gets therapy. I can’t tell you how much I celebrate when a character gets professionial help in a book showing others the way. He works at his recovery from an eating disorder and self care from his abusive childhood and young adulthood.

 

His demisexuality is gently explored. He becomes his better self and a wonderful partner for Issac. I love the dating scenes.

 

Issac is so much a great emotionally brave character and sexy as hell (Lauren is broodingly hot). Issac just shines and finding romantic love and the love of an adopted father makes him even more compelling.

 

He falls in love but doesn’t try to solve Laurents problems. He is a partner.

 

I really adored their romance as always the hockey and the secondary characters and the pondering for friendship.

 

The books ends with a happily ever after that includes doing the right things for yourself as well as others.

Original post:
northamericanwordcat.booklikes.com/post/1581191/empty-net-scoring-chances-book-4-avon-gale-4-5-star-review

The Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay #5) by Heidi Belleau Review

    The Burnt Toast B&B (Bluewater Bay Book 5) by Heidi Belleau 3 Stars!

After breaking his arm on set, Wolf’s Landing stuntman Ginsberg Sloan finds himself temporarily out of work. Luckily, Bluewater Bay’s worst B&B has cheap long-term rates, and Ginsberg’s not too proud to take advantage of them.

Derrick Richards, a grizzled laid-off logger, inherited the B&B after his parents’ untimely deaths. Making beds and cooking sunny-side-up eggs is hardly Derrick’s idea of a man’s way to make a living, but just as he’s decided to shut the place down, Ginsberg shows up on his doorstep, pitiful and soaking wet, and Derrick can hardly send him packing.

Not outright, at least.

The plan? Carry on the B&B’s tradition of terrible customer service and even worse food until the pampered city boy leaves voluntarily. What Derrick doesn’t count on, though, is that the lousier he gets at hosting, the more he convinces bored, busybody Ginsberg to try to get the B&B back on track. And he definitely doesn’t count on the growing attraction between them, or how much more he learns from Ginsberg than how to put out kitchen fires.

Review

Ginsberg is an amazing hero. A stunt man and kind. He is a fun mix of lots of things and emotionally brave.

Derrick is actually even sweeter but he has a lot of self hatred to work through.

The romance is in turns funny, tender, and annoying. Derrick can be dense. And he is really not kind to his former boyfriend in his head or action and that comes out in general over time.

There is a moment when it seems like the book is going to go off the rails and Derrick just melts down but the writer keeps it on track. I would have liked the conflict to be more nuanced and more time spent working through some things but I enjoyed the book.

Ginsberg demands respect and love and there is good groveling and repentance.

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.

The Backup Boyfriend (The Boyfriend Chronicles Book 1) by River Jaymes Review

   The Backup Boyfriend (The Boyfriend Chronicles Book 1) by River Jaymes  3.5 Stars!

Professionally, Dr. Alec Johnson has almost reached his goals. As this year’s recipient of a humanitarian award with his ex, Dr. Tyler Hall, Alec’s work with the homeless is about to be recognized. Unfortunately, his personal life sucks because now he has to attend several events alongside Tyler—with his ex’s new boyfriend in tow. In an attempt to lift his mood and break out of his rut, Alec purchases a motorcycle he has no idea how to start.

Dylan Booth doesn’t have time for Dr. Clueless and his fickle 1964 Harley, but the cocky mechanic can’t say no to the request for help. Having spent his teen years on the streets, and losing his best friend to HIV, Dylan decides teaching the do-gooder how to ride is the least he can do. But watching Alec flounder in his ex’s company throws Dylan into protector mode, and the confirmed hetero introduces himself as Alec’s new boyfriend.

The ex suspects Dylan is lying.

Alec claims Dylan’s plan is insane.

And Dylan’s not sure he can fake being gay.

But Dylan’s a master bullshitter, and the phony PDA soon turns ultra-hot. Alec can’t afford to get attached, and Dylan’s learned everyone eventually leaves. Unfortunately, playing the backup boyfriend is starting to feel way too real…

 

Review

I like the journey Alec and Dylan take in their love story. The are each well defined interesting characters whom I like very much. The conflict comes from who they are and for me that it is always the best kind.

Each hero grows and the romance is a real pleasure.

Alex’s day to day work life was missing and would have added depth but Dylan’s work was well integrated.

I do grow weary of the “no labels” arguments and think that the resolution for their difficulties is a bit too rush given the ups and downs of the relationship. I would have liked to wallow a bit even the the epilogue is good and I know they are found in later books in the series.

Small Change (Small Change, #1) by Roan Parrish Review

    Small Change  by Roan Parrish 4 Stars! 

Ginger Holtzman has fought for everything she’s ever had—the success of her tattoo shop, respect in the industry, her upcoming art show. Tough and independent, she has taking-no-crap down to an art form. Good thing too, since keeping her shop afloat, taking care of her friends, and scrambling to finish her paintings doesn’t leave time for anything else. Which … is for the best, because then she doesn’t notice how lonely she is. She’ll get through it all on her own, just like she always does.

Christopher Lucen opened a coffee and sandwich joint in South Philly because he wanted to be part of a community after years of running from place to place, searching for something he could never quite name. Now, he relishes the familiarity of knowing what his customers want, and giving it to them. But what he really wants now is love.

When they meet, Christopher is smitten, but Ginger … isn’t quite so sure. Christopher’s gorgeous, and kind, and their opposites-attract chemistry is off the charts. But hot sex is one thing—truly falling for someone? Terrifying. When her world starts to crumble around her, Ginger has to face the fact that this fight can only be won by being vulnerable—this fight, she can’t win on her own.

Read

Pick up this book and read it. It is a great romance which mediates within this great love story on gender roles, sexism, introversion, female community, women’s rights, tattoos, relationship of all kinds, innate personalty…

Ginger and Christopher are in their 30’s and both small business owners. Ginger is a lot of things like we all are. But so is Christopher even though he seems a lot more clear cut than Ginger but really he is just as complex.

I don’t want to go into all the complexities because this is a plot driven by internal conflicts and character development with outside forces sometimes changing the course or pace of events and emotions. Those complexities make up the heart of the book.

The romance centers around seeing love as illuminating a life and worth the risk.

Christopher is a super hot ginger who has an intersting past and is a great listener. He is steady but very much himself. I love him. I wish there was more sex in this book because that part of Christopher was riveting.

Ginger has a pile of anger and she works too much and she is funny and loving.

I adore how bisexuality is discussed in this book. I love having a bisexual heroine and the discussion on the differences between dating men and women.

All the tattoo stuff is grand as well. This is a better book if you have read at least the first two books in the series but it is very good on its own.

There are a bunch of romances that should spin off from this one (Farron and Jude, Phee +?, Marcus and his partner) and word at the back of the book is we shall get a second Christopher and Ginger book. I think it would have been richer to get a little more couple time into this book and not have another book but I look forward to that book too

Where We Left Off (Middle of Somewhere Book 3) by Roan Parrish Review

 Where We Left Off (Middle of Somewhere Book 3) by Roan Parrish  4 Stars!

Leo Ware may be young, but he knows what he wants. And what he wants is Will Highland. Snarky, sophisticated, fiercely opinionated Will Highland, who burst into Leo’s unremarkable life like a supernova… and then was gone just as quickly.

For the past miserable year, Leo hasn’t been able to stop thinking about the powerful connection he and Will shared. So, when Leo moves to New York for college, he sweeps back into Will’s life, hopeful that they can pick up where they left off. What begins as a unique friendship soon burns with chemistry they can’t deny… though Will certainly tries.

But Leo longs for more than friendship and hot sex. A romantic to his core, Leo wants passion, love, commitment—everything Will isn’t interested in giving. Will thinks romance is a cheesy fairy tale and love is overrated. He likes his space and he’s happy with things just the way they are, thank you very much. Or is he? Because as he and Leo get more and more tangled up in each other’s lives, Will begins to act like maybe love is something he could feel after all.

 

Review

Leo and Will.

This romance unspools and it ends up being quite lovely and tender. However, it takes a long time to be sure of the love story and we have to trust in Roan Parrish to get us there.

She does.

Will and Leo are precarious. Leo is young and has a crush and is romantic. Will is closed off and use to people hanging ideas on him.

How do they become fuller selves? How do they both grow? They do.

There is a ton negotiate here a lot of philosophical ground is covered in the novel. What does it mean to romantic? What are scripts we follow? How beauty works? What is love? How to be yourself and let some one else be their self? How to be together and apart?

Will and Leo don’t really get together in a full emotionial way for a lot of the book. There are lots of fits and starts.

It is still sexy and very loving and its humanness hurts a bit as well.

This would have been a stronger romance for me if it had been told with changing points of view between Will and Leo. We get Leo’s voice mainly and because Will struggles to open emotionially, I struggled with a full embrace of the love I know he must feel.

I look forward to the series continuing and hope to see Will and Leo even further along in other books. The last scene is great.

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.

Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow Review

  Pricks and Pragmatism   by JL Merrow 3.5 Stars! 

Kicked out by his father at age sixteen, English student Luke Corbin’s used to trading on his looks and charm to keep a roof over his head until he can make it big as a journalist. He goes for men with money, power and looks, in that order, and he doesn’t let emotions get in the way. But when his lover tells him it’s over, Luke finds himself homeless—just as his final exams are looming.

Moving in with geeky chemical engineer Russell may be a step down for him, but Luke can’t afford to be choosy. Fully prepared to put out as usual, Luke’s confused and frustrated when Russell refuses to take advantage of him—and even more so when he finds out Russell’s saving himself for someone special.

The more time he spends with the shy, honourable man, the more Luke finds himself bowled over by Russell’s sweetness and integrity. But just as he’s coming to terms with his own wish to be that special guy for Russell, Luke has to face facts: he’s fallen for the one man he can’t seem to charm.

 

Review

I love a kind lead matched with a cynical one. We have that here is spades. Luke is beyond jaded and guarded. When he falls for the super sweet and open nerdy hero, it is the best.

Luke is with other people during the book but there is no cheating. This is a slow burn romance.

I wish we had more couple and relationship time after they get together to make this a really great romance.