low self esteem

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.

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The Sumage Solution (San Andreas Shifters, #1) by G.L. Carriger 5 Star Review!

     The Sumage Solution: San Andreas Shifters by GAIL CARRIGER 5 Stars!!

Max fails everything – magic, relationships, life. So he works for DURPS (the DMV for supernatural creatures) as a sumage, cleaning up other mages’ messes. The job sucks and he’s in no mood to cope with redneck biker werewolves. Unfortunately, there’s something oddly appealing about the huge, muscled Beta visiting his office for processing.

Bryan AKA Biff (yeah, he knows) is gay but he’s not out. There’s a good chance Max might be reason enough to leave the closet, if he can only get the man to go on a date. Everyone knows werewolves hate mages, but Bryan is determined to prove everyone wrong, even the mage in question.

Delicate Sensibilities?
This story contains M/M sexitimes and horrible puns. If you get offended easily, then you probably will. The ¬¬¬¬San Andreas Shifter stories contain blue language, dirty deeds, and outright admiration for the San Francisco Bay Area. Not for the faint of heart (mouth/tongue/etc.).

 

Review

I had a grand time reading this book. Its over the top and madcap but charming, hot, and engaging.

Humor is tough and for me this overblown paranormal world with a sarcastic hero and quirky non humans of all kinds really worked for me. I think because the heart of the story is the romance between Bryan, a beta wolf shifter able to be out about his sexuality for the first time, and a cranky, lanky not well functioning civil servant mage who had an awful childhood and a pretty crap romantic life until Bryan.

All the quirky and crazy plot around them was kept steady by the realism and the truth of this romance. It is a character driven love story set in a pretty well built and enjoyable paranormal world.

Some of the world building is a bit wonky but all the characters, banter, hot sexy times, and romance make up any flaws in a big way.

I can’t wait for more couples in this series and more time in this world.

Strong Enough (Family, #2) by Cardeno C. Review

  Strong Enough  by Cardeno C. 3.5 Stars!

When a casual hookup turns into the potential for love, staid Spencer realizes he wants to build a life with vibrant Emilio.

When twenty-two-year-old Emilio Sanchez sees handsome Spencer Derdinger walking by his construction site, Emilio makes it his goal to seduce the shy professor. Getting Spencer into bed isn’t difficult, but Emilio soon learns that earning the trust of a man deeply hurt will take time and patience. With a prize like brilliant, sweet Spencer on the line, Emilio decides he is strong enough to face the challenge.

Spencer is surprised when he’s approached by the gorgeous construction worker he’s admired from the safety of his office window. Acting spontaneously for the first time in his thirty-eight years, Spencer takes Emilio home. When the casual hookup turns into the potential for love, Spencer realizes that if he wants to build a life with Emilio, he’ll need to be strong enough to slay his personal demons and learn to trust again.

Review

Awww. Emilo and Spencer are great. I love how Emilo was steadfast and sure in his pursuit of Spencer. I love his kindness and care taking.

Spence takes risks even though he is pretty damaged from abusive past relationships. There is some great sexual healing in this love story.

Emilo’s family and Spencer’s friends are great. We get a wonderful opposites attract and even though there is a age difference Emilo more emotionial stability makes him a great match for Spencer and there is nice equality in the relationship.

It is sexy sweet romance with a little eye rolling moments (like that Emilo just moves right in) but overall a reread for sure.

How to Raise an Honest Rabbit by Amy Lane 5 Star Review

   How to Raise an Honest Rabbit   by Amy Lane 5 Stars!

Everything about Jeremy has always been a lie—including his last name. When one grift too many ends in tragedy, Jeremy goes straight. But life’s hard for an ex-con, and Jeremy is down to panhandling and hope when Rance Crawford offers him work at a tiny alpaca farm and fiber mill. Jeremy takes him up on the job, thinking this could be his last chance to be a good man, and meets Aiden, who is growing into a better one.

As Aiden comes of age, Jeremy finds himself desperate to grow up, too, because Aiden starts looking to him for things Jeremy doesn’t know how to give. Being honest is terrifying for a man who’s learned to rabbit at the first sign of conflict—more so when Aiden gives Jeremy a reason to stay that can’t be packed up and carried in a knapsack. When Jeremy’s past comes knocking at their door, can Jeremy trust enough in Aiden and his new home to answer bravely back?

Review

I think this is one of those you love it or you don’t romances. Jeremy is a chatty (hyper) person and we are in his head so that is not for everyone. I loved it.

Despite, Amy Lane’s unfortunate use of “boy’ as a term of endearment (and even explained it is unfortunate, I was utterly charmed by this sweet, achey, slow burn romances between a much older beta hero and a much younger alpha hero.

What I loved is what good friends Aiden and Jeremy are. I loved how much of his own person Aiden is and that age doesn’t matter as much in some people’s development. I really valued how the story takes its time and Jeremy healing and the impact of his trauma are well details and just don’t magically go away,

I really liked all the kinds of love here and the talents. The farming, knitting, and shop stuff are just cool as are all the friends.

The best part is the romance. Aiden is steadfast and tender and tough. Jeremy despite being older and having a pile more trauma is less adult but comes into is wonderful own.

I have already reread it feeling I had gone to fast the first time.

The Weight of It All by N.R. Walker 5 Star Review!

     The Weight Of It All  by N.R. Walker 5 Stars!!

After being dumped by his long-term boyfriend for being overweight, Henry Beckett decides to make some drastic changes. In a vain attempt at getting his boyfriend back, Henry does the most absurdly frightening thing he can think of.

He joins a gym.
Reed Henske is a personal trainer who isn’t sure he’ll ever be ready to date again. He’s sick of guys who are only interested in the perfect body image, never seeing him for who he really is.

As Reed tortures Henry with things like diet and exercise, Henry enamours Reed with recipes and laughter. As the friendship lines start to blur, Henry is convinced there’s no way Thor-like Reed could ever be interested in a guy like him.

Reed just has to convince Henry that life isn’t about reaching your ideal bodyweight. It’s about finding your perfect counterweight.

Review

Bam! It is so rare to find a romance that deals with weight loss in a way that is no body shaming. This love story gets it spot on. It takes about weight for Henry (and Henry only not all people of size) being a way to hide away or not see himself anymore. And we know Reed loves him at all sizes and wants Henry simply to be happy and himself. Yea!

I am often in search of a plain Joe hero and we have it in the oh so funny Henry. I would like it better if Reed wasn’t such a perfect sexy beast but Reed’s history and the burden of those kinds of looks make great plot and character moments so it all works out.

Reed and Henry. Sigh. They are the best! Reed is hot, yes, but more than that he is thoughtful and he adores Henry. Henry, after years in a not great relationship, regains his super awesome self.

The food porn in this one is crazy good and its is all healthy. The heroes just like and and then love each other so much.

Ahhhgggh. I stayed up too late. I love all the little moments of this book. Sweet, sexy, and funny!

Thrall (Deridia, #3) by Catherine Miller Review

    Thrall (Deridia Book 3) by Catherine Miller 3 Stars!

Slow.
Useless.
Failure.

Ness had always tried to do as the masters told her, tried to fulfil her expected purpose within the time allowed. She was a thrall and nothing more. Every pain was a lesson, every hurt was for her betterment. And someday, perhaps, she could earn honour enough to serve the Narada in a household.

But when the masters tire of her repeated failures to produce the allotment required of her, she is chosen, not for the death she expects, but to serve as payment to a people she has never seen, whose ways are strange and utterly impossible for her to accept.

Taken in by a man who claims that he is not her new master, she is troubled when he does not comprehend the defective nature of the thrall he has been given, and how unworthy she is to be in his service.

And, perhaps even more concerning, his persistent belief that she is no slave at all.

Review

I am a fan of this series and was happy to read another slow burning romance in this world.

Our heroine is Ness. We are deep in her point of view. We slowly see her get acculturated to being not a slave and having a self and value.

The hero is kind and he has to adjust as well.

This is a very sweet romance. I like the pace. However, more details of the non humans and the culture would have made of a stronger read but overall a pleasure.

Out of Nowhere by Roan Parrish Review

 Out of Nowhere by Roan Parrish  4 Stars! 

The only thing in Colin Mulligan’s life that makes sense is taking cars apart and putting them back together. In the auto shop where he works with his father and brothers, he tries to get through the day without having a panic attack or flying into a rage. Drinking helps. So does running and lifting weights until he can hardly stand. But none of it can change the fact that he’s gay, a secret he has kept from everyone.

Rafael Guerrera has found ways to live with the past he’s ashamed of. He’s dedicated his life to social justice work and to helping youth who, like him, had very little growing up. He has no time for love. Hell, he barely has time for himself. Somehow, everything about miserable, self-destructive Colin cries out to him. But down that path lie the troubles Rafe has worked so hard to leave behind. And as their relationship intensifies, Rafe and Colin are forced to dredge up secrets that both men would prefer stay buried.

 

Review

Oh boy. Colin is a hot mess. Internalized homophobia, anger management, self harm, alcohol abuse, cruelty, clueless…

And yet I root for him anyway. I would advise Rafe against dating him (Rafe is a wonderful social justice crusader with humility and self awareness. He is sexy as hell.) but this ain’t my romance.

Roan Parrish is a wonderful writer. This book takes on issues of social justice in terms of LGTBQ kids and the prison pipeline for men of color. The setting and exploration of working class life is excellent.

I may not always like Colin but he is real. Made of a place, time and neglect. I want him to have love and healing.

I would have liked more healing to happen in the book. That man needs to get clean and to find a therapist and support group. The lack of these elements make me worry for him and Rafe long term but Colin changed and grew and settled into himself and its a really good book.

Clear Water by Amy Lane Review

  Clear Water by Amy Lane 4 Stars! 

Meet Patrick Cleary: party boy, loser, and spaz. Patrick’s been trying desperately to transform himself, and the results have been so spectacular, they’ve almost killed him. Meet Wes “Whiskey” Keenan: he’s a field biologist wondering if it’s time to settle down. When the worst day of Patrick’s life ends with Whiskey saving it, Patrick and Whiskey find themselves sharing company and an impossibly small berth on the world’s tackiest houseboat.

Patrick needs to get his life together—and Whiskey wants to help—but Patrick is not entirely convinced it’s doable. He’s pretty sure he’s a freak of nature. But Whiskey, who works with real freaks of nature, thinks all Patrick needs is a little help to see the absolute beauty inside his spastic self, and Whiskey is all about volunteering. Between anomalous frogs, a homicidal ex-boyfriend, and Patrick’s own hangups, Whiskey’s going to need all of his patience and Patrick’s going to need to find the best of himself before these two men ever see clear water.

 

Review

I think this is my favorite Amy Lane book I have read.

It has the wonderful Sacromento area setting this time on the river. I know this like might be a quirk of mine because I know the area well but I think everyone can enjoy a book that is so firmly of a place like her books are and that place doesn’t have to be glamorous just reach in the kind of details that shape a plot and character.

I love the ADHD aspects of Patrick’s character and how when paired with people who don’t expect him to be like everyone else, he is loved and learns to love his self.

We get the difference of age and the working out of those issues here like in many of Lane’s books.

Whiskey is grumpy and wonderful. Flea Bait also. So, we get this second family fun.

What I love about the book aside from the crazy sauce plot (which I do adore) is all the science, a little mystery, a lot of character growth for everyone, and couple time. I love the couple time.

Really good book!

Wake Up Married Serial, Episodes 1 – 6 by Leta Blake and Alice Griffiths

4.5 Stars!!!

Episode One: Will & Patrick Wake Up Married

After a drunken night of hot sex in Vegas, strangers Will Patterson and Dr. Patrick McCloud wake up married. A quickie divorce is the most obvious way out—unless you’re the heir of a staunchly Catholic mafia boss with a draconian position on the sanctity of marriage. Throw their simmering attraction into the mix and all bets are off!

Episode Two: Will & Patrick Meet the Family

Meeting the family is challenging for every new couple. But for Will and Patrick, the awkward family moments only grow more hilarious–and painful–when they must hide the truth of their predicament from the people they care about most. Throw in the sexual tension flaring between them and you’ve got a recipe for madcap laughs and surprisingly heartwarming feels.

Episode Three: Will & Patrick Do the Holidays

A couple’s first holiday season is always a special time. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve are magical when you’re in love. Too bad Will and Patrick’s marriage is a sham and they’re only faking their affection for each other. Or are they? Sparks fly in this episode of the Wake Up Married serial. Will the sexual tension between Will and Patrick finally explode in a needy night of passion? Or will they continue to deny their feelings?

Episode Four: Will & Patrick Fight Their Feelings

Will and Patrick have embraced adding hot sexy-times to their fake marriage, but as their emotions deepen, they confront whether or not they want to be more than friends-with-benefits. The heat is high (and occasionally kinky) as Will and Patrick struggle to accept their mutual affection.

Episode Five: Will & Patrick Meet the Mob

Patrick has finally accepted that he’s in love with Will, but his newfound determination to do something about that runs up against his father-in-law’s mobster plans. Will must face the truth about his family before he can fully come to terms with his feelings for Patrick. And Patrick has to decide if this whackadoodle world is something he truly wants to be part of forever.

Episode Six: Will & Patrick’s Happy Ending

Sure, Will and Patrick are in love now, but they weren’t when they got married in Vegas. For Patrick, that’s no problem, but Will can’t shake his doubts that a relationship started through coercion can ever become the real deal. Since the Molinaro crime family has reversed their position on divorce, Will and Patrick have a chance to rectify their drunken mistake. But is divorce the right choice for them?

Review

This book has all the cat nip. It is a sheer joy to read as it plays with tropes through hyperbole and reversals while mixing in powerful psychological depth.

It is at once silly and moving with a grand love story at its heart.

It would have been a 5 Star read for me but its a Serial (I hate them with all my heart) and there is some sex aftermath body stuff that happens repeatedly and is just a bit ewww for me in the way that it is described.

There is a lot of silly here that makes it fun. We have a strangers marry Vegas while drunk fun with opposites attract joy through in. They have to stay married because of an inheritance clause from the Mob family of Will who is much younger than the Patrick. Fun!

And yet each of these standard (and great in my opinion) is explored at the same time with emotionial truths. Will was drunk that night because he was relapsing in his alcoholism after getting dumped by his long time boyfriend via a phone call. The book does a beautiful job with addiction, recovery, and family made more compelling because Patrick is a neurosurgeon and looks at addiction biologically.

The mob family stuff show layers of recklessness and disfunction of Will’s family. Will has diabetes and the book details the daily life of such a disease. Will’s last relationship was awful and Patrick’s gruff but steadfast treatment and care and eventual love of will is a wonderful display what love should be. He respects and treasures Will.

Patrick is his own gruff, arrogant, funny mess. I don’t want to give to many spoilers as to why but he has a hard time with so much feeling and yet…he is the very best. The friendships he develops are their own awesome love story.

There is a joy in this book too that while internalized homophobia does come up they fact that gay marriage is legal means that everyone in the book simply looks at their marriage as a marriage.  The end.

This is just such a wonderful read with so much healing and love. Read it.

Never Say Never to an Earl (Heart of Enquiry Book 5) by Grace Callaway Review

   Never Say Never to an Earl (Heart of Enquiry Book 5) by Grace Callaway

A Wallflower Who Guards Her Secrets
Miss Polly Kent has no illusions about finding love. Not only is she a wallflower, but her freakish ability to read others’ emotions has led to devastating rejection time and again. When it comes to her future, she knows that a marriage of convenience, one in which she can keep her secret affliction hidden, is the only safe choice. Yet when fate throws her into the path of the ton’s wildest rake, she discovers that desire can jeopardize the most carefully laid plans…

A Rake Who Makes No Apologies for His Past
Sinjin Pelham, the Earl of Revelstoke and heir to a duke, has a reputation darker than London’s fog. His exploits have made him the envy of men and the desire of women, but behind his wild and jaded façade lies a painful secret. He knows that no woman can love the devil inside him, yet when he is accused of a ghastly crime, the only one who stands by him is a beautiful virgin, one whose wanton innocence makes him long for the one thing he cannot have…

When Good and Wicked Make Perfect
A marriage that begins with smoldering passion soon deepens into something more. All the while, a dangerous enemy lurks, waiting to strike. As Sinjin and Polly untangle the threads of mystery to clear his name, they must confront their greatest fears, risking all for their love—and their very lives.

4 Stars!

Review

I liked a great deal about this book and am happy to have found a good historical romance author to read!

The psychological aspects of this romance make it compelling. The hero is bi polar in a time when there is no real treatment nor understanding of the condition. The heroine has self esteem, trust, and body issues.

They are both good people and the sexual chemistry between them is hot. This is s very sexy book.

The heroine’s family is as wonderful as the hero’s family is awful.

The plot of the story is well paced with lots of great secondary characters.

The history bit is very thin even with an awful peek into the treatment of the mentally ill at the time. The heroine’s sister is fairly unlovely and doesn’t make me want her to be the heroine of the next book nor buy in this heroine’s adoration of her.

However, overall this was a very engaging read.