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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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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.

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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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.

Original post:
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Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Review

Strong Signal (Cyberlove Book 1) by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell 4 Stars! 

I was counting down the months until the end of my deployment. My days were spent working on military vehicles, and I spent my nights playing video games that would distract me until I could leave Staff Sergeant Garrett Reid behind.

That was when I met him: Kai Bannon, a fellow gamer with a famous stream channel.

I never expected to become fixated on someone who’d initially been a rival. And I’d never expected someone who oozed charm to notice me—a guy known for his brutal honesty and scowl. I hadn’t planned for our online friendship to turn into something that kept me up at night—hours of chatting evolving into filthy webcam sessions.

But it did. And now I can’t stop thinking about him. In my mind, our real life meeting is perfect. We kiss, we fall into bed, and it’s love at first sight.

Except, like most things in my life, it doesn’t go as planned.

Review

I was charmed by this romance which takes on heavy issues of growing up in the rust belt, being queer in the army, middle eastern wars, anxiety, and panic and also thinks carefully about love connections over the internet and still manages to be sexy as hell with enduring and endearing characters.

Kai and Garrett are a wonderful pair of heroes. All the long distance and remote courting is well done and then the reconciling the demands of money, time, and mental health take this love story to the next level.

There are all sorts of intersting ideas explored from introversion to sex work but the story telling is engaging and compelling and they really earn that Happily Ever After.

I am thrilled we get to see them in more books in this series.

Glitterland by Alexis Hall Review

Glitterland  by Alexis Hall 4 Stars! 

Once the golden boy of the English literary scene, now a clinically depressed writer of pulp crime fiction, Ash Winters has given up on love, hope, happiness, and — most of all — himself. He lives his life between the cycles of his illness, haunted by the ghosts of other people’s expectations.

Then a chance encounter at a stag party throws him into the arms of Essex boy Darian Taylor, an aspiring model who lives in a world of hair gel, fake tans, and fashion shows. By his own admission, Darian isn’t the crispest lettuce in the fridge, but he cooks a mean cottage pie and makes Ash laugh, reminding him of what it’s like to step beyond the boundaries of anxiety.

But Ash has been living in his own shadow for so long that he can’t see past the glitter to the light. Can a man who doesn’t trust himself ever trust in happiness? And how can a man who doesn’t believe in happiness ever fight for his own?

Review

Alexis Hall makes the ending up to me by adding a short story that was really needed to make this book complete.

Darian. I love him. He is clever and knows himself. Ash has to grow a lot in this book to deserve him but he does.

This book has all the wonderful trademarks of a Hall book-contending with imperfect characters, setting, class and such love.

We get a great romantic gesture and a well needed grovel. As well as a wonderful look at how to let other people make their own choices and live (and thrive) with who we are.

Good stuff!

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.

Beta Test by by Annabeth Albert Review

  Beta Test (#gaymers Book 2) by Annabeth Albert 4 Stars! 

Brilliant graphic designer Ravi Tandel is ahead of the game—he’s just been asked to present a top secret project at a huge conference in Seattle. All systems are go…until he learns his buttoned-up office nemesis is coming along for the ride.

Tristan Jones isn’t really the gamer type, but he knows the back end of the video game business inside out. Together, he and Ravi will give an awesome presentation. If they survive the cross-country trip first.

Tossed together in close quarters, Ravi’s shocked to see Tristan’s sexy, softer side emerge from such a conservative shell. He’s less shocked to learn his handsome colleague’s prominent family would never support an out-and-proud son. But Ravi didn’t struggle through his own coming out to hide who he is now. To be together, Tristan will have to push past his fear and ultimately decide: Does he want a future with Ravi? Or is it game over before they’ve even begun?

 

Review

I am becoming a huge fan of Annabeth Albert! I have no doubt by the end of the year I will have read her entire backlist and being eagerly waiting for her next book.

This is another character driven book which is my favorite. It stars heroes we don’t understand very well at first but become more and more vulnerable and complex as the book moves on. I end up adoring both of them.

There are a few details I would have liked to spend more time with like Tristian panic attack early in the book but everything else in the romance is so detailed and lovely.

A super sexy opposites attract road trip office romance that deals with family obligations and the baggage left over from past relationships.

Such a wonderful read.