small town romance

The Mistletoe Effect by Cate Ashwood Review

  The Mistletoe Effect by Cate Ashwood 3 Stars

Although Christmas is his favorite time of year, all is not merry and bright for Danny Ellis. After being laid off and facing eviction, he’s eager to make a fresh start. When a friend mentions an opportunity in Sin City, he packs up and heads west. Unfortunately, plans run awry when his truck breaks down a little more than halfway there and he’s stranded in the cold with no money, nowhere to stay, and no way to get to Vegas.

‘Tis the season, but not for Merrick Holland, who loves being a part of the community in the small town of Rowley Bridge. Christmas has been a little tainted since his father died three years ago, and when people start to deck the halls, he withdraws. When Merrick finds a man asleep inside his bakery one morning, rather than call the police, Merrick makes him a cup of coffee, and after hearing his story offers him a job and a place to stay.

The two men strike up an unlikely friendship, but with Christmas only three weeks away, could a little holiday magic bring them together?

Review

A sweet little Christmas romance with a down on his luck and a broken down car hero and a baker hero who takes a chance on him. Both heroes are kind and the novella is a bit like a gingerbread cookie–fast and sweet.

Let It Snow (Minnesota Christmas Book 1) Heidi Cullinan Review

   Let It Snowby Heidi Cullinan 3.5 Stars! 

The weather outside is frightful, but this Minnesota Northwoods cabin is getting pretty hot.

Stylist Frankie Blackburn never meant to get lost in Logan, Minnesota, but his malfunctioning GPS felt otherwise, and a record-breaking snowfall ensures he won’t be heading back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Being rescued by three sexy lumberjacks is fine as a fantasy, but in reality the biggest of the bears is awfully cranky and seems ready to gobble Frankie right up.

Marcus Gardner wasn’t always a lumberjack—once a high-powered Minneapolis lawyer, he’s come home to Logan to lick his wounds, not play with a sassy city twink who might as well have stepped directly out of his past. But as the northwinds blow and guards come down, Frankie and Marcus find they have a lot more in common than they don’t. Could the man who won’t live in the country and the man who won’t go back to the city truly find a home together? Because the longer it snows, the deeper they fall in love, and all they want for Christmas is each other.

 

Review

I had a lot of fun reading this Christmas Romance because Frankie is a delight. He is kind and funny.

Marcus worked my nerves a bit as he stays gruff and grumpy a bit too long and it takes forever for him to see clear of his cheating ex.

Frankie is big hearted and takes risks. All the snowbound fun is great and good look in to North Minnesota culture.

While, I thought Marcus’s friends were a bit over the top, I am wishing them luck with other people in love.

Played! (The Shamwell Tales #2) by J.L. Merrow Review

   Played! (Shamwell Tales Book 2) by J.L. Merrow 2 Stars

Posh boy Tristan Goldsmith has one last summer of freedom before he joins the family firm in New York—no more farting around on stage, as his father puts it. But the classically trained actor can’t resist when the Shamwell Amateur Dramatics Society begs him to take a leading role in their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As an added incentive, he’ll be giving private acting lessons to a gorgeous local handyman who’s been curiously resistant to Tristan’s advances.

As a late-diagnosed dyslexic still struggling with literacy, Con Izzard’s never dared to act before. With arrogant yet charming Tristan helping him with his lines, he finally has his chance to shine. But Con’s determined not to start a romance with a man he’s convinced only wants a casual fling.

Tristan’s never been one to back down from a challenge, especially when he realises his attraction to the tall, muscular handyman isn’t just physical. Just as he thinks he’s finally won Con’s heart—and given his own in return—disaster strikes with a slip of the tongue that shatters Con’s trust and sends him running for cover. This show may be over before the curtain’s even opened.

Review

There are some lovely moments in this book but overall its very unsatisfying.

Tristan is not very self reflective, entitled, self centered, arrogant and often cruel. He is 24 not 6 and as an actor one would hope be way more in touch than he is.

I think Merrow sets him up to be a study in unexamined privilege but he but he is mean and so thoughtless his road back to redemption needs to be longer than this book allows. We also have to spend time with his even more awful friends Amanda and that is not a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

Con is lovely but a bit of a doormat. The rest of the plot is engaging which is why I finished it but Tristan should have had to work harder and longer on his change to get a HEA.

Cherry Bomb (Mercury Rising, #2) by Samantha Kane 4.5 Star Review!

     Cherry Bomb (Mercury Rising Book 2) by Samantha Kane 4.5 Stars!

Officially, Turnstiles billionaire CEO Brian Curland is in Mercury to set up a new data center. Unofficially, he’s using this trip to re-evaluate his life, because for a man who has everything, he’s feeling pretty empty.

He could buy any car he wants. But no, he had to rent a piece-of-crap Chevy—which is now broken down on the side of the road. When he’s rescued by a sexy local, Brian does what he always does. Go for what he wants, even if it’s just temporary.

Evan Michaels stops to help because that’s what good guys do. He grew up in Mercury, eventually becoming minister of the local Unitarian church. Though everyone knows him, being gay and being in a gay relationship are two different things. He wants Brian, but their affair has to be secret or he can’t play.

When Evan unleashes his long-suppressed sexuality, Brian is more than up to handling the heat. Yet even though they fall hard for each other, it might take the whole town to convince them it’s a forever kind of love.

Warning: Contains an inexperienced minister, gay comic-book role play, dirty dancing in antebellum mansions, and some very naughty fireworks. Protective gear recommended.

Review

Dang, I really like this series! The writing is spot on on, setting and the world compelling, the characters complex and the romance hot, tender and complex.

So, I love me some clergy heroes. LOL. I enjoy them because it means they have thought carefully about and invested in the spiritual (what are we all here for) aspects of their life. Evan is just amazing. Human and loving and strong.

I like grown ups in my romance too. Brian and Evan are both grown and they talk and they acknowledge their shortcomings and the barriers to their relationship.

There wasn’t much I didn’t love about this book. I am not sure how many times I will reread it which is why it isn’t a 5 star but this is a great couple. I can’t to read the next book in the series and would really love more books after that.

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.

Redesigning Max (Foothills Pride #2) by Pat Henshaw Review

    Redesigning Max (Foothills Pride Stories Book 2) by Pat Henshaw 2 Stars

Renowned interior designer Fredi Zimmer is surprised when outdoorsman Max Greene, owner of Greene’s Outdoors, hires Fredi to revamp his rustic cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Fredi is an out-and-proud Metro male whose contact with the outdoors is from his car to the doorway of the million-dollar homes he remodels, and Max is just too hunky for words.

When Max comes on to Fredi, the designer can’t imagine why. But he’s game to put a little spice into Max’s life, even if it’s just in the colors and fixtures he’ll use to turn Max’s dilapidated cabin into a showplace. Who can blame a guy for adding a little sensual pleasure as he retools Max’s life visually?

Max, for his part, is grateful when Fredi takes him in hand, both metaphorically and literally. Coming out is the most exciting and wonderful time in his life, despite the conservative former friends who think they’re saving him from sliding into hell.

Review

This is my second time trying this writer and like the first time, this book didn’t work for me, It isn’t awful and I like the basic writing but it is too shallow and doesn’t do the work needed to make it a love story to believe in.

Again, I like the heroes. Max has inherited wealth for outdoor rec stores and some hidden talents, Fredi is at the top of his profession (a little young for that but okay).

Max had realized he is gay and pursues Fredi. This is very sweet and up front. And again if the characters where developed and the story driven by the characters it would be a good book. I like the slow burn dating. I like the Fredi protects himself. There is cool stuff in both books about recording and reporting hate crimes.

Max and Fredi both have awful pasts and we don’t really get to see that. We are told that.

Again the love scene are off page and this hurts the development of the connection between them and the love story.

Then there is crazy homophobia that is resolved but takes up the place of better character work. And then saccharine stuff that isn’t earned.

So. Not great.

 

PS The “droopy mustache” on Max…ewww.

What’s in a Name? (Foothills Pride #1) by Pat Henshaw Review

    What’s in a Name? by Pat Henshaw 2 Stars 

Barista Jimmy Patterson thinks it’s a good idea to get rip-roaring drunk on his birthday after he’s dumped by his boyfriend. When the burly owner of Stonewall’s Bar rescues Jimmy, the night starts to look up.

Now Jimmy just wants to know the bartender’s first name since he’s worn a different name tag every time Jimmy’s seen him. “Guy” Stone gives Jimmy seven guesses, one for each night he takes Jimmy out on a date.

While Jimmy’s trying to come up with his name, he’s distracted by the destruction of his coffee shop and what looks more and more like a hate crime.

Review

There are seeds of a good book in here. I didn’t not enjoy it but the plot took the easy way out too many times and several ideas were undeveloped.

Here is what I liked: The setting in the foothills of the Sierra’s during the migration out of the Bay Area for a portion of the queer community. The heroes are kind. I like that even though this romance is super fast, they have really been falling in love for months. I like the friends and businesses.

The wish fulfillment of dating and courting is a bit saccharine but I enjoy that sometimes. The villains are cartoonish–especially the ex boyfriend.

If the characters had been more developed, out side of the Twink and the Bear, then the book’s plot would have been driven more by internal factors rather than a bit manic external ones.

The sex is off page. I don’t mind that but sex scenes based in their character would have let us seem them intimately and moved the romance plot forward in ways that this book lacked.

I liked the writing so I will try again with this author.

For A Good Time, Call… (Bluewater Bay, #17) by Anne Tenino Review

    For a Good Time, Call… (Bluewater Bay Book 17) by Anne Tenino 3 Stars!

Thirty-seven-year-old Nate Albano’s second relationship ever ended three years ago, and since he’s grace — gray asexual — he doesn’t anticipate beating the odds to find a third. Still, he’s got his dog, his hobbies, and his job as a special effects technician on Wolf’s Landing, so he can’t complain — much.

Seth Larson, umpteenth generation Bluewater Bay, is the quintessential good-time guy, content with tending bar and being his grandmother’s handyman. The night they meet, Seth’s looking for some recreational sex to escape family drama. But for Nate, romantic attraction comes before sexual attraction, so while Seth thinks they’re hooking up, Nate just wants to talk . . . genealogy?

Dude. Seriously?

So they declare a “just friends” truce. Then Seth asks for Nate’s help investigating a sinister Larson family secret, and their feelings start edging way beyond platonic. But Nate may want more than Seth can give him, and Seth may not be able to leave his good-time image behind. Unless they can find a way to merge carefree with commitment, they could miss out on true love —
the best time of all.

Review

This romance tells the story of Seth and Nate. Nate is demi sexual and Seth has a high sex drive and really hasn’t had a relationship.

Nate, who is a special effects artist, is kind of clueless to social clues as well and this makes for a mess and he also waffles on the just friends thing as well.

I am happy to see Seth get his own romance. Seth has been badly treated in previous books in the series and he is a wonderful guy.

There are lots of off shoots to the main love story plot but the romance in the middled is compelling and engaging. The main conflict comes from Nate not valuing who Seth is and needing to heal himself around some issue of forgiveness and ambition. It is good stuff.

The history exploration here is great and its a fun mystery. However, it could have been better resolved which is the same for several other plots.

The dog is wonderful, of course but the actions of some of the other characters are a bit meh.

I enjoyed it overall.

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.

Jesse’s Diner by Cardeno C. Review

Jesse's Diner - Cardeno C.

Two men with a shared history and a mutual attraction must be honest with themselves and each other so both their dreams come true.

Quiet, unassuming Tanner Sellers spends his time running a diner in Hope, Arizona. Not particularly social, twenty-two-year-old Tanner keeps to himself and enjoys his simple life, but he longs for someone to call his own. In his most secret fantasy, that someone is sexy Steve Faus. But Steve is his friend’s father and mentor’s widower and therefore off-limits.

Despite some challenges, thirty-nine-year-old Steve Faus has had a good life. He’s extremely successful at work, has a great relationship with his college-age son, and lives in a wonderful town. Eighteen months after losing his partner, the one thing Steve lacks is someone to share his life. If Steve is honest with himself, that someone is the young man he has known and cared about for years. Steve and Tanner want one another, all they need is a little push in the right direction to make both their dreams come true

Review

 

Despite, not being a fan of the in love with my son’s best friends trope (at all), this is a really sweet, straight forward romance where two wonderful heroes get what they need in each other.

 

It is a really sweet and hot romance about finding a second chance at love for one hero and getting the one he loves for another.

 

There is conflict but it is all character driven and adds to the intimacy.

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