social justice

Drawn In (The Family Jules, #1) by Sean Ashcroft Review

     Drawn In (The Family Jules Book 1) by Sean Ashcroft 3 Stars! 

Owen Jules isn’t gay, and the last thing he expects is to get married to his childhood best friend. But when he moves back to his hometown after losing his wife, he finds Jude sick and at risk of dying, all because his medical insurance was cancelled.

Between wanting to help Jude out and wanting to get custody of his daughter back, Owen takes the plunge into a fake marriage, hoping to solve everyone’s problems at once.

As Jude begins to recover and the two of them settle into married life, Owen starts to get a little toocomfortable with being married to his best friend. Owen begins to wonder if he missed out on a lot by getting married for the first time when he was eighteen–including the chance to explore his sexuality.

Jude seems like a safe person to experiment with, but will that put Owen’s little patchwork family at risk? And what happens when outside forces challenge their newfound stability?

Can Owen and Jude find a way to be happy and raise Kalya together?

Review

While I enjoyed this friends to lovers marriage of convenience romance, there are places that needed a great deal more development.

Owen and Jude make a great couple. And putting them in the intimacy of marriage is lovely to watch. However, we don’t get enough detail on Owen’s previous marriage or a thoughtful discussion of his sexuality. And this lack weakens the overall book.

What we do get is a great family setting, sweet romance and a critique of the sad state of the health care system.

Be My Best Man by Con Riley 4 star Review

  Be My Best Manby Con Riley 4 Stars!!

Will Jason’s third time as a best man lead to first-time love for Vanya?

After fleeing violence in Moscow, student teacher Vanya Petrov winds up lonely in a run-down London hostel. At least visiting the Bond Street store where his roommate works lets him practice his English, but as Vanya’s vocabulary expands, so does his isolation, especially when he sees happy couples planning their perfect weddings.

According to Jason Balfour, weddings are a waste of time and money. After all, he’s been best man for his brother twice already. Saying that a third marriage will end in divorce too leads to an angry ultimatum: to save his relationship with his brother, Jason must meet his fiancée, at last, and make a good first impression.

Jason’s need to dress to impress brings him and Vanya together. Language is no barrier to falling in love with the young and fragile Russian, and neither is their age difference. But Vanya’s bruised soul carries secrets that could rip them apart. As the wedding draws near, Vanya must confess, and soon, or risk losing Jason—his own best man in Britain.

Review

This is a very good romance that explores the issue of refugee status for queer people whose home countries.

Vanya is in an untenable position when he meets Jason an older man struggles to accept his brother’s pending marriage.

What is wonderful about this love story is how much these two heroes have in common and the emotion they share.

You can feel Jason’s respect for Vanya and Vanya’s admiration and empathy for Jason.

The conflicts that arise make sense.

The book wobbles in the end as Jason reacts instead of thinks and it doesn’t seem wholly in character. He clings to the lessons of a bad relationship in ways that though explained don’t seem on the nose. The end of the book would have been richer if we got to see more of Vanya together than apart.

Still, it is a very good romance and worth reading.

First Season (Harrisburg Railers, #2) by R.J. Scott and V.L. Locey 4 Star Review!

Review:

First Season - V.L. Locey, R.J. Scott

Layton wants success, Adler wants family, how can love make both these things possible?

Layton Foxx works

hard for what he has. The condo, the career, the chance to make his mark, is all down to the sacrifices he has made. With tragedy in his past, he doesn’t want or need love. Then he meets Adler Lockhart, the extroverted, sexy winger for the Harrisburg Railers and abruptly he can’t avoid love even if he wanted to.

 

Adler Lockhart has had everything handed to him his whole life. Cars, villas, cash, college tuition at the finest Ivy League schools. The only things he doesn’t have are parents who care or the love of a good man. Then Layton walks into his privileged life and shows him what real love can be like.

 

 

Review

 

Adler and Layton launched me back into a huge Sports Romance kick. Hockey! I also preordered the next book in the series right away.

Alder is socially awkward which is a kind of hero I love. It doesn’t come out in the shy way but in the overly outgoing way. 

Layton is buttoned up and his job is crisis management. We get a great opposites attract trope going. 

I love Adler’s hell bent clumsy wooing of Layton. I really liked all the complexities revealed about each hero overtime. 

Adler really wants love and Layton, eventually, can’t help but love him.

We get a great subplot at Layton manages the heroes of the first book in the series coming out a professionial sports setting. All the secondary characters are great.

This book is perfect for a reread in times when you need comfort.

 
 

 

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For Better or Worse by R. Cooper Review

     For Better or Worse by R. Cooper 3.5 Stars!

To the other firefighters in Montgomery, Javier is a quietly heroic figure with a reputation for staying calm and doing what needs to be done. To the small town gossips, he’s some kind of mysterious ladies’ man, despite how he hasn’t dated anyone in years. Truth is, Javier’s demisexual—it takes him a while to feel desire for someone, and most people don’t want to wait for that to happen. Tired of being hurt, he gave up on dating. He gave up with such determination that two years into spending nearly every free evening making dinners with his best friend, Jimmy, he’s only just realized that he’s in love with him.

Jimmy is noise where Javier is silent. He expresses his thoughts and feelings about every subject imaginable—except the reason he moved thousands of miles away from his family to start a new life in Montgomery. He spends his nights with Javier, cooking and jointly taking care of his rescue dog. If he’s noticed that he and Javier have been all but dating each other for the past two years, he hasn’t said, and Javier isn’t going to risk upsetting him by asking.

That is, until the very public romance between their fellow firefighter, Scotty, and school librarian, Cole, leads Jimmy to reveal more about his past. Suddenly, Javier has hope. If he has to change the minds of the entire town in order to woo his best friend, then so be it. He’s not someone to let a little fear get in his way, especially when it means a chance to make their date nights real.

Review

I like the tone of R. Coopers writing as it is a bit lush and character driven.

This book is best read after the first book in the series. It is really lovely friends to lovers romance featuring a demisexual and a closeted gay man who are best friends and fire fighters.

Jimmy and Javier share a strong connection but they both need to be much better at talking. I would have loved to hear them talk things out.

I liked the book a great deal but the lack of sharing of thoughts was frustrating. It is a great setting and circle of friends and I would like more in this series but more couple time (which was an issue in the first book as well).

Infamous (Famous, #2) by Jenny Holiday 4.5 Star Review!

   Infamous by Jenny Holiday 4.5 Stars!

All that up-and-coming musician Jesse Jamison has ever wanted is to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. When a gossip website nearly catches him kissing someone who isn’t his famous girlfriend—and also isn’t a girl—he considers the near miss a wake-up call. There’s a lot riding on his image as the super-straight rocker, and if he wants to realize his dreams, he’ll need to toe the line. Luckily, he’s into women too. Problem solved.

After a decade pretending to be his ex’s roommate, pediatrician Hunter Wyatt is done hiding. He might not know how to date in the Grindr world, how to make friends in a strange city, or whether his new job in Toronto is a mistake. But he does know that no one is worth the closet. Not even the world’s sexiest rock star.

As Jesse’s charity work at Hunter’s hospital brings the two closer together, a bromance develops. Soon, Hunter is all Jesse can think about. But when it comes down to a choice between Hunter and his career, he’s not sure he’s brave enough to follow his heart.

Review

nfamous is a great friends to lovers romance with all the pleasure of the Rock Star theme as well.

Jenny Holiday hits all the right notes with this touching romance about Jesse, the rock star, and Hunter, the doctor.

Watching them become such close friends while crushing on each other is a joy. I love how Hunter’s life as a doctor is shown to be as complex and important (maybe more in some ways) than Jesse’s famous job as a singer and songwriter.

Jesse makes a choice early in this book not be out as bisexual in exchange for getting the agent he wants/needs to make his band successful. He also fears being out in terms of the damage it might due to his ability to make a living in music. Hunter won’t be with another closeted man.

The conflicts is realistic as is the way there two men fall more and more in love until something has to give.

It is a slow burn romance with a number of compelling elements outside the romance.

I just loved Hunter and Jesse and the connection they had.

I am not sure that the last flash of drama was needed or that Jesse wouldn’t have told Hunter that he was bi and the agreement he had made with his agent and that kept it from being a 5 Star read for me but every other moment made this a shining gem of a love story.

Can’t wait for more in the series!

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

Barging in by Josephine Myles Review

Review:

Barging In - Josephine Myles

When the boat’s a rockin’, don’t come knockin’!

Out-and-proud travel writer Dan Taylor is a city boy who can’t steer a boat to save his life, but that doesn’t stop him from heading into the English countryside to write up a narrowboat holiday. Compared to London, the canal seems dull as ditchwater. Until he crashes into the boat of a half-naked, tattooed man whose bad-boy, penniless appearance doesn’t fit with his posh accent. Dan is intrigued, and he always gets his man.

Still smarting from a past betrayal, Robin Hamilton is firmly closeted in his narrowboat—his refuge from outrageous, provocative men like Dan. But as circumstances keep throwing them together, he can’t help himself from coming to the hopelessly out-of-place city boy’s rescue. Exposure to Dan’s sunny charm starts to melt Robin’s resolve and he’s tempted by the idea of a brief, harmless fling.

After all, in less than a week, Dan will have left the canal and be back to his diet of casual hook-ups and friends with benefits.

Determined not to fall in love, both men dive into one week of indulgence…only to find themselves swept away by a current of escalating intimacy and emotional intensity. Troubled waters they didn’t anticipate… and haven’t a clue how to navigate.

 

Review

Sigh. This book should have worked for me. It has a great setting on the canal systems of contemporary Britain, It explores a subculture of those living on the waterways. It even has a cat.

But I never warmed up to Dan. I don’t love man whores who treat their partner’s as objects and I just couldn’t get past his arrogance. 

I bought the heat between him and Robin though and it is very hot. Myles always writes a decent book but by the time we came to understand Robin’s history I had lost interest and no matter the grand gesture didn’t really root for this couple.

 

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Living Out Loud by Christina Lee and Nyrae Dawn 4 Star Review!

Review:

Living Out Loud - Nyrae Dawn, Christina Lee

Ben Emerson has lived by his minister father’s rules most of his life. Born into an ultra-conservative church community, he’s finally brave enough to break free and move to San Francisco. Distancing himself certainly helps create a new mindset, but living as an openly gay man takes some getting used to. When he reaches out to Xavier, a childhood friend who lives in the city, Ben isn’t sure how he’ll respond given their thorny history. Ben hopes the familiar connection will help him right some wrongs as well as provide the solace he’s been craving. Xavier Ramos is who he is, and he doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks. Whether it’s eyeliner, nail polish, tattoos or his love of hooking up, he uses his body as a form of self-expression but doesn’t let anyone get too close. When Ben reenters his life, Xavier helps him experience the city and feel comfortable in his own skin. Seeing the world through Ben’s eyes, he begins to wonder if he’s also not living as freely as he thought. When Xavier challenges Ben’s beliefs about sex, it becomes explosive—for both of them. Xavier breaks apart Ben’s sheltered world and shows him what it’s like to live out loud. The more time they spend together, the more Xavier begins to long for Ben in a different way—one that both surprises and scares him. But real life doesn’t fade into the background, so when Ben’s past comes knocking, old habits are hard to break. Testing the foundation of their deepening connection will take a trust that will either bind them…or tear them apart.

 

Review

 

This is a sweet, tender, hot and healing romance featuring Ben from the Free Fall series and Xavier. 

They are both complex heroes who need a happily ever after and get one. This book looks at conversion therapy and its horrors while celebrating the joy of love and touch.

Very well written and moving.

 

 

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Tender Mercies (Men of Lancaster County, #2) by Eli Easton 4 Star Review!

Tender Mercies (Men of Lancaster County Book 2) by Eli Easton 4 Stars! 

Eddie Graber’s dream of a sanctuary for rescued farm animals was about to come true when his partner backed out at the last minute. Now Eddie risks losing the twenty-five acre property in Lancaster County—and all the hopes he held for it—before the project even gets off the ground. He needs help, he needs money, but most importantly, he needs to rediscover the belief in a higher purpose that brought him here in the first place.

Samuel Miller worked hard to fit into his Amish community despite his clubfoot. But when his father learns Samuel is gay, he is whipped and shunned. With just a few hundred dollars to his name, Samuel responds to an ad for a farmhand and finds himself employed by a city guy who has strange ideas about animals, no clue how to run his small farm, and a gentle heart.

Samuel isn’t the only lost soul to serendipitously find his way to Meadow Lake Farm. There’s Fred and Ginger, two cows who’d been living in a garage, a gang of sheep, and a little black pig named Benny who might be the key to life, love, money—and even a happily ever after for two castoffs.

Review

I was so excited for this book that I read it on the day it came out. And it lived up to my expectations.

This is a quiet sweet book about Samuel and Eddie. The heroes comes from very different walks of life and show each other a better way to be.

The love story between them is tender and wonderful. There are all sorts of curves snd detail that make this book great. It is a low angst book about series subjects. The animals, farm, setting and dialogue are great.

I do wish Samuel had gotten a little more time in coming terms with his faith and deeply changed way of life and an epilogue of greater length would have make me happy but this is a really wonderful romance.

I liked it even better than the first one in the series and can’t wait for the next one!

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.

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.