A MelanieM Review: Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating:   4.5 stars out of 5

 

In the wake of tragedy, SEAL Mark Whitley rushed stateside to act as guardian to his sister’s three young children. But a conflicting will could give custody to someone else—someone Mark remembers as a too young, too hot, wild party boy. Even after six years, Mark can’t shake the memory of his close encounter with Isaiah James, or face up to what it says about his own sexuality.

Isaiah’s totally over the crush that made him proposition Mark all those years ago. In fact, he’s done with crushing on the wrong men altogether. For now, he’s throwing himself into proving he’s the best person to care for his cousin’s kids. But there’s no denying there’s something sexy about a big, tough military man with a baby in his arms.

As the legal details get sorted out, their long-buried attraction resurfaces, leading to intimate evenings after the kids are tucked in. A forever future is within reach for all of them, if only Mark can find the courage he needs to trust Isaiah with his secrets—and his heart.

Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert is another heartwarming installment in her   Out of Uniform series that I just love.  If you asked me to name which of this author’s series is a favorite, I’d be hard pressed to name one because each has its own special elements that I adore and draw me back to them.  For her Out of Uniform series, Albert really captures both that sense of what it means to be a   part of the “military unit” with her tight knit group of SEALs and their families.   The author manages to convey their sense of duty to country, their drive to serve, the deep bonds between those that serve together, and yes, the stresses and the reality of what it means to be a part of the military today.

Along with the realism of military life, Annabeth Albert makes her stories delightfully inclusive, reflecting the fact that military today is as diverse as the society itself.  Couples are looking much like the ones you see staring back at you at bars, grocery stores and city streets everywhere…they are racially mixed, not just all white couples.   That’s especially true with Squared Away‘s main characters.  You have SEAL Mark Whitley and the younger (now grown up) man who’s been crushing on him since his teens, Isaiah James.  Among the many issues that crop up between them (age differences, perception of attitudes, stability,  etc), race isn’t one of them.  I liked that too.

Trust me this couple has enough to deal with as it is.  Young children left orphaned by drunk driving, revelations about who their parents really were, life adjustments, and then Mark having to rearrange how he sees Isaiah, now an adult and how he sees his own path in the military.  Getting one’s life ‘squared away’ is never an easy task, sometimes it takes a monumental sea change.  And that’s what happens to both men here.  The challenges each man faces in order to move forward towards their goals comes with frustrations here for them and for the reader who wants to shake them occasionally.

This is one emotional, heart felt ride of a story.  It’s typical of Annabeth Albert that we grieve with Isaiah and Mark and the kids, then we chart the growth of their relationship, the steps back and tiny steps forward.  We gnash our teeth in frustration over Mark’s inability to communicate and the consequences for all involved.  And because the writing and characters are so wonderful, we’ve taken them all to heart and we need to know all will be safe and together.  And love the ending so.

Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert has everything I’ve come to love and expect from this author and series.  A heartwarming story and romance, great characters, and a ending that left me smiling and feeling happy for hours.  Its why I am again recommending this series and this lovely story.  If you’re a Annabeth Albert fan, you’re already way ahead of me.

Cover art: is hot, relevant and wonderful.

Sales Links:   Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: April 16th 2018 by Carina Press
Original TitleSquared Away
ASINB0789LDCTR
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesOut of Uniform #5

A Stella Review: One Under (Porthkennack#9) by JL Merrow

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RATING 3,75 out of 5 stars

London Underground worker Mal Thomas is staying in Porthkennack to recover from a traumatic experience. Getting some more bad news from home is the last straw—until big, blond museum curator Jory Roscarrock steps up to offer some comfort.

A doctor of English Literature, Jory should be in a prestigious post at a top university. But a youthful indiscretion has led him to abandon academia to come back to his home town, Porthkennack, and the controlling family he’s never really felt a part of. He’s delighted to find a kindred spirit in the young Londoner.

But Jory’s family hurt Mal’s best friend deeply, and while Jory’s desperate to repair the damage, his own mistakes threaten to keep them apart. Meanwhile Mal’s torn between his feelings for Jory and his duty to his friend—and his fears that a failed relationship could be more than his shattered confidence can take.

As always, JL Merrow stories are a pleasure to read. With time I learnt to love his writing style and although once in a while I have to google some of her “oh so British” words, I approach every new release with high enthusiasm.  One Under was no exception, I found the novel perfectly written, amazing second characters, the romance part felt pretty realistic to me. I particularly liked how well delined were Jory and Mal, I was able to know them and their minds very well.  They (and all the cast) were positive persons, it was clear from their actions and their thoughts.

That said, I gave this story a lower rating than the first book the author wrote in the Porthkennack series , Wake Up Call, and her books in general. I have to say I am having trouble trying to understand why. The only explanations I can give is, while on an objective POV (mine) I can list you everything that works here in the novel, through all the reading I felt a sort of detachment from it and couldn’t truly feel and not just see the emotions. I know they were there into the plot, I read the characters feel that emotions. It was me the one who didn’t feel them. And to adore a book I need to be involved and engaged. I missed this.

Still, I can’t not recommend One Under and all JL Merrow titles.

The cover art by Garrett Leigh is nothing special, it fits and follows the series style but nothing more interesting about it.

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 281 pages

Published March 19th 2018 by Riptide Publishing (first published March 17th 2018)

ISBN 1626496862 (ISBN13: 9781626496866)

Edition Language English

A MelanieM Audiobook Review : I Heart Boston Terriers by Rick R. Reed and Tom Askin (Narrator)

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Love at first sight can work for dogs as well as humans.

When Aaron finds Mavis, an emaciated and timid Boston terrier, at a pet adoption fair, his heart goes out to her—irrevocably.

When Christian, who is manning the adoption fair for the Humane Society that fateful autumn Saturday, finds Aaron, his heart goes out to him—irrevocably.

I Heart Boston Terriers is all about embracing love, whether it’s for someone who walks on four legs, or someone who walks on two. The Boston terrier Mavis’ journey back to wholeness and finding her forever home runs parallel to the story of two men discovering one another at just that perfect moment—a moment that defies logic, propriety, and common sense.

But then when do the dictates of love follow a rational course?

Come along for a journey about a man and his dog and see how that journey teaches him the truth about love and making a caring connection that just might last a lifetime.

I have listened to other of Rick R Reed’s contemporary romances that had dogs at the heart of the stories and loved them so I was particularly looking forward to I heart Boston Terriers.  After all Reed’s own Lily is well known so I knew his affection for the breed and love for her would carry over into the story.  Which it did.

In fact, for me, Mavis is the most endearing character here and the one I connected with the most.  Everyone else I had an issue with, but Mavis?  Nope, absolutely loved and deeply care for this abused creature looking for her forever home who for better or worse ended up with Aaron and his sister (who I disliked the most) as a impulse adoption.

Ok, now see, all my dogs are rescues.  At adoption fairs here, minimum fees start at $250 not $75 but that could differ state by state.  There are home visits, all sorts of things to make sure that the people adopting the animals are a good fit.  Some of that comes across here, in that yes, they would have taken Mavis back (most rescue agencies will).  But sending a dog home with somebody who doesn’t have the means to support him?  And who is living with someone else?  Uh no.  Red flags all around.

I actually liked Aaron for realizing he wasn’t ready to adopt a dog but instead his sister pushed him into the adoption.  That sister.  Ok, honestly, this whole thing with Mavis would have ruined any relationship I would have had with that sister.  But some things just didn’t ring true.  She’s supposedly a “shoe whore” who overspends because she must have her designer shoes.  Got that.  But people that crazy over shoes handle them in certain ways.  Even in a one room apartment, those shoes are gods!  They buy even the poorest of shoe racks, keep them pristinely in their boxes, labeled.  I mean, honey, those are Jimmy Choos! Or Manolo Blahniks or whatever designer brands you  covet.  What you do not do?  Lay them on the floor for a traumatized dog to destroy.  Not in a million years.  Especially her favorites.  So she can overreact like a total horror of a sibling, throw out all sorts of dire threats, use the imbalance of power that should ruin any relationship permanently against her brother, and genuinely create a nightmare where none was needed.

A total turn off.

The relationship between Aaron and Christian didn’t strike as me as better because instead of helping Aaron, Christian seemed too busy trying to get into Aaron’s pants.  How about just helping Aaron and Mavis because they needed help?  What a novel idea.

So yes, Christian had a heart, volunteered at a rescue organization but he seemed to push his own agenda first.

Then there was that ending or lack of one for both Aaron and Mavis.  This is one book where  an epilogue was definitely called for.

Finally, there was the narration.  It was the first time I had listened to a story narrated by Tom Askin and I’m not sure I would do so again.  His narration and voices just didn’t work for me.  Combine that with a story that I was also having issues with and you come up with an audiobook I just can’t recommend.

If you love the writing of Rick R. Reed and dog stories, check out Lost and Found on audiobook and give this a pass.

Cover art: Reese Dante.  I loved this cover.  It, as well as the blurb, drew me to the story.  Heartwarming and perfect in every way.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | Audible | iTunes

Audiobook Details:

Listening Time: 1hr., 43 min.

Audible Audio, Unabridged, 2 pages
Published February 22nd 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published January 12th 2012)
ASINB079YB2QDT
Edition LanguageEnglish

RELEASE DAY BLITZ: Invitation to the Blues (Small Change #2) by Roan Parrish (excerpt and giveaway)

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Invitation to the Blues (Small Change #2)

Publisher: Monster Press

Release Date (Print & Ebook): March 28th, 2018

Length (Print & Ebook): About 81,000 words

Subgenre: Contemporary romance

Content warning: depression, suicide, thoughts of worthlessness, food issues

Links:

Kobo: http://bit.ly/2GdIBgN

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2EnDP3V

Ibooks: https://apple.co/2BFfDaM

Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/2C9aiJP

Angus & Robinson: http://bit.ly/2Cudrzz

Book blurb:

Eight months ago Jude Lucen fled his partner, his career, and a hospital in Boston after a suicide attempt. Now back in Philadelphia, he feels like a complete failure. Piano has always been his passion and his only escape. Without it, he has nothing. Well, nothing except a pathetic crush on the most gorgeous man he’s ever seen.

Faron Locklear came to Philly looking for a fresh start and has thrown himself into tattooing at Small Change. He’s only met Jude a few times, but something about the red-haired man with the haunted eyes calls to him. Faron is blown away by Jude’s talent. What he isn’t expecting is the electricity he feels the first time they kiss—and the way Jude’s needs in bed speak directly to his own deepest desires.

Jude and Faron fall fast and hard, but Jude has spent a lifetime learning that he can’t be what the people he loves need. So when the opportunity arises to renew his career in Boston, he thinks he has to choose: music, or Faron? Only by taking a huge risk—and finally believing he’s worthy of love just as he is—can he have the chance for both.

The Small Change series is set in the Middle of Somewhere universe and features crossover characters from that series. Each book can be read on its own.

Content warning: This book contains explicit discussion of depression, anxiety, attempted suicide, and feelings of worthlessness.

Excerpt:

My problem with Faron was that he was stunning.

He was tall and taut, with broad shoulders and an elegant neck. His tawny brown skin was flawless and he had dreamy, gray-brown eyes that always seemed to focus on something in a plane beyond this one. His riot of corkscrew curls was sometimes loose, but today was caught up in a topknot. It had been bleached nearly white when I first met him and was now growing out. His cheekbones were high and broad, casting shadows that made him look like he was candlelit from every angle. His mouth was lush and full, and his rare smiles turned his chiseled beauty to a warmth so engaging that you didn’t ever want him to look away from you.

His beauty was a problem because it made me want him and I hated wanting anything. Desire was the beginning of disappointment.

It wasn’t just his looks, though. I could’ve handled that. I’d known a lot of beautiful people.

No, it was everything.

He was graceful and forceful at the same time. His focus was intense, whether it was on the things that only he saw or on whoever he was listening to. And he made me feel calm—as if he held the whole world in his hands and slowed it down or sped it up to whatever speed I was going.

It was intoxicating: a promise of peace as long as I was in his presence.

A hope.

And hope was even worse than desire.

About Roan Parrish:

Roan Parrish lives in Philadelphia, where she is gradually attempting to write love stories in every genre.

When not writing, she can usually be found cutting her friends’ hair, meandering through whatever city she’s in while listening to torch songs and melodic death metal, or cooking overly elaborate meals. She loves bonfires, winter beaches, minor chord harmonies, and self-tattooing. One time she may or may not have baked a six-layer chocolate cake and then thrown it out the window in a fit of pique.

Connect with Roan:

website | newsletter | twitter | facebook | goodreads | instagram | pinterest

Rafflecopter code to win 2 e-copies of any back catalog book by Roan Parrish:

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Blog Tour for Bones of Belief (The Chronicles of Darius #13) by Jess Thomas (excerpt)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Bones of Belief (The Chronicles of Darius, Book 13)

Author: Jess Thomas

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Jess Thomas

Genre/s: M/M Romance

Length:  111,215 words/645 pages

Release Date: March 1, 2018

Goodreads 

Blurb

The Jewel has many protectors and a large family, but it still isn’t complete. Trend, a white wizard, is in limbo and can be seen only by Vega, Enif, and Darius. Dorian, one of the newest clan members, can only hear him and none of them are able to tell anyone else about him. Darius knows he needs Trend to help complete the family and fulfill his destiny. He desperately wants to have him home, but there is a major problem, Hippson’s timeline. Meanwhile, Trend’s mate, Grendolin, has searched everywhere he knows in order to find him, including some very dark places, with no luck, but he never lost hope, never lost his belief that he will be with his true mate one way or another.

Can Darius beat the timeline? Must he follow the wishes of those in power who think they know better?

Darius’s quest of self-discovery continues as his talents grow to astounding proportions. Even the mighty Hippson and Bunthar don’t know what to make of Darius’s abilities or what the dreaded timeline holds for the Jewel, his mate, and the rest of the clan.

Become part of Darius’s clan and share his continuing journey in Bones of Belief.

Excerpt

For so long, I’d seen myself looking like a gray and leathery alien. In fact, I’ve seen myself looking like this since I was nineteen when I was part of a distant nightmare simply called The Pits. There, Cold Ones lived alongside dark wizards and all manner of evil things that destroyed planets for their own needs. Cold Ones enjoyed destroying anyone with strength and just for the sake of killing generally.

Although the Eiravian people were more advanced, they had sent me to a time on Earth when we lived and died by the sword, where gladiators and slaves had the misfortune to be simply entertainment. My appearance had drifted away to the point that I didn’t know it anymore. Now I tended to look at my appearance as I walked down the hall, the man who walked in the mirror’s reflection wasn’t someone I knew. It had been a long, long time since I’d seen who I really am. I was skinny, but the muscles and weight were coming back on, and the peach skin of my brothers and sisters had replaced the gray skin. My leathery appearance had disappeared in my reflection. The only thing that seemed the same was my blue eyes that appeared to glow power and a large scruffy beard.

Sometimes as I was walking down the hallway, I’d step backward and then forward, to actually see if my appearance stayed the same in the mirrors. The spell was breaking, and we would soon celebrate Finnal’s birthday. I always asked him what he wanted, and he’d always reply he got what he wanted. Therefore, this year I was going to give him what he asked for…me.

Buy Links – Available on KU

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

About the Author 

Author Bio: Jess Thomas was born in the mid-west and she has a natural love for nature and animals. A gentle creature born to loving parents who believed in seeing the world for all its beauty, she learned the imperfections in life were something to be treasured and seen as a learning experience. An artist from an early age, she went to art school where she got a degree in drawing and painting, photography, and in Art Education. In 2009 she laid down her paintbrush and she picked up writing and channeling her creative energy in a fresh direction. A new writer, she pours sensitivity and her love of the world she has created into her emotions and the characters who live there.

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