A Lucy Prerelease Review : Love & Tea Bags (Pink Rock Series #1) by C.F. White

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Fate can be written in a tea bag too. 

Mark Johnson is hitting his forties and is stuck in a rut. 

He’s had the same boring office job for ten years, with no motivation or inclination to change it. The same crumbling house for ten years, with no cash or know-how to fix it. And the same Facebook status for five years—it’s complicated. It isn’t. He’s single. He just doesn’t want to correct it. That would be admitting defeat. 

The day a tea bag splats onto his face whilst he’s emptying the dregs of his morning cuppa at Macy’s Tea Shoppe is the one that makes him question each of his current life choices…the tea bag and that the shop is currently being run by one rather friendly, rather hunky, but rather young Australian named Bradley Summers. 

Tea has never tasted so good. The very best part of this book Mark’s inner musings.  He is pretty much a mess – stuck in a job that is going nowhere, in a house that is falling apart around his ears, listening to a mother who is just vile, and really only having one really good thing he can depend on.  Tea.  “Tea.  There was the answer to everything.  Everything.”  It is this good thing that leads him to Macy’s Tea Shoppe, owned by his one real friend in the world, Macy. 
“Macy was possibly the only one in Mark’s life who seemed to accept him for who he was.” He is 39 and sometimes talks like he is 79.  “…services we have to offer such a young whippersnapper like yourself.”

When he finds out his roof has to be fixed and he doesn’t have the money to do so, he sets off for Macy’s to drown his sorrows in tea.  After basically venting his spleen to Macy in the back of the shop, it turns out the one listening isn’t Macy, but her young cousin, Bradley.  Bradley, the Australian Adonis who is covering for Macy while she is with her parents and who happens to be a stripper.  A 21-year-old free spirit stripper.  The Adonis who forgets to take the tea bag out of the cup he serves Mark, which splats onto Mark’s face.  And so they meet.

Most of the story is Mark trying to find reasons why he can’t be with Bradley, why Bradley doesn’t really want to be with him, why friends only is the way to go and how he can ignore the longings of his own heart.  Someone has done a real number on Mark and he has lost all self confidence and sense of self worth. 

Bradley is sunny, sweet and YouTube famous as a stripper.  He believes in reading tea leaves, of all things and he is all about adventure and living life to the fullest. He is also in England short term.  Mark doesn’t want to have anything with Bradley.  Especially when he remembers Bradley is Macy’s cousin.  It’s complicated.

Some times Mark just made me laugh.  His fear sent him to the attic of his house to confront some old ghosts, after having sex with Bradley.  “It seemed for the second time that evening he was going to enter into a hole that scared the utter crap out of him.”

As secondary characters, Macy is really supportive and likeable but Damian steals the show. He and Mark have a physical history but now are just friends and Damian is a good one.  He styles Mark to get him out of the frump and pushes him to understand how good he is.  I really hope Damian gets a story, he deserves one. 

Mark’s parents are complicated beings, Dad lost all their money gambling in a mid-life crisis and Mom does whatever necessary to maintain appearances.  One of the most poignant scenes I’ve read in recent times is Mark’s conversation with his dad about dad’s regrets.  It was so heart breaking.

The ending is very rom-com and was very sweet and funny, if over the top.

Cover art is really pretty spot on with the blond Adonis and the tea loving Mark.

Sales Links Pre Order:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 307 pages
Expected publication: July 16th 2019 by Pride Publishing
ISBN13 9781786517951
Edition Language English

A Lucy Release Day Review: Why We Fight (At First Sight #4) by T.J. Klune

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Corey Ellis sure doesn’t. Oh, everyone around him seems to have found their happy ending, but he’s far too busy to worry about such things. He’ll have plenty of time for romance after he survives his last summer before graduation. So what if he can’t get his former professor, Jeremy Olsen, out of his head? It’s just hero worship. And that’s the way it should stay.

Except that this summer, bigender Corey—aka Kori—is interning at Phoenix House, a LGBTQI youth center that recently hired an interim director. And because life is extraordinarily unfair, the director just so happens to be a certain former professor, now current boss.

Desperate to keep things professional as he and Jeremy grow closer, Corey makes a major mistake: he turns to his friends, Paul Auster and Sanford Stewart, for help.

But Paul and Sandy have some ideas of their own.

Set in the summer of 2016, Why We Fight is a celebration of queer life and being true to oneself… no matter the cost.

What makes me so very sad about this book is that it finishes up the At First Sight series and I will miss it so much.  One of my all time favorite books is Tell Me It’s Real and Paul Auster is the character I would love to be.  That book is a re-read and re-listen often, I’d give it ten stars if I could.  Sandy’s story, The Queen and the Homo Jock King, is a solid 5.  Until You, Vince and Paul’s wedding story, another solid 5.  I was eagerly awaiting Kori/Corey’s story.  I have to put it out there that I never read Bear/Otter stories so I was not introduced to Kori/Coery until this series. 

Kori/Corey is a social work student living with Sandy who is a little more serious than the others,  making this story a little more serious but not overly so. Kori/Corey is interning at Phoenix House, a center for LGBTQ kids and when the book begins is desperately missing Sandy and Darren, who are in Vegas and Paul and Vince, on their honeymoon. What I love most about this series is these people, from Nana to Charlie to Matty and Larry to the guys themselves (Paul, Vince, Darren, Sandy and Kori/Corey) are hardcore there for each other.  They fold Jeremy and his dad, Robert, into the mess with little fanfare.  They are sarcastic as hell, biting at times, sappy and smoopy rarely but they love shines through.   “Hi, Kori, Vince said happily, squeezing me so tightly my back cracked.  We came back from our honeymoon early! Sandy said you were sad, and I know how much you like it when I hug you, so here I am.”  Vince…I forget how much I adore him.

I was definitely laughing here and often.  Jeremy’s love of Coldplay and forcing others to realize they are listening to Coldplay in his sorority whore’s yellow Jeep gave me the best visual ever.  Nana, who isn’t anything like my gramma but is definitely what I want to be when I grow up, taking Kori/Corey for a their first massage, “Enya was shrieking through the speakers overhead.  The lit candles smelled like lemon-flavored ass” was a highlight.  “There was a piano player. And candles on the table.  Oh my god, old people on romantic dates was my new kink.”

Jeremy is the son of Charlie’s beau, Robert.  He is also the former professor of Kori/Corey and subject of her/his mad crush.  It doesn’t help that Jeremy is now the boss at Phoenix House and is also Hot Jogger Guy, which I found hysterical that Sandy recognizes no face when the bits are bouncing.  And finding out Jeremy is the year’s Mr. Leatherman?  “I needed to articulate exactly how I was feeling.  “Blargh,” I said.  “Urgh. Marf.”  Perfect.  That about summed it up.”

But more than anything, the book is about being true to who you are and what it takes sometimes to get there. Jeremy and Robert are lonely and being enfolded into this family is miraculous.  Being accepted for yourself is miraculous.   Being suited up in leather to spy on Mr. Leatherman?  Glorious.  There is a heavier feel to this book than the others and the message isn’t lost amongst the humor.  The fight for acceptance got harder in 2016, the book is set, with the inauguration of a truly horrific president and this is made clear here.

But the overlying message is hope and love.  Having friends, loving people and making sure the ones you love know it and are cared for.

Oh and the flash mob?  Perfection.

The cover art by Reese Dante, Kori/Corey in some sexy heels, is absolutely perfect.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 350 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
Original TitleWhy We Fight
ASINB07NDFWSKC
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series At First Sight #4
Characters Corey/Kori Ellis, Paul Auster, Vince Taylor, Sanford “Sandy” Stewart, Darren Mayne, Jeremy Olsen

 

At First Sight Series:

Tell Me It’s Real

The Queen & the Homo Jock King

Until You

Why We Fight

A Lucy Review: Shrewd Angel (The Christmas Angel #6) by Anyta Sunday

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Pax Polo is the swashbuckling guitarist for Serenity Free.

Correction: Was the swashbuckling guitarist for Serenity Free.

Now he sports a black eye and his bros have kicked him out of their band—three weeks before Christmas. It’s an unfamiliar kick to his over-inflated ego, but . . . whatever.

No problem.

Thanks to some stellar eavesdropping, an unexpected angel ornament, and a bribe to open for his favorite band ever, Pax will weasel his way back into his mates’ good graces.

All he has to do is friend Clifford, the neighborhood man-shrew, for the summer. Distract him a bit so Clifford’s younger sister can sneak around.

It sounds like a piece of beginners Beethoven. Jolly good fun.

Easy.

Because, Pax totally knows how to friend people. He has heaps of friends. This shrew’s no match for his shrewd ways. Or is he?

I don’t know what my issue was but it took me multiple tries to get this book started.  It says to be loosely based on the Taming of the Shrew.  I feel ignorant to admit I’ve never read that, so for me this was an all new experience. 

This is part of a series of books connected by the Christmas Angel.  They are stand-alone, so no need to worry about missing anything.  In this one, Pax is a guitarist and he’s just been ousted from his band, mainly because he acts like a jerk. But he has a plan – he’s just going to get on the good side of Clifford, the crabby neighbor, so that his sister, Biance, who is 17, can go out with two men, Henry (a neighbor) and Luca (Pax’s roommate).  Both of whom I really liked, just by the way.  Clifford is a pretty protective big brother and this is the only way Bianca can get around her brother.  A carrot dangled by Henry makes Pax jump at the chance.

You just know between Pax’s sharp tongue and Clifford’s even sharper one, there’s going to be some excellent back and forth happening, and it does.  “If you love him, he’ll always be in your heart.  If you hate him, he’ll always be in your mind.”  I loved that line.  Clifford isn’t the grump or nag he can seem and he has his reasons for being protective.   Pax is charming, yes, but he’s also more fragile than he appears.  When they start to turn from enemies, to friends, to (slowly) more, you really see how they are made to fit together.  We get to see Pax grow up some and Clifford unthaw a lot.

I am a fan of Anyta Sunday’s work and this one, while not my favorite of hers, has her signature style, humor, snark, banter, wit, all of the above.  I would recommend this one for holiday fans and enemies to lovers fans. 

Cover art by Meredith Russell shows Pax and his guitar set against a golden background and captures the holiday feel.  I only wish Pax had been smiling, because he’s really not such a serious person.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

ebook, 293 pages
Published December 2nd 2018
Edition Language English
Series The Christmas Angel #6

The Christmas Angel Series

Christmas Angel – Eli Easton – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Summerfield’s Angel – Kim Fielding – Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Magician’s Angel – Jordan L. Hawk – Amazon US | Amazon UK
A Soldier’s Wish – N.R. Walker – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Shrewd Angel – Anyta Sunday – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Christmas Prince – RJ Scott- Amazon US | Amazon UK

A Lucy Release Day Review: The Kinsey Scale (Campus Connections #1) by CJane Elliott

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Life is good for Eric Brown. He’s a senior theater major, an RA for a freshman dorm, and has a great circle of friends. Single since sophomore year, Eric isn’t looking for love. But then Will Butler—fellow senior, co-RA, and the cutest guy Eric’s ever seen—walks into his dorm. Will has a girlfriend he sees off campus—a minor disappointment that becomes a major problem when a housing shortage causes Will and Eric to become roommates, and Eric is forced to witness Will’s hotness day in and day out. For protection, Eric asks Jerry, his ex-boyfriend, to pretend they’re still together. Jerry warns him it’s a stupid idea, but he reluctantly agrees.

Too bad it won’t save Eric from losing his heart.

Will Butler has never believed in himself. His dysfunctional family saw to that. Although Will has loved music since childhood, he’s never seriously considered pursuing it, and the person he’s dating doesn’t encourage him. Then he and Eric Brown become roommates, and everything changes. Eric believes in Will and his talent. He’s also gorgeous and playful and fast becoming Will’s best friend. And that’s not good, because Will is hiding some big things, not only from Eric, but from himself.

This novella (89 pages) does a good job of making me like both Eric and Will.  They are co-RA in a freshman dorm who, by some overcrowding of the college, end up having to room together.  The fact that Eric initially takes Will for a freshman and then has a little meltdown about it, “Uh, don’t take it personally.  I’m a drama queen on my best days” show how laid back Will is.  So it shouldn’t be a hardship for them to share a room, right? 

Together, they make a great RA team and they take it seriously.  They also get to be friends, even as Eric has a crush he hides due to Will having a girlfriend, Jesse, that he visits every weekend.  Will’s Texas drawl, his musical talent and his sense of humor all work together to make Eric fall even more.  In desperation, he calls on his friend and former boyfriend, Jerry, to act as his current boyfriend.  Jerry is a doll and with some bribery, agrees.  I have to say I loved both Jerry and Tyrone and hopefully they will be getting stories as well but I didn’t really see the point of the fake boyfriend being thrown in there.

“Only you could get three flaming queens like me, Jerry and Tyrone to have brunch in a sports bar.”  That’s the power of the likeability of Will.  As they get to know each other more, Eric is fighting his attraction, Will is spending less time with Jesse and more time with Eric, and we have the lovely Jerry there being awesome. Jerry is actually the one who tries to tell Eric that straight or not, Will has a thing for Eric. Which of course Eric doesn’t believe. A discussion about the Kinsey scale turns Eric’s preconceptions around a bit.

Since it is just a novella, there are things I wish had been fleshed out more.  Will’s right-wing, Trump supporting, homophobic, alcohol loving family is mentioned but no real background is given.  I’d loved to have known the why’s of the music vs economics in more detail.  This isn’t insta-love because they take their time becoming friends but I’d loved to have had more.  Just more.  That aside, I liked this one very much and I hope the series continues.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas. The cover was a little off for me.  It shows a shirtless man (Eric?) peeking out what appears to be a shower door as another man (Will?) is studying.  I didn’t get it – Will isn’t overly studious in the book, at least no more than Eric is – and Eric doesn’t flaunt himself throughout.  So was kind of a miss.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 89 pages
Expected publication: November 9th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ASINB07HPD6Z82

Series Campus Connections #1

A Lucy Release Day Review: Handle With Care by Cari Z

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 Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Aaron McCoy is a social worker who gives too much to his job.  In an attempt to keep other kids safe from what he went through as a child, he works himself nearly sick. “Aaron knew all too well how it felt to be ignored by your case worker.”  He is always ahead of schedule with his paperwork and answers the call to help at any time.  It gets to the point where his boss, Pam, forces him to take a vacation before he burns out completely.   Mandatory time off and no checking emails.  It just might kill him. 

Luckily, he has his best friend, Tyler, to be there with an idea.  Aaron has received an invitation to his little brother Zach’s wedding.  The brother he hasn’t seen in fifteen years.  The brother who was “…young and cute and well-behaved for his foster parents…” and ended up being adopted by Chrissy, “I wish I could take you too” and doesn’t that make not one bit of difference to a hurting 13-year-old losing his family.   My heart hurt for him, especially since the reason his brother was so good was because Aaron took care of him when their mom didn’t, couldn’t and wouldn’t.  He’d have to see Chrissy too.  “To my brother’s wedding? To the house of the woman who decided she didn’t want to take me but who had no problem taking my little brother?”  But Tyler is persuasive – a road trip!  The fact that Aaron has secretly longed for Tyler might make the trip uncomfortable, but Aaron can handle it.

Tyler is lovely.  He is silly, enthusiastic and totally on Aaron’s side.  He brings a garbage bag filled with snacks for a fairly short road trip, has dumb car games all ready for them to play until Aaron threatens him if he looks away from the road to see another license plate, and he’s just there for Aaron.  He also has stalked Zach online in order to know more about Aaron.  “I’d never make you share something you don’t want to. But you can’t blame me for lookin’ for clues wherever I could find them.”

I have to admit even though Zach wanted Aaron to stay at Chrissy’s, I think it would have been kinder for him to stay at a hotel and have a place to escape.  It’s so uncomfortable for him, especially when Chrissy talks of how well she cared for Zach and Zach is talking of what a great mom she is.  Things that Aaron didn’t have.  Add in that one of Zach’s groomsmen, Owen, is a nasty homophobic jerk.  I couldn’t understand if Zach was such a good person he could allow someone like that around him, let alone allow the things he said to Aaron and Tyler. “What, fairies can’t hear now?” was one of the tamer things.  Yes, Zach did the “knock it off” thing to Owen, but that didn’t stop it and I was furious at them both.  It was lucky that the bride-to-be, Becky, wasn’t going to take that.  Zach and his “He didn’t mean anything by it” did not fly with her.  There is also a giant surprise that Zach didn’t mention to Aaron that again made me want to smack him.  Obviously, I wasn’t a big Zach fan.

Tyler is there for all of it.  “Weren’t you listenin’?  You put everybody else first.  I’m the only one’ll put you first.” Thank Pete Aaron has someone like that in his corner.  They are such great friends and I was pulling for them to be more.  “We’re still family.”  And that was the family that Aaron needed.  We get to see the slow transformation and it was a great thing.  Aaron makes progress as well, facing some things from his past and showing his strength.  “So I’m glad to hear you say it, but I think it’s probably more important for you to apologize than for me to be apologized to.”

Much as I loved Tyler and Aaron and Becky, the winning character here is Becky’s grandmother.  I can only say that I want to grow up to be here.  She reminded me so much of my favorite female character ever, Nana from Until You. I give a huge thank you to Cari Z for putting that firecracker in there.  “The only attraction they garnered was from Grandma, where she was dancing with a trapped-looking Owen on the dance floor.  “You get you some, honey!”  She’s not in there a lot but the time she is there count.

This is not only a friends to lovers story but it’s a story of healing from the things that might have broken you and moving forward. It was sweet and lovely. 

Cover art by Alexandria Corza shows Aaron set against a background of the road and trees.  It is simple but fit the story.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 194 pages
Expected publication: October 16th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640804463
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lucy Release Day Review: Q*pid by Xavier Mayne

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

I had a difficult time trying to decide how to review this because I loved some of it and I didn’t love some of it.  Let’s see if I can come up with a coherent explanation. Veera, a very intelligent woman, has come up with a new way of artificial intelligence.  She has designed a system, dubbed Archer, that will look past the typical “get to know you questions” of online dating and really look at you to find your perfect match.  This means allowing Archer access to everything you do online (a security nightmare no matter what they say and it made my skin crawl) to see what you actually are interested in, not what you say you are.  I did have to laugh when we see the chosen people clicking like on puppies and babies and kittens just to make a “cute” presence online known.  Tut, tut, boys, Archer is smarter than that.

So we have Fox, the only one of his friends still unattached, who has a standard email rejection letter for women he dates who don’t make the number criteria in the spreadsheet he has, which is the most bizarre thing.  “Numbers of attempts to pay the dinner check, and height of heels in inches, and number of visible piercings, and done.” He’s rejected women he likes this way and so is still alone.  So the novelty of the Q*Pid trial appeals to him.

Then we have Drew, a quiet, shy, adorable grad student who has an unlikely bestie in Mrs. Schwartzmann but seems to attract the strangest of women.  On seeing his coffee table, his last date “As soon as she stepped into my apartment and saw it, she kind of freaked out.  She said something about how cheap coffee tables are a product of third-world sweat shops and she leapt on top of it and started stomping on it.”  This did not stop him from sleeping with her but relationship wise, it’s a no.  Drew also signs up for the Q*Pid trial, hoping to meet someone a little less chaotic. 

When the app goes live, it begins pairing people up.  Both Fox and Drew are astonished to find out Archer has matched them.  Has to be a mistake, neither one has ever been attracted to men before.  Veera is nervous but she’s also sort of ticked because Ross, one of the team members, is a total naysayer.  He questions why anyone would voluntarily give them access to everything online (I also questioned the same thing) and he is 100% positive this will not only fail but bring lawsuits as well.  The day it goes live, he studies his phone, “Just checking to see whether the first violation of privacy suits has been filed yet.”

Secondary characters, Fox’s friend Chad and particularly Mrs Schwartzmann are likeable and loyal.  Mrs. Schwartzmann, with her saving food and water for doomsday, made me smile.  She is supportive of Drew and he of her, it was a sweet relationship. “Entirely without warning, Drew heard her voice in his head, “I cannot be anything other than what I am.”   This is when Drew decides to be completely honest about his profile (and the fact that he watches porn). This actually took a lot of courage because as soon as he decides to watch porn, the laptop camera comes on.  Seems kinky. He is matched with someone who seems perfect and it is to Mrs Schwartzmann he admits, “She was exactly what I thought I wanted, and yet she turned out to be not at all what I wanted.”  And here we go.  I’ll just say, Mrs. Schwartzmann’s response made me want to hug her.

Chad is Fox’s best friend and he’s there for him, trying to make Fox see what is in front of him.  I felt bad for Fox at one point, as he is talking about the group that used to go to the diner together and slowly dwindled down to just him as people paired off.  “I hate to be the one to break it to you, but we didn’t stop hanging out every night.  We stopped hanging out.” Chad, though, is supportive, funny, ridiculous and ridiculously in love with his wife.  Both Chad and Mrs Schwartzmann were winners for me.

Back to Fox and Drew. Despite the shock of being paired with a man, they end up meeting and hit it off so well they decide being friends is exactly what they need.   They are both lonely, Fox with all his money and Drew with all his academics.  They are also both caught being real in front of their laptop cameras, meaning Archer sees.  “Why can’t I find the right person and fall in love?” made me want to hug Drew.  They are worlds apart financially.  Fox lives in a penthouse and drives a BMW, Drew is a grad student.  “My people eat ramen twenty-nine times out of thirty.”

We get to see the building of a true friendship with Drew and Fox, as they get to know each other, swim in the river of denial and yet keep coming back to each other for hanging out, cause obviously these are not dates.

I wanted to know what happened with Miyoko, as this was a big thing for Fox and it really wasn’t addressed.  I wanted to hug Drew for really putting himself out there more than once, even when Fox was being an idiot.  When Fox is so in denial and just keeps looking for that “perfect woman”, Drew is a little broken hearted but he’s open to the fact that what he thought about himself may not be complete. When Fox is matched with his “perfect woman”, a score in the high 90s, (Drew and Fox have a 99.5 compatibility rating), he is appalled to realize that it wasn’t at all what he wanted.  He was bored, he was twitchy and he felt like he was sitting with his sister.  Luckily, she agreed.  Sometimes what we think we want isn’t what we need.

I liked this book immensely.  The writing was strong, although there were a few times I had to look up an unfamiliar word.  I appreciated that finding out you are not as clear on your sexuality as you always thought you were wasn’t a simple thing to deal with.  Did I want to slap Fox with his response to Drew at one point?  You bet, I was SO pissed at him.  Naked wrestling took care of Fox’s idea that Drew was female.  I loved that scene. 

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a slow burn, sort of “what are we doing” type of story with likeable secondary characters and MC that, especially in the case of Drew, you are really pulling for.

Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas.  Its ok.  Obviously a hard concept to get across and this is a cute cover, bright and eye catching.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 310 pages
Expected publication: August 28th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781640802292
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lucy Review: Challenging Chance (Love Letters #3) by Anyta Sunday

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

In this third installment of the Love Letters series, I was thoroughly prepared to hate Chance, and not give him a chance, so to speak.  He was so dreadful to Landon in book 2, Begging Ben, that I just couldn’t see a way that he could be redeemed.  I underestimated Ms Sunday because by the end of this book I loved him. 

Chance is a poor little rich boy who is surrounded by hangers-on who just want him to foot the bill for everything, a father who has never been proud of him, a perfect brother who can do no wrong, and people who are willing to sell him out for cash.  He has never been able to come out as bisexual because he knows that will be one more nail on the coffin in his father’s regard.

The book starts with an epic fail on the part of Chance, who brings a completely inappropriate date, Bunny Sparkelz, to his brother’s engagement party.  The unfortunate date is not only highly criticized by Chance’s father but also manages to sink Chance’s Lamborghini into the pool.   Not only that but he finds out that his personal assistant has been paid to spill all the dirt on Chance to his father. Well, then, can only go up from there, right? 

Chance is a basketball player who’s teammates all take advantage of him and use him. He’s really only had one friend in his life, Landon, and he slept with him over the course of a week and then tossed him out,  so that relationship is over. “Landon might have his life together but he didn’t want Chance anywhere near it just in case he messed it up again.  Another relationship he’d screwed up …”   Dad threatens to cut Chance off and insists Chance plan his brother’s rehearsal dinner. 

I was already feeling sympathy for Chance by this time because he really does want to be a better person and he just wants his father to be proud of him but “No matter how closely Chance followed in Danny’s footsteps, he always pissed his dad off rather than amused him.”  Funny enough, Danny is the younger son.  Usually it is the other way around.  Chance is trying and getting nowhere.  “He needed to mature. Not only for the money –he had no skills to afford his lifestyle on his own- but for one look of pride from his dad.” 

Since Chance has fired his PA for spilling to dad, he ends up hiring (sort of against his will) Brook.  Brook has to convince Chance to hire him, mainly because Chance is worried what he will do when faced with a handsome man day in and day out.  Can’t be bi, remember, or dad will be upset.  “Brook reminded him of his ex-friend Landon – and the one week Chance had given in to what his body craved.”

Brook knows something about mistakes and wanting to be a better person.  He’s made his share of them, some big, and he’s trying to make up for them.  He has a secret but he needs this job and he will work hard to make it happen. And he does.  He is so good for Chance, seeing through the “friends” who step all over Chance and he sees the Chance that is inside.  Brook tries to do what is good for Chance.  Chance is a vegetarian and Brook’s first effort at cooking for him ends up a disgusting soupy mash, Chance still realizes it was the effort that the kindest thing.  “It’s been so long since he appreciated how hard others died.  When Landon had been there for him, he’d taken it for granted.  He scooped up the mash and brought it to his lips.”  He’s growing, our boy.

He broke my heart, Chance did, and I was cheering on Brook to help.  “Brook had walked in on Chance in bed, tossing a ball towards the ceiling. Up and down, the telltale sounds of a wheezed sob.”  I admit, I was super ticked at dad, expecting the worst always and in one case, moving out the mansion to a bigger one and only taking Danny with him, leaving Chance to his money and lonely huge house.

Chance does everything he can to not give in to what he feels for Brook.  He keeps him a secret and fights everything he feels. He hurts Brook multiple times.  “Brook’s shoulders dropped as he lurched for the door.  Chance hated that he was disappointing another person in his life.”  But it takes time to grow as a person, to realize that you are worthy of being happy and living your own life.  Chance is working on it and Brook helps. I loved getting to see it.

The ending is sweet and perfect, just what I would have wished for these two.

Cover art by Natasha Snow continues the pattern of the others in the series, a colorful background (this one in shades of orange) with the MC on the front, in this case Chance, looking cocky.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 151 pages
Published July 29th 2018
ASINB07G1612KH
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLove Letters #3

Admiring Ash
Begging Ben
Challenging Chance

A Lucy Review: Nobody Else’s by Nell Iris

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Beckett’s best friend, Matt, comes from a big family.  As in, a really big one with eleven children.  Matt is the oldest and his younger brother, Levi, is three years his junior.  Levi is also the focus of Beckett’s crush. “I’d had a crush on him for years, but he was Matt’s little brother, and besides…what would he see in someone like me?”  Beckett is a bit of a bear, hairy with a chubby belly.  When he sees Levi, he “…pulled in my stomach and sat a little straighter.  Not that it helped.  My belly couldn’t be hidden.” 

In a family of loud people, Levi is the exception.  While everyone else is yelling over each other to be heard, he is quiet.  He is a tech wizard, nearly dropping out of high school to open his business (though parents put the stop to that).  His business is very successful and he lives in an apartment over the garage at his parent’s, helping out financially and with the siblings, particularly the Hell Sisters, twins age 5. 

The story is told in back and forth first person point of view from both Levi and Beckett.  This is something I always appreciate as I like to know the why of what each person does, says and how they react.  It begins with Matt and Beckett meeting for a meal and Beckett is surprised by the arrival of Levi.  I was a little surprised at Matt’s behavior – when Beckett reads a horoscope (which is racy, gay and funny) from a website, Matt is shocked.  “It’s a site for gay people.”  Because Beckett is bisexual and his last partner was female, Matt thought, well now he’s straight.  Which is sad considering Levi is gay, but they call him out on it.

I loved reading the horoscopes, one for each chapter.  First it was surprising and then they were funny.  You can see where it’s going early but that didn’t detract from them at all. That’s the kind of horoscope I would read!

The story is sweet with very little angst, if any.  Beckett is a serious Harry Potter fan, which I enjoyed, being one myself.  Beckett is an accountant and offers to help Levi with his business accounting and that’s how the courtship begins.

“Levi: Why would you offer something that valuable to me?

Beckett: Because you always help everyone else. It’s time someone has your back.” 

Like I said, sweet.  There is quite often mentioning of how each thinks the other is so cute and so kind.   I liked that when Levi talks to Matt about asking Beckett out, Matt gives the “don’t hurt my friend” speech to Levi, rather than to Beckett about Levi.  Their first date is an amazing one and shows how much Levi understands Beckett.

The book is very relationship focused, with little outside plot. We get insights into both Levi’s and Beckett’s families.  I liked this book but be warned that at times it is very sugary.

Cover art, depicting both Levi and Beckett, was pretty close to what I imagined they would look like.

Book Details:

ebook
Published June 30th 2018 by JMS Books, LLC
ISBN139781634866712
Edition LanguageEnglish

A Lucy Review: Face the Music (Replay #1) by K.M. Neuhold

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Rating: 4  stars out of 5

Trigger warnings:  Suicide attempt, self-harm.

I have to start out by saying I’m probably in the minority about my rating on this one but I will explain why.  Lincoln and Jace have been friends since they were kids, spending summers together at their family’s cabins by the lake.  They were best friends who, at age 15, realized they could be something more.  And so they were best friends and boyfriends, eagerly awaiting the time they could be together all the time and not just in the summer.  As they approached time to go to college, they made promises to each other and planned their future.  The problem is, Lincoln didn’t keep those promises,  instead ghosting Jace after a night spent together and never contacting him again.  No note, no communication until Lincoln’s band makes it big with a song, Cherry Hill, written by Lincoln about his love affair with Jace, putting it out for the world.  Brutal.

Ten years have passed and Lincoln and his band, Downward Spiral, are immensely successful and popular.  They are also falling apart, at each other’s throats and Lincoln especially is doing just that – downward spiraling.  Lincoln doesn’t care about anything, struggling to get through the day.  He’s had a suicide attempt fairly recently and when the band manager finds him passed out on the balcony in freezing weather, it’s time to do something.  The band takes a hiatus and Lincoln goes to the only place he’s felt really happy, that cabin by the lake.  “What was I thinking, coming here to torture myself with memories of the love I threw away?”

Providentially, Jace, an epidemiologist, has also decided to spend some vacation time at his parents’ cabin by the lake.  The two run into each other at the grocery story for the first time in ten painful years and it made sense to me that Jace was angry.  Ten years you’ve suffered because the love of your life just disappeared, never to contact you again, making money off the song of your pain, until an accidental meeting.  The blurb talks about Jace hating him but I just felt like Jace gave into Linc a little too easily.  He had the advice from his awesome brother, Joel, and his best friend, Wyatt, to use this time to get closure on Linc but he almost immediately starts hanging out with Linc and then sleeping with him.  He doesn’t give his trust easily but them even hanging out and sleeping together just seemed too quick for someone who’s life was nearly destroyed by the pain of his love leaving.

The story is told in alternating first person point of view, so we get the insights of both Lincoln and Jace.  This was so helpful in really connecting with the characters and as a reader I appreciated getting the thought processes they had going on.  This is an emotional story with some heavy baggage on Lincoln’s side particularly and some incredibly difficult feelings for them to work through. When they play video games, loser has to tell a truth, it was the start, really. 

“I wrote more songs about you, but I never showed them to a label because I didn’t want to share them with the world.”

“You didn’t have a problem with that first one.  I mean, Jesus, Linc, you talk about the first time we…” Jace shakes his head and clenches his jaw.

“I know, and I wished I hadn’t as soon as we started recording. But they wouldn’t let me back out. I felt like I gave away a piece of us when I let the world have that song, and that’s one of my biggest regrets.” 

Definitely, since not only did Linc ghost Jace but had to hear one of the most popular songs of the time (and one that is still played). Linc is very apologetic throughout, waiting for Jace to be ready to listen to him explain and mean the apology.  To show that a second chance will bring a much different result.  I did hate that through it Jace kept feeling bad.  As he said, “I didn’t break this, you don’t.  You don’t get to make me feel bad about not wanting to pick up where we left off.”  But still, he kept feeling bad.

They do fall into bed together, “…a little fun… for old time’s sake”and Linc has such happy memories of their times at the cabin.  Jace, however, “Funny, I can only remember the morning I woke up all alone in that bed, all of your things packed and gone.  You didn’t even have the courtesy to leave me a note.” Linc acts surprised, or maybe hurt that’s what Jace remembers.  I wanted to shake him and say, what did you think!  “The sad thing is those are all my happy memories, too.  But you ruined it, Linc.  You took every good thing inside me, and you stomped all over it, then tossed it away like it never meant anything to you.”  I can’t even imagine the depth of pain he has been feeling for ten years.  Linc has felt it as well, but at least he knows the reason.

The thing that was done extraordinarily well here was Linc’s depression.  The darkness that encompasses him was real and his reactions were also real.  His way of coping with the pain of his life and the darkness is to self harm, a mechanism he’s been using since his teen years.  His father was a verbally abusive nightmare and cutting was a way for Linc to control that pain.  “Do you have any idea how happy I was to have a son when you were born?  And then you turned out to be the world’s biggest disappointment.  You’re weak.  Boys don’t cry, you f**king queer” is just the tip of the iceberg.   The cutting scenes are realistic and we get Lincoln’s feelings, or maybe lack of feeling is the better way to put it, during those times.  I especially appreciated that there was no magic cure here.  Having Jace by him made Linc happy and hopeful but when the depression set in, it still set in.  Because serious depression isn’t that simple and this was so realistic.  I couldn’t help worry for Jace as Lincoln deals with what he thinks is rejection by cutting more.  That’s a lot to put on someone. I was glad when Jace declared his deal-breaker.

The whole thing is a second chance work in progress and it is not an easy one.  There are Side B chapters (flashbacks to when they were teenagers) to give some background of the intensity of their relationship and while I am not usually a fan of flashbacks, they definitely worked here.  They were so cute and so sweet as teens, it just made the whole separation more painful. When Linc remembers things he planned and promised at that time, as the perfect Christmas that never happened, I kept thinking, please let the reason for leaving be a good one, something we can forgive him for.  For me, the reason didn’t work and that kept this from being five stars. I dislike that kind of thing and Jace deserved at least a conversation.  But it wasn’t annoying enough to take away from the powerful aspect of this book.

The author has set up the next books in the series with the other band members, Benji, Lando and Jude, in a way that wasn’t clunky or obvious, just a really nice teaser as to things coming next.  Even Linc doesn’t know what has happened yet!  This vacation was good for everyone, it seems.  This is a great start to a new series.  Not light and fluffy (although I am hoping at least one of their stories will be) but definitely worth the read.

Cover art by Inked Design fit the feel of the book.  The cover boy is a decent representation of Lincoln, tattooed and a little brooding, with the city and the lake as a backdrop. 

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 294 pages
Published May 20th 2018
ASINB07D1QLJWR
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesReplay #1

A Lucy Review: And the next Thing You Know . . . (Why You? #2) by  Chase Taylor Hackett

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Rated 4.5 stars out of 5

Jeffrey Bornic has this vision of his idea partner.  He will be gorgeous, successful, fit, intelligent, socially adept, etc etc etc.   He was dumped by his musician boyfriend, Roger, months ago and he’s still working on the new partner thing.  Maybe because

“Got up in a bad mood. 

Again. 

It had been a stretch of bad moods lately.  Seriously.  Since like October.

I suppose that means since Roger.  Old boyfriend.  Make of that what you will.”

The thing is, Jeffrey is kind of an arrogant jerk.  He’s a lawyer and he puts a lot of time into that. He has one really good friend, Rebecca, who works at the same law firm, and that’s sort of it.  He works all the time and he can be so rude. 

When his apartment is under construction, this elaborate remodel, he turns to Rebecca for a spot on his couch. Problem is, Rebecca’s firebrand little brother, Theo, has already staked a claim on that spot on the couch.  The first time the two meet is a comedy of errors and Jeffrey comes off looking like an idiot.  Theo is a songwriter and is short, red-haired, snarky and homeless right now.  He will not, however, be jobless.  “As long as you’re sleeping on my couch, you’ll have a job.  Or it’s back to the farm.  This is not the Rebecca McPherson Unemployed Songwriters Retreat.”  Where does Rebecca find him a job?  At their law firm of course!  Jeffrey is facing not only the man who makes him crazy but finds out that Roger’s best friend, Tommy, is now working for the firm as well.

The two of them end up having to share the couch for a while and they spend all their time insulting each other, something starts to change.  At least for Jeffrey it does.  Theo has a maybe-boyfriend named Madison who treats him pretty negligently but he’s got harassing Jeffrey to brighten his days.  I admit, there were a couple times, such as blindsiding Jeffrey at the party with Roger, showing up where Jeffrey was having dinner with parents or the aftermath of Hamilton, where I thought, Theo is too much.  He’s out to hurt people.  Maybe it was because Jeffrey seems to be really in love for the first time (Roger W. Prescott Memorial Project notwithstanding) that he appears the more vulnerable one here.  He’s the one doing the sweet things (the shoelaces, omg) and trying hard.  Of course, his past actions of being a douche come back to bite both of them and that was painful.

Thank heaven for Tommy, who befriends Theo at work and is the voice of reason when Theo needs it.   We really, really need Tommy’s book. 

The story is told in alternating first person point of view and we also get Tommy’s thoughts.  I loved being able to connect with everyone like that.  Getting to see Jeffrey grow as a person, become stronger, was a glorious thing.  There were times I wanted to hug him, such as when he shows Theo his under-construction apartment, and times I wanted to hug Theo and times I wanted to shake them both.  They both do some growing up here and it was wonderful.

I have to admit I read this before the first in this series and I am so glad I did.  The Jeffrey Bornic of this book is snarky, obnoxious and arrogant but he isn’t vile as I thought he was in the first book, Where Do I Start?  Had I read the series in order I wouldn’t have bothered with Jeffrey’s book and I’d have missed out.  The Jeffrey of this book was serious.

Completely recommend this book, especially for those who love characters who redeem themselves and those who love the snark. 

The cover art was sort of middle of the road for me.  Headless torso in a long sleeved t-shirt was, I assume, Theo, with Jeffrey’s hands clasped around his middle.  While I liked the idea of the closeness, I was disappointed we didn’t get the red hair that Theo is so known for.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Lyrical Press
Original TitleAnd the Next Thing You Know . . .
ASINB071VHV289
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWhy You? #2