A Caryn Release Day Review: The Mage on the Hill (The Web of Arcana #1) by Angel Martinez

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Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars

Another new fantasy from one of my favorite authors, and another new world.  This is a present day alternate reality, where magic is real, but only those born to it have the power to manipulate it.  But those in authority, the guilds, hold almost absolute domination over all magic users; their overt reason is to protect the non-magic public, but privately, it is to keep control of their dominion.

Toby Jones was a young man who was just starting to come into his powers.  Unfortunately, the guild officers were unable to find which element of the Arcana his magic fit, and unable to identify the correct channel, his wild magic literally exploded out of him, causing destruction to everything around, and eventually would destroy him as well.  He was being treated with a painful last ditch attempt to find his  element, and when that was unsuccessful, the guild gave up on him, and assigned him to euthanasia for the safety of the community.

Toby was not going to accept his death that easily.  He heard a name, Darius Valstad, mentioned by the guild officers while in the near-unconscious state from his last explosion.  He escaped from the guild complex, and, using a little google-fu, he tracked the man down to his house on the hill, and showed up in the last throes of exhaustion, literally collapsing at Darius’s front door.

Darius is older, perhaps in his early 40s (I don’t think it was specifically mentioned).  He was a celebrated mage, one of the best of his generation, and he knew it.  He was a teacher, a mentor, and was known for taking on difficult cases, like Toby’s, and bringing them safely to the knowledge of their element so they could function in the wider magical society.  Until his hubris led him to work with one extremely powerful, but extremely disturbed young woman, and when her magic exploded, it killed her and almost destroyed the entire city of Pittsburg.  Attempting to stop the destruction almost killed Darius, and left him scarred both physically and mentally, and also led to his expulsion from the guild.  The last thing he wanted was to go through all that again with a young man who might easily be more powerful and destructive than his last student.

Toby, however, was both determined and persuasive, and convinced Darius to take him on as a pupil through a combination of kindness and service and appealing to Darius’s innate desire to protect.  They were in danger both from Toby’s magic, and from the guild, who were not about to let a rogue mage put the city in jeopardy again.  As Darius emerged from his self-imposed exile, he found old friends who joined in his mission, as they worked against the clock to channel Toby’s magic before the guild could capture him.  The final showdown was dramatic and satisfying, and clearly points to a sequel.

The relationship between the two men was extremely complicated.  Darius was older, more powerful, and took on the role of protector and teacher, although unwillingly.  Toby was young and fairly immature, but with an innocence and lust for life that Darius could only admire, and it eventually brought Darius back to life as well.  But the age and power gap made me feel uncomfortable with their romance, and I had a hard time believing in it.  I think I would have preferred if there was no romance in the book at all, I would have enjoyed it just as much.  I also felt the characters were not fully developed, or at least not enough for me to connect with them.  The major and minor arcana were interesting, and there was some explanation of how they worked, but not quite enough, and also not enough about how magic was used in the world.  And finally, the apparently common practice of sexual relations between mentors and students was a little off-putting to me.

Despite that, I did enjoy the book, and I will be looking forward to the next one.  I hope that this world will be more fleshed out so I can connect with it better, and that I will come to believe in Toby and Darius relationship more than I did with this one.

Cover art by Tiferet Design is exactly how I imagined Toby to look while caught up in his wild magic

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 194 pages
Expected publication: May 7th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781644052648
Edition Language English
Series The Web of Arcana #1

Looking for Your Next Contemporary Romance? Check out the Blog Tour for Thirst For You (A Beyond the Cove Novel) by Jaclyn Quinn (excerpt and giveaway)

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THIRST FOR YOU

A BEYOND THE COVE NOVEL

JACLYN QUINN

M/M ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 04.10.19

Thirst for you cover

COVER DESIGN: CATE ASHWOOD

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“What happens when thirst becomes an obsession that can’t be quenched?

Forty-year-old Zachariah Taylor prides himself on being the overprotective older brother of seven. He owns a successful bar, Zach’s Bar and Grill, in the quiet town of Riverside Falls and loves the life he’s built for himself. But as his siblings move on and find their forever partners in life, he’s starting to feel less and less needed—not to mention old. Suddenly, he’s finding it even harder to ignore the younger man who has pursued him for years, but the twelve years separating them is something Zach can’t seem to overlook.

Twenty-eight-year-old Drew Belford has been in love with the stubborn Zach Taylor for seven years. Sure, he was a kid when they’d first met, but what Zach is determined to ignore is the man Drew has become. Drew, however, is just as strong-minded and refuses to let Zach use their age difference as an excuse to disregard the attraction burning between them. He doesn’t need an overprotective older brother—he needs Zach.

When Drew begins to get unsettling messages from an unknown person, Zach feels helpless in a way he’s never felt before. How can he protect Drew from someone he can’t find? The thought of anyone hurting Drew unleashes years’ worth of pent-up desire Zach has had for the younger man. Is his thirst for Drew enough to protect him from the danger lurking in the shadows, or will the threat of the unknown be enough to dowse the spark of love between them—and silence Drew forever?

Warning – This book contains acts of violence which some readers may find disturbing.

getbook.at/ThirstForYou

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EXCERPT

Hearing the snickers around the room, Zach stood up and headed to the front door. As he walked out onto the steps, he asked, “So…what’s up? Something happen at the bar?”

Drew’s eyes narrowed for a second in confusion before growing wide. “Oh! The shipment didn’t come today. I didn’t know if you wanted to give Joe a call or if I should.” He ran his pink tongue across his plump, bottom lip, the skin glistening in its wake. Zach was grateful for the fact that only his face could be seen by Drew as he pressed the heel of his hand down on his erection. The kid was too damn sexy for his own good. Okay, so kid was pushing it. Drew was twenty-eight; the same age as Eli. The problem was…Drew was the same damn age as Eli. Zach was twelve years older, for fuck’s sake. But he couldn’t deny how gorgeous the guy was with his dark, short hair that was always perfectly styled, his bourbon-colored eyes, and those lickable, plump lips that were meant for—

“Hello? Earth to LumberZach.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me that?” Zach growled.

“You know I’ll never listen. You should probably punish me.” Drew wiggled his eyebrows, and Zach could hear people in the background laugh.

Zach covered his face then ran his hand down through his beard. “Do you really have to say that shit where people can hear you?”

“No, I don’t. Your place or mine?” Drew winked, and the laughter next to him got louder. When Zach hung his head back in frustration, Drew said, “Relax. It’s just Grant and Lisa.” He shifted the camera to his right. “See?” Drew’s older brother Grant and his girlfriend Lisa waved, each with mocking grins on their faces.

“Your brother’s a pain in my ass,” Zach said to Grant as his friend continued laughing. Hell, it was Grant’s fault Drew worked at the bar to begin with. He’d only hired Drew as a favor to Grant, but in all fairness, that wasn’t why Zach kept the younger man on. Besides the fact that Drew was a hard worker and loved by the customers, Zach knew there was another—nope, don’t even go there. There’s no other reason you keep Drew around.

“You know,” Drew said, bringing Zach’s attention back to the phone screen, “you could be a pain in my ass. A delicious pain in my—”

“I’ll call Joe,” Zach replied quickly then disconnected the phone. “Jesus Christ.” Too bad he couldn’t get the guy to shut up by putting those alluring, full lips to good use.
Jaclyn Quinn Logo

I have been an artist from a very young age. From drawing cartoon characters and evolving into portraits, making jewelry, photography, and now writing. I have an amazing support system in my family and friends and couldn’t be more grateful.

I live in central New Jersey, love summers at the Jersey Shore, rock music, wine, sexy men, and laughing a lot with my amazing friends and family. Sunday dinners at my parents’ house are crazy, hysterical and you can count on a movie quote…or ten…being thrown out. Insults between siblings is how we show our love for each other!

When I’m not creating, you can find me reading books from my favorite authors. I’m a hopeless romantic, starving for passionate characters and always craving that happy ending, whether in reading or in writing my own books.

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Want a New Contemporary Story and Series To Love? Check out Inside Out (Road to Blissville #7) by Aimee Nicole Walker (excerpt and giveaway)

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INSIDE OUT

A ROAD TO BLISSVILLE NOVEL

AIMEE NICOLE WALKER

M/M ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 01.14.19

inside out cover

COVER ARTIST: Jay Aheer/Simply Defined Art

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Romeo Bradly and Julius Shepherd moved to Blissville for the same reason: a fresh start. Romeo was looking for a school district where he could make a real impact in the lives of students and faculty, and Julius was eager to teach one of his passions to the best and brightest at a school with a nationally ranked science program. But the sleepy little town offered them much more than they’d bargained for—quirky people, unlikely friendships, and an all-consuming attraction that turns them inside out.

When unexpected circumstances threaten to cancel the school play, Romeo’s theater background and Julius’s musical expertise make them the perfect pair to save the day. Working together so closely makes it harder for the men to ignore their growing feelings. After all, the heart knows what it wants and doesn’t care about age gaps, race, or a professional conflict of interest. Romeo and Julius will learn that they have far more in common than they realize, and their differences will make them stronger if they give love a chance.

Their commitment to each other and the play will be tested when outside forces target them as a couple and exert pressure to cancel the production. Romeo and Julius vow to prove their love can conquer any challenge and will burn strong well beyond the curtain call.

Inside Out is a whimsical, May/December romance featuring a man learning to love again and a man falling in love for the first time. It is the sixth book in the Road to Blissville series and can be read as a standalone book or part of the series. This book contains sexually explicit material and is intended for adults 18 and older.

Buy Link: http://mybook.to/Inside_Out

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EXCERPT

It was nearly impossible to keep from checking the clock after receiving the text from Rome that he was on his way back to Blissville. I tried watching the football games on TV, but I couldn’t tell you the score or even who was playing. I also kept my ears tuned for the sound of his car pulling up outside.

The apartment I rented was above a garage and could only be accessed by walking through it, which might make many feel like they were trespassing. Wren did keep a classic car in the garage below and a ton of tools, so I was always cautious to keep the door locked. When I finally heard Rome’s car pull into the driveway and stop beside my car, I jogged down the steps and opened the outside door.

“Hey,” I said when he and Dolly reached me.

“Hey yourself,” he said warmly. I could see how badly he wanted to kiss me, so I stepped closer and met him halfway. I didn’t want there to be any hesitation between us unless we were in a place where PDA wouldn’t be appreciated.

“I wasn’t sure if I should kiss you in open view of Dare and Wren’s house,” he said, staring at my lips. “They might not be watching.” I moved until my lips were just a breath away. If he wanted me, he would need to come and get me. “Then again, they could have the binoculars out.”

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I am a wife and mother to three kids, three dogs, and a cat. When I’m not dreaming up stories, I like to lose myself in a good book, cook or bake. I’m a girly tomboy

who paints her fingernails while watching sports and yelling at the referees.

I will always choose the book over the movie. I believe in happily-ever-after. Love inspires everything that I do. Music keeps me sane.

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An Alisa Review: Lost and Found (Dave&Carter) by Quin Perin

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Rating:  3 stars out of 5

He is…

half my age,

my son’s friend,

and he calls me Daddy.

I bring him to his knees until he does the same to me.

 

“He was like a greedy little puppy, trying to please me. And goddamn, I needed him to need me.”

 

A May/December Second Chance Romance. After their first encounter in “Take it All”, Lost and Found explores how Dave and Carter’s relationship took root and blossomed.

I know I am not in the majority here but while I enjoyed the story there were just a few things that bugged me.  Dave and Carter continue their relationship in secret for years following their first encounter.

I liked the connection between these two even if Dave continued to deny how deep that connection was.  I was glad the Carter was willing to stand up for what he wanted but felt bad that Dave made him a dirty secret.  I had trouble with Dave always making a decision he thought was best without any discussion or making sure he had all the information, even if he was the Daddy.  I don’t know if I would have been able to go back to Dave like Carter did at the end when he found the truth.

The cover art by X Potion Designs is nice and is similar to “Take it All”.

Sales Link:  Amazon to come

Book Details:

ebook, 80 pages

Published: November 22, 2018

Edition Language: English

Series: Dave & Carter

A MelanieM Review: Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Hockey superstar Joey Luciano has always been good at being whatever people needed him to be. The fans want a good-looking fast-living party boy? Enter ‘the Looch,’ Joey’s carefully created public persona. But the cracks in his mask are starting to show, and he’s begun to lose touch with who he really is. It’s going to take someone who’s been there from the very beginning, to help him find his way home.

Coach Liam O’Reilly always had a very clear picture of what his life should look like. Falling in love with the infuriating, passionate, stubborn, and endlessly fascinating boy next door was not part of the plan. But when Liam’s carefully constructed life fell apart one Christmas Eve, Joey Luciano was there to pick up the pieces. Now Liam can’t stop wanting him.

The passion blazing between them on the ice and behind closed doors could leave both of them badly burned. But through the smoke, Liam can see glimpses of a future brighter than any he’d imagined, a future worth risking his career and reputation for, if only he is brave enough to reach for it.

But Joey’s got a secret he’s keeping from everyone. If it gets out, it could be the end of everything.

I really enjoyed the Boy Next Door (Hot Off the Ice #5) by A. E. Wasp.  It has so many elements I love in a contemporary romance, starting off with hockey players and hockey coaches in love combinations.  Or just a hockey element.  That always draws me in.  Wasp also has another aspect to this series and story I adore.  Large families that support the main characters!

Families easily identifiable by location (Boston), ethnicities (Irish and Italian), long association (neighbors), and even intertwined relationships.  This extended main cast is a huge factor in connecting the reader to the character of Joey Luciano (the Italian family) and Liam O’Reilly (the Irish one),  In a totally current and hilarious format, we often see the family members communicating with each other via group text.  It’s never overdone, totally funny, and very realistic.  It’s has the feel of family and truth.  And it brought these people and their lives right into my heart.

Joey, “the Looch” Luciano, is a 25 year old  with a lot of issues. On the outside, he’s let this “Looch” character he’s created take over his life (brash, outgoing to the  extreme that it seems like he’s hogging the media and outshining his teammates.  No one is happy with him, including himself.  On the inside it’s worse.  Wasp has created Joey as a insecure person, low self esteem to the point that he seeks approval from every source and everyone without asking himself why he needs it so.  This is an enormous issue, obviously.  Not his only one. On top of this Joey is dealing with the fact that he has loved Liam since he can remember, a love that he has never looked at what that meant.  Why?  Because he shrinks from being called gay or even bisexual.  Which imo is totally misused here with regards to Joey.

Joey is someone who has lacked self examination for most of his life and it’s not until he gets involved with Liam that he smacks into some hard realities for himself.  At about 51 percent, we get these musing from Joey…

“What did people see when they looked at him? Could they tell he was having sex with a guy? Probably not. He looked as normal as Paul and Robbie. And he wasn’t gay gay. If anything he was bisexual like Liam.”

There are so many flags in those sentences that show exactly how messed up Joey is over not only his sexuality but homosexuality in general.  Being gay isn’t “normal”?  He also has issues with femme versus masc. And as is worked out down the story, Joey really doesn’t enjoy sex with women, so no, not bisexual.  Yes, some of this flags get addressed, not as many as I wished but a lot.

There are so many broken layers to Joey, it’s just one right after enough. Panic attacks, health issues, and more that need to be seriously addressed. Are all given the depth of attention I would wish or deserve? Perhaps not but they aren’t blown off either. Believable, authentic cracks in this man.  Kudos to A.E. Wasp for creating such a character.

Liam is a strong character, older by 10 years than Joey.  I liked him and their relationship but honestly wondered if the author was going to use their hot, and admittedly kinky sex life as a bandaid for all of Joey’s deep problems.  Thankfully, the  answer is no.  Wasp let me wonder about that, while I enjoyed Joey and LIam working out their relationship and then gave me everything I hoped for in the ending of this story. That included my Washington Caps winning the Stanley Cup this year!  And therapy for Joey.  Win win.

The humor here had me cackling!  Whether it’s Knock Knock jokes or Liam’s younger brother Patrick trying to get Liam to switch out his posh furniture for a huge leather sectional that all the young hockey players can come over and watch TV on saying”

“It’s the traditional furnishings of our people!”

Well, this book and dialogue crackles with fun, the knowledge of what it is like to be young, in love, or a hockey player, or to just do dumb things.  And all of the above.

Yes, plenty of angst too.

If I also have a complaint, its the actual lack of hockey.

We get headlines, sports feeds,  but  little actual ice time.  These men are passionate about ice and hockey.  So where is the time on the ice?  Where is the sense of team?

We get little of that except towards the very end in the important game.  I wish so badly we had had lots more of that action throughout the story.  Then we could understand why Joey and Liam’s actions carried the weight of the love of ice behind them that they did.  I felt that was missing because we never really saw Joey on ice for the majority of the book.  We were told about it but never actually “felt” it through the character. And I felt that was a mistake.

But did I love this story?  Yes I did.  I thought the author did a tremendous job with the characters, actualizing a man on the brink of a life change for himself and letting us travel some of the journey with him.  Scary, messy, not totally complete, a work in progress as they say.  I think Joey would agree with that and be happy.  So would Liam and the rest of the two families.

I definitely look for more in this series.  I recommend this one for all lovers of contemporary romance and hockey and even a little love of spanking!

 

Cover art: Ana Phoenix.  Nice cover but doesn’t quite get the age difference.

Buy Links – Available in Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 462 pages
Published September 21st 2018
ASINB07HL6TTW9
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesHot Off the Ice #5

 

A MelanieM Review: Saddle Up (Clean Slate Ranch #3) by A.M. Arthur

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Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

 

Reyes Caldero keeps his past buried deep and his emotions buried deeper. But what he doesn’t say he always makes up for with his actions. When the hot chef he once saved from an abusive ex turns up at Clean Slate Ranch, the quiet cowboy is happy to act on their sizzling chemistry, even if he’s not ready to share his secrets—or his heart.

Miles Arlington needs to get the hell out of San Francisco, and heading north for a job near Clean Slate Ranch seems like just the thing. It doesn’t hurt that his secret crush slash onetime rescuer happens to work at the ranch. Miles has never been one for the outdoors, but the superhot Reyes has him ready to saddle up.

Reyes is happy to keep things casual, even though his heart has other ideas. And when Miles is forced to confront his past again, Reyes and Miles will have to put all their trust in each other if they want any chance at building a future together.

Saddle Up by A.M. Arthur is part of the Clean Slate Ranch series, one I haven’t read. However, I didn’t feel that diminished my enjoyment in reading the third book in the series where several of the couples were well established.  Arthur gave enough of their back history and the universe for this series that I felt that I knew some of the relationships not to feel that there were holes in the story or overall fabric of the group dynamics.

A.M. Arthur does broken men so very well and Reyes and Miles are no exception.  Each man is both running from their pasts. Reyes from his gang member teenage years and a horrific, brutal crime that he has kept his deepest secret secret.  Miles from his abusive, possessive ex-boyfriend and a night he can’t remember, an ex-boyfriend who won’t leave him alone. Both have come to Clean Slate Ranch for second chances.  Reyes as the head cowboy at the ranch and Miles under a new name as the head chef at the Saloon at the Ghost Town they have just opened up.

Assigned to bunk in together, both fight their attraction to each other while fighting their own demons.  Miles his fear and Reyes his anger, a combustible combination.  I liked how Miles slowly found his footing through creativity through his food, the Ghost Town’s history, and of course, the horses.  Helping him is Reyes, falling in love even though Mile’s isn’t in any emotional condition to handle it.

I liked their romance.  And perhaps, this is where not reading the other stories does hurt, but Reyes’ anger issues threw up red flags for me where Miles was concerned.  For someone coming off of a controlling, stalker abusive ex, to then have a older man wanting to “protect” him showing huge flashes of barely in control anger?  Uh, maybe not.

It does come out later on in the revelations in Reyes’ back history…still you do have to wonder.  Fear and anger/fight and flight can be two sides of the same coin but that doesn’t necessarily mean they belong in the same relationship.

I loved the elements with the horses, appreciated how they became part of Mile’s adjustment and more, part of Mile’s finding himself.  I could also have done with more of the Ghost Town and it’s merry group of workers, including Mile’s partner in the kitchen.

The drama with Geoff clearly showed me that perhaps I should go back and read the previous stories as I do enjoy this author’s writing.  More to add to my TBR list!

There was a suspenseful ending along with the wonderful HEA, almost a too quick HEA. I think I would have settled for a HFN with all that went on in this novel.  So many trials and tribulations, so many emotional upheavals and adjustments, that this ending almost felt to unrealistic.  Sweet, romantic, and lovely.  But unrealistic.

If you love A.M.Arthur, are a fan of this series, or just adore broken man and their road to HEA, then this is a story for you.

 

Cover art seems almost right for Reyes but that figure is too muscular for Miles, that stance too combative.  Would work great for another story however.

Sales Links:  Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 17th 2018 by Carina Press
ASINB07C9F6436
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesClean Slate Ranch #3

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

An Ali Audiobook Review: Family Man By Heidi Cullinan and Marie Sexton/Colin Darcy (Narrator)

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes family chooses you.

How does a man get to be forty without knowing whether he’s gay? That’s a question Vince Fierro is almost afraid to answer. If he is gay, it’ll be a problem for his big, fat Italian family. Still, after three failed marriages, he can’t help but wonder if he’s been playing for the wrong team.

There’s only one way to settle it, once and for all—head for Chicago’s Boystown bars, far from anyone who knows him. Naturally, he runs smack into someone from the neighborhood.

Between working two jobs, going to school, taking care of his grandmother, and dealing with his mother’s ongoing substance abuse, Trey Giles has little time for fun, let alone dating someone who swears he’s straight. Yet after one night of dancing cheek-to-cheek to the sultry strains of Coltrane, Trey finds himself wanting to help Vinnie figure things out—no promises, and no sex.

It seems like a simple plan, until their “no-sex” night turns into the best date of their lives and forges a connection that complicates everything.

I originally read this book when it first came out in 2103 and I was new to reading this genre.  I really enjoyed it at that time.  When I had the chance to review this on audio I was both excited and nervous.  I wondered if this book would stand the test of time (and honestly many of my reads from then have not).  I’m happy to report that I enjoyed it just as much.  Honestly probably more because the narrator was excellent and really added to the story.
The story is told in alternating points of view.  We hear from both Vince and Trey which was a bit weird at first because one is told first person pov and the other third.  It took me a minute to get my head around that but once I got used to the change I was able to easily follow along.
Vince is almost 40 and kind of lost.  He has a good job that he enjoys and a big, loving family but he’s just not happy and he’s failed every relationship he’s tried.  A series of events lead him to Trey who is a younger guy he knows from the neighborhood.  Sparks immediately fly and Vince is able to take baby steps towards dating a guy.  His journey is a tough one and there were times I wanted to shake Vince, but mostly my heart ached for him.  He’s so caught up in his fear and his overwhelming family and cultural expectations.  At his core though he is a really good guy.  He is kind and thoughtful and once he decides he’s committed to trying this thing with Trey he’s all in.
Trey I also loved as a MC.  He’s in his mid twenties but he’s way more mature.  Unfortunately his alcoholic mother has ensured he grew up way before his time.  I really loved the plot line that Trey wants to wait to have sex.  It wasn’t for religious reasons, just he wanted it to be special.  I don’t think I’ve read that before in the m/m genre and I thought it was a lovely change.
I thought the authors did an excellent job showcasing what it’s like to live with an addict.  Trey’s feelings were so honest and real and I thought they made a wise choice in not trying to pretty any of it up.
One of the highlights of this book for me was the narration.  It was narrated by Colin Darcy who I had not listened to before.  He did an excellent job.  He really nailed all of the characters and his performance made the book even more emotional to me than when I read it.  I had not listened to this narrator previously but will definitely seek out his work in the future.
This new cover was done by Kanaxa and I love it.  It looks enough like the old cover to not be a jarring difference but at the same time it’s totally unique.  The cover models match my perceptions of the MC’s perfectly and fit the feel of the plot really well.
Audiobook Details:
Audible Audio, 8 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press (first published March 12th 2013)
Original TitleFamily Man
ASINB07DFT349S
Edition LanguageEnglish
CharactersVincent Fierro, Trey Giles settingIllinois (United States)

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Test Of Valor (Valor #2) by Keira Andrews

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

The story had a slow start as it was focused on reestablishing Rafa and Shane’s relationship—being in love and living together in Australia as Rafa awaits the start of school and Shane establishes his security business. There was a lot of page time devoted to Rafa’s parents—the former President and First Lady of the US, now “just ordinary people” as Rafa’s mother reiterates a few times. Rafa and Shane share eye-rolling looks behind her back since his parents travel with Secret Service agents and other staff wherever they go and are the most unordinary people around.

For me, one of the saddest moments in the story came when the lead agent assigned to the President refused to even acknowledge that she knew Shane, though they had worked together in the past. He’s very definitely persona non grata to fellow agents now. That was the moment when I first started to see him as more than just the older man in this May-December romance. When I read book one, I couldn’t relate to him but this definitely helped so I tried to keep an open mind throughout this story so I could see he and Rafa as equal partners.

There is some excitement in the second half of the story, not quite the type of scenario I had envisioned, but definitely exciting, dramatic, life-changing moments. I loved that whole segment and I appreciate that the author kept Rafa’s parents true to their personalities, though a little softer around the edges—especially Rafa’s mother who was a typical B*8#h in every way.

This book stresses Rafa’s growth—in character and in age—and allows him an opportunity to step forward in family situations and to be the partner Shane needs him to be as Shane deals with his own repercussions from Rafa’s kidnapping in book one. But to be honest, as much as I recognized that intellectually, I still felt like he was the same kid as he was in book one and Shane the adult older man in all situations in which they were alone together. Yes, I saw growth in Rafa in his relationship with his parents, and yes, I could see that he attempted to be more of a partner to Shane but I never felt that Shane wholly accepted that. He verbalized it but his actions negated his statements.

There’s lots of sex scenes in this book so for readers who enjoy a super-hot romance, this one will push all the buttons. Personally, I thought it was a bit much, especially given the fact that they are an established couple when the story opens. But there’s no doubt that the two have chemistry.

Overall, it was an enjoyable story, and I liked it a bit more than book one. But neither character is going to stay with me long after I finish this book, unlike a few others this author has penned. Somehow, this just missed the mark of greatness I was looking for.

~~~

The cover by Dar Albert depicts an older man in a leather jacket and dark sunglasses set against a night city skyline that could represent Sydney, Australia. There’s also a young man to the left rear of the cover who is wearing a bathing suit, holding onto a surfboard with one hand and holding his curly hair back with the other. The photo depicts all the key elements in the story—the older man represents Shane, who is now working private security in Australia and the younger man is Rafa, who enjoys surfing in his spare time.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1 edition, 225 pages
Published April 26th 2018 by KA Books
Original TitleTest of Valor
ISBN139781988260334
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Valor :

Valor on the Move (Valor, #1) 

Test of Valor (Valor, #2)

An Alisa Review: Life Is A Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey

Standard

Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Authors know that their muse is a fickle creature. Best-selling spy novelist Stephen Ramsey has been in a hate-hate relationship with his inspiration for months. When Stephen’s publisher lays a legal ultimatum upon him, with a rapidly approaching deadline, he knows he must do something to kick-start his creativity or face the unemployment line. His daughter comes up with a possible answer: a summer camp for the creative soul. With nothing to lose, Stephen packs up his laptop, phonograph and beloved record albums and heads from Greenwich Village to the Catskill Mountains.

There, among a horde of college students attending for extra credits, is Declan Pomeroy, a photographer of fey creatures who is twenty-two years younger than Stephen. The woods are a magical place, and he quickly finds himself falling under the spell of the free-spirited photographer. Confusion wars with desire inside Stephen as he succumbs to the feelings welling up inside. But, sadly, summer camp always has to end. Can a man who has just found himself really leave the person that makes his heart sing?

This story just pulled me in and I really enjoyed it all the way though.  I love seeing guys have and accept a life altering change and see how it makes their lives better.  Stephen has succeeded as an author even as he has had multiple marriages come apart.  Declan is a free spirit who for the most part is very patient with Stephen’s slow acceptance of their connection.

The story is told from Stephen’s point of view which makes it easy to see his frustration with his writer’s block and confusion in regards to Declan.  When he gave himself the chance to let go and see what would happen it was freeing for him.  I was able to see Declan’s emotions through Stephen’s eyes even when he didn’t always seem to understand.  I loved Declan’s determination to stay true to himself and make Stephen make the big change of moving but it was for the better for both of them.

The cover art by Sloan J Design is nice and I love having visuals of both of the characters.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 87 pages

Published: 2nd edition, April 18, 2018 by VL Locey

Edition Language: English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Squared Away (Out of Uniform #5) by Annabeth Albert

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

This story has moved up to my favorite of the series, and in fact, it’s going on my Best of 2018 list.  Annabeth Albert took several tough-to-get-right topics, among them grief and sexuality, and put them into a poignant story of two young men who struggle to meet the emotional and physical needs of young children who are suddenly orphaned.  The men, Navy SEAL Mark Whitley, aka “Wizard,” the best medic in the field, and Isaiah, aka Ike, a young man who’s crushed on Mark for years, step up to take over the child care when Mark’s sister and Isaiah’s cousin are killed in an auto accident.   Unfortunately, Mark’s sister’s will is five years old and though it names him as the child’s guardian, there are now two more children.  On the other hand, her husband’s recent will names Isaiah as guardian of all the children and states that she agrees. However, without a signature, Isaiah is facing a long battle to get permanent guardianship. 

As with all of this author’s books that feature military characters, the setting and the circumstances are accurate and intriguing.  Wizard is on deployment when he learns of his sister’s death and is sent home on emergency leave where he finds that Isaiah has been on-scene since the accident, caring for the kids and holding off the memorial service for his return.  Originally attracted to the young man six years before, he aborted an intriguing sexual offer from Isaiah who was then much too young for Mark.  But in the meantime, he’s heard stories of Isaiah’s promiscuousness, even with Mark’s buddies, including Ben Tovey (On Point) and aside from the fact that sex doesn’t really interest Mark anyway, sex with Isaiah is most definitely off the books now. 

Days have passed since I finished this story and the characters and plot are still strong and clear in my memory. That alone is a tribute to how much I loved the book. I’ve been procrastinating about writing the review because I can’t find the words to fully express my appreciation of this author’s talent, her research into not only military life, but the intricacies of determining where one falls on the sexuality spectrum.  The sensitivity and concern for accuracy that she shows in the way the topic is presented comes through loud and clear. 

And thankfully, there are no tropes related to nasty relatives, and the children are precious without being overly precocious.  The support Mark receives from his unit and that Isaiah receives from his friends and aunts is wonderful but not overdone.  And the emotional changes in Isaiah’s relationship with his father don’t happen overnight either; they, too, take time to develop and are a welcome outcome of good communication. 

There really aren’t any negatives here for me.  And one other positive of note that needs to be included is the kissing! Ahhh, so satisfying. So sweet.  These two have a very special bond, and for once, I can enjoy a story without the bedroom becoming the most used room in the house.  Just sayin’.  It’s nice to have a romance between two MCs that doesn’t start with a hot and heavy sex encounter. 

I very highly recommend this book.  It can be read as a standalone, though readers should consider the whole series simply due to how outstanding it is.  If your interest is in learning more about Navy SEAL training, child custody issues, demisexuality and asexuality, including gray ace, this story would be perfect for you.   And if you are simply looking for an outstanding MM romance, look no further. 

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