A MelanieM Review: The Caretaker (The Sin Bin #2) by Dahlia Donovan

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Who cares for the caretaker when his burden grows too heavy to bear?

Freddie Whittle devotes his life to his cancer patients, cheese, and his overprotective fathers. His big move to Cardiff is tainted by bigot neighbors and a dismal social life. He wants something more but doesn’t know what until he runs headlong into a Scottish-Maori mountain of a man.

Taine Afoa retires from international rugby feeling restless. He left his career behind and relocates for a change of pace. The last thing he expects is to become infatuated with someone who seems far too young and innocent for him. No matter how hard he tries, it’s impossible to get Freddie out of his mind.

Can Freddie handle the intensity of Taine’s naughty sexual desires?

And when the strong alpha male tangles with the playful nurse, will this May-December romance end before it even begins?

The Caretaker is book two in Dahlia Donovan’s international bestselling gay romance series, The Sin Bin. Each one features hot rugby players and the men who steal their hearts.

The Caretaker is the second story in Dahlia Donovan’s Sin Bin series revolving around a group of retired rugby players and the men they love.  While the name the sin bin refers to the penalty box in the game, here it evolves into a bar named appropriately The Sin Bin, owned and managed by the group.  Freddie Whittle is a character we first met in The Wanderer.  He played an important part in the cancer treatment and recovery of Graham Hodson, one of the main characters there.  Freddie stood out, even as a secondary character and you just hoped that meant he was coming back to get his own romance.  Now here it is.

His romantic match is Taine Afoa, a part Scottish, part Maori retired rugby player who is one of the aforementioned group.  He’s older than Freddie, an element other characters need to work through.  Taine’s has an unusual history of being abandoned as a baby, raised by a local priest, and has a hamster as a beloved pet.  So many layers to this kind man.  A lot of kinks as well as we find out as the story proceeds.

He’s the perfect match for Freddie, a man burdened down by two overprotective fathers (think smothered), a job that comes with heavy grief of losing clients you get close to, and neighbors who seem to be constantly attacking him because he’s gay.  He needs a huge rugby player in his life and gets one.  This is a wonderful romance to watch happen, no instant love.  Just a recognition that they work together as a couple and want to see what happens in the future.  It’s a HFN ending with a story with a HEA coming up further down the series.

I love that sort of realism that Dahlia Donovan deals with here. We see Freddie’s job and it’s effect on him up close. The maturity and strength it takes to handle that job.  Things aren’t perfect, unfortunate or bad things happen to people and they learn to deal.  This is a grownup look at life and romance.  It’s refreshing, realistic, and wonderful.

The sex scenes are wonderful kinky (erotic spanking) and very hot!  It matches the chemistry between Taine and Freddie perfectly.  I thought I had my favorite couple of the series down but Taine and Freddie kept growing on me until I have to admit they are right at the top too.  I can’t wait for their HEA book to arrive, that would be The Haka Ever After.  See the entire list below.

I love this series and all the characters that Dahlia Donovan has created for it.  They are so human, some broken, some brave, all intelligent, quirky, and multidimensional.  Throw romance into the mixture and this series has an unbeatable combination.  It’s one I highly recommend, including The Caretaker.

Cover art by Claire Smith is perfect, and contains an important element of the story.  Great job.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Published July 8th 2017 by Hot Tree Publsihing
ISBN13 9781925448924
The Sin Bin Series:

1. The Wanderer – BC & Graham

2. The Caretaker – Tens & Freddie

3. The Botanist (short story) – Aled & Wyatt

4. The Royal Marine – Hamish & Akash

5 The Unexpected Santa (short story) – Gray & Scottie

6. The Lion Tamer – Gray & Scottie

7. The Haka Ever After (short story) – Tens & Freddie

8. TBD – Zeb & Silus

9 The Blacksmith (novella) – Ivan, Rolly, & Wes

A MelanieM Review:The Wanderer (The Sin Bin #1) by Dahlia Donovan

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

When life kicks a wanderer in the bollocks, all he can do is fight for his life.

Bad boy BC Brooks screwed up his lifelong dream of being captain of the English national rugby team. Lost and confused, he hides from his failures until an unexpected inheritance forces him to make a change.

Graham Hodson lives for travel, adventure, and one-night stands. Wanderlust rules his life. He never expects a brief encounter with a stranger to haunt his dreams and follow him across the world.

One diagnosis shakes both men to their core.

One journey through the depths of recovery brings two perpetual bachelors into the unknown territory of love.

Through one book (The Royal Marine), I found a new author, a new series, and even a new publishing house.  I consider myself three times lucky indeed for that rarely happens, although yes it was because I stumbled into all three when I was offered the  fourth book in the series to read.  So back I went to start the series from the beginning with The Wanderer.

Turns out I had to figure out what a Sin Bin was to get the gist of the series.  For us Americans, it’s the penalty box.  For rugby or soccer (yes, yes, I know I can you all abroad shouting ‘it’s football’ lol), that area of the the field where players are sent to wait out the allotted penalty time after having being called foul.  The Sin Bin series is about a group of close rugby players, teammates, whose careers are over and now need to figure out the rest of their lives without the game they loved so much.  It then makes sense for them to feel as though they are permanently living in a Sin Bin, lost until they are able to move on.

That’s exactly what BC Brooks is trying to do when he runs into Graham Hodson at Graham’s twin brother’s wedding. A closet quickie, an indelible impression plus an explosive chemistry changes both of their lives forever.

The Wanderer (The Sin Bin #1) by Dahlia Donovan is told from both points of view, necessary as Graham, the wanderer of the title, is often in other parts of the world. For some stories separating the two main characters doesn’t work well for the romance.  Here it does.  Dahlia Donovan is able to make us believe in that absolute weirdest of creatures, that indefinable chemistry that won’t allow you to forget someone.  Here neither man is able to let the other go in their minds or even in lust.  They have an absolute need to reconnect that the readers get.  And no, it’s not instalove.

BC and Graham also have pasts that have precluded them from even wanting relationships…a term that they have fled from along with the actual thing.  These characterizations are so well done that the fumbling towards anything resembling a relationship is so awkward and needlessly full of self made pitfalls that you find yourself sighing and  shaking your head in fond frustration.

Then one of the men receives a diagnosis and again everything changes.  I won’t go into who or what but the story throws enough clues that you have an idea what’s coming.  That doesn’t make what follows any  easier to take.  I wept along with both men,  watched the relationship deepen as the circumstances altered them forever.  And held out hope for their future with them too.

For those readers, this is also a book that shows what happens to a relationship when dealing with a serious illness.  It’s dealt with an authenticity, grit, and sensitivity that makes this story work so well because it shows what can happen when you least expect it.  BC and Graham feel so real, especially after this section of the story.  I’m so happy to know that I will continue to see them in the books that follow.

What a way to start a series!  I noticed the characters in book 4 referenced to here.  So now it’s on to The Caretaker (The Sin Bin, #2) and Freddie Whittle’s story, a man who had a huge part to play here.  I can’t wait.

From just the two books that I’ve read, I can’ tell this is a series not to be missed.  I highly recommend the two that I’ve read.  But unlike me, start here and work your way through the series.

Cover art is ok.  I don’t know what it is about those figures that make me think of teenagers instead of grown men. It just throws me off.

Sales Links:  Hot Tree Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 191 pages
Published April 29th 2017 by Hot Tree Publishing (first published April 8th 2017)
ISBN139781925448771
Series The Sin Bin #1 setting Cornwall (United Kingdom)

A MelanieM Review: The Royal Marine (The Sin Bin #4) by Dahlia Donovan

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Who keeps the Royal Marine’s heart safe when he’s running headlong into danger?

Akash Robinson fuses his Indian and British heritage into his baked creations. His life is all things sugar and spice, especially when a blind date leads him to the older military man of his dreams. Family, friends, and an unwanted admirer all threaten both his sanity and his budding romance.

Hamish Ross carries the names of his lost soldiers on his back. He takes his work seriously with no time for love. All it takes is one impulsive kiss to lead him into uncharted romantic waters.

When a sarcastic baker mixes with a stoic alpha marine, who will come out on top when the flour settles?

The Royal Marine is book four in Dahlia Donovan’s international bestselling gay romance series, The Sin Bin. Each one features hot rugby players and the men who steal their hearts.

So once again, I’ve found myself starting a series at book four!  What a surprise! Not!  I give up, it really seems to be just a path I’m meant to take so I’m embracing it because again I’m going to have to go back to the beginning and pick up all the preceding stories.  Why?  Because of the heartwarming success of The Royal Marine (The Sin Bin #4) by Dahlia Donovan.

Dahlia Donovan must be a part of or know intimately a warm Indian /mixed Indian family. How she writes Akash or Aki, as he’s called and his family is just plain wonderful and authentic.  From the family dynamics to the linguistic rhythm of the dialog that sings out to the reader (often leaving them smiling or outright laughing in commiseration), it’s all a part of letting one gently feel the culture, the love, and the family without anything really shouting out at you.  It’s just a lovely part of this story and the main character and it brings Aki and his family so alive that you connect with him (and them) immediately.  Plus I really wanted to taste his baking!

Hamish, aka The Hamster, Ross  is The Royal Marine.  He’s the man Aki is set up on a blind date with, one of two actually, but he’s the one that Aki has something in common with and likes immediately.  The connection is mutual.  The Royal Marine would be one of the slow burn sort of stories excerpt for Hamish’s job which takes him away for long, dangerous stretches at a time and an interesting sort of WiFi  dating/getting to know you courtship ensues.  He too  is surrounded by his own version of  family, that of his “crew”, the marines that retired with him and they now work together.  The characters here are believable, memorable, and people you want more of in this story and perhaps the next.

The story is told from two perspectives which is necessary given that they are apart and they get to have a long distance “romance”  that we “peek” into.  Then around them, there is further drama which heightens the suspense for the couple on several levels.  Yes, there’s plenty of suspense,  anxiety, and danger to go along with the romance.  It’s really a  wonderful story.  And I loved that ending!

So now it’s onto  books 1 through 3.  I’ll let you know what I find.  You can easily read this one without the others and I think you should.  It’s  lovely and I  absolutely recommend it.

Cover art by Claire Smith is sort of bland, would have preferred the bakery or another element from the story.

Sales Links:  Hot Tree PublishingAmazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 192 pages
Published October 14th 2017 by Hot Tree Publishing
ASIN B0753CSBF9
Edition Language English