A Lucy Review: Shine (Uncorked #4) by Shea Balik

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Shine was over people thinking because he had a southern accent, and made moonshine, that he was a hillbilly redneck with no education. Sure, he occasionally liked to fuck with them and spout out his grandpappy’s sayings, like every dog should have a few fleas, but that didn’t make him dumber than a box of rocks. So, when he met a man who made his heart race and his mouth go dry with the thought of licking every inch of his body, then instantly put him down because he was making moonshine instead of wine, Shine dared him to try and drink with the big boys.

Montague knew better than to take the challenge to drink the moonshine Shine was offering, but he refused to be insulted by some hick from this small, backwater town. The fire that ignited in his stomach and burned a path up his throat, making him want to cry for his mommy, told him just how stupid he could be. Fucking pride. If Shine didn’t get that smirk off his face at Montague’s reaction to the battery acid he called alcohol, Montague was going to punch him in the mouth. Or kiss him. It was a tough call to make.

There is a fine line between love and hate, especially when alcohol is involved. Then again, it might take a little liquid courage to drop their defenses enough to discover their passion for each other.

Oh  my, the things this boy says. Shine (actual name Joshua but please don’t use it) is a treasure.  He is Southern, uses those colorful sayings and makes moonshine and is so awesome.  He’s worked hard to make Grandpappy’s Moonshine successful and he’s on his way.  He is used to people looking down on him as a hillbilly and he’s okay with that.  Just don’t insult the moonshine. He has had to fight the town council to be allowed to be part of the town’s wine tour and nothing is going to stand in his way.  Not even the snobby, pretentious guy in the parking lot who turns out to be the favorite wine tour guide.  Whoops.

His run in with the snobby wine expert, Montague, happens at the town council moonshine tasting. “He felt about as welcome as an outhouse breeze when he say the members of the Wine Touring Committee and several of the tour guides staring daggers at him the moment he entered.”  He brings most of them around because his product is good.  When the very judgy Montague has little good to say, Shine does challenge him to drink it.  That scene is funny and brings Montague down a bit. 

There is a scene from Blush (Uncorked #3), now from Shine’s point of view.  I thought it while reading Blush and I thought it again reading this – I want to try muffins made with apple-cherry moonshine. 

Shine lives with his daddy and grandpappy, who bicker and fight constantly.  They go at it, sometimes get hurt, but they are accepting of each other and Shine in a way you wish all families would be.  Montague, however, really doesn’t have any family to lean on and when he admits to Shine what he was doing previously it was sad.

There is a plot aspect regarding relatives and protesters that sort of went nowhere so I’m not sure why it was even present but it didn’t take me away from the story too much.   The issues with Topher, a member of the council, were a little over the top for me.  “I can open doors for you in this community.”  Ugh, the man is a sleezeball.

This isn’t a case of opposites attract because they have more in common than not.  It is more a case of judging someone before you know them and how well that doesn’t work.  I liked seeing Montague (who for some reason I thought seemed older than he was) have to face his prejudices and I liked getting to see Shine, well, shine. I love getting to see the other characters from previous books pop up throughout.   This was a great addition to the series and I’m still hoping that Andrew and Brogan get a turn.

Cover art, showing Montague, Shine and a bottle of moonshine, is simple but effective.

Sales Link:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 193 pages
Published December 8th 2017 by Shea Balik (first published November 2017)
Original Title Shine
ISBN 139781370631797
Series Uncorked :

Bubbly

Full Bodied

Blush

Shine

Sweet

A Lucy Review: Blush (Uncorked #3) by Shea Balik

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Fifteen years ago, Kadyn Bellamy and Valor Lee had blown any chance of building a future together. Valor had joined the CIA to hunt down terrorists and Kadyn abhorred violence. At the time, their differences had seemed insurmountable. 

When Valor shows up in Dahlonia looking as hot as ever, Kadyn needs to decide if he can reconcile their divergent viewpoints. The choice wasn’t as easy as it might seem. If only the love he’d felt for Valor had diminished, he could easily walk away. It didn’t seem fair that he might have to give up the love of his life, twice. 

All Valor wanted was the future he and Kadyn had dreamed. For fifteen years, his love for Kadyn had only grown. He’d known when he’d walked away from Kadyn all those years ago, it would be a challenge to convince Kadyn they could still make their dreams come true. 

It was only when tragedy struck, that Kadyn was forced to come to grips with the past. With eyes wide open, he was ready to take a step into the future. He just needed to decide if Valor would be a part of it or not 

We got to know Kadyn in Nolan’s book, Full Bodied, and I loved him there.  Blush is Kadyn’s book and actually begins with a scene from Full Bodied, this time from Kadyn’s point of view.  This was incredibly interesting to me because it was such a great example of how much you can fool people into believing you are doing great.  Even your best friend. 

Kadyn owns Sugar Daddys, a popular bakery in Dahlonia.  He is best friends with Nolan and has a great group of other friends there but he goes through men like popcorn.  No one ever lasts long and in his words, “…he used men to try and fill a void he wasn’t sure would ever be complete again.”  To others, it appears he is always happy and cheerful and just likes to date.  Fifteen years ago the man he loved beyond measure left him to take a job with the CIA, hunting terrorists after his father died in a plane on 9/11.  Kadyn, very anti-violence, couldn’t be with someone who was willing and able to do that. Valor walked away without a backwards glance.  “Desperately wanting to make those responsible pay for killing his father, Valor had left Kadyn behind, determined to never look back.”  Those were Valor’s thoughts.

Now, however, he’s in Dahlonia and looking to win Kadyn back.  He’s been back for a while but just now runs into Kadyn at the grocery story. When Valor goes for a kiss, I was ready to quit reading if Kadyn just melted and magically everything was roses.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  Kadyn is rightfully angry and shows it.   While Valor claims to have loved Kadyn all this time, I had a hard time believing that for fifteen years he didn’t contact Kadyn at all and it wasn’t until he was dissatisfied with the CIA that he made any effort to contact Kadyn, who may be anti-violence but was shattered by the thought Valor might die. But I digress.

“Valor had chosen hate over Kadyn’s love.”   This seems to be what happened and Valor himself, “Look, Kadyn, I know I hurt you, but…” has that same attitude. I really appreciated that Kayden had to think it over and weight it out on whether he could do this.  “And you’re right, there are some in this world who probably should be killed.  I just don’t know that I can be with someone who is willing to be with that person.”

As the story progresses, however, it’s like someone else started writing because now it’s Kadyn’s fault they were torn apart.  That somehow the dark side of Valor, the side willing to hurt and kill, was always there and Kadyn just didn’t want to see it and was asking Valor to change who he was.  Which I didn’t understand because by asking Kadyn to accept the violence, which Valor freely admits if he needs to he would go right back to the CIA and do this work, Valor is asking Kadyn to change who he is.  Kadyn is very upfront, “If you are even thinking of rejoining the CIA, or in any way hunting down terrorists, I can’t be a part of your life.  I couldn’t take it.”  The response after fifteen years?  “Then you don’t love me, Kadyn.  Maybe you never did.”   My rating went down because it was so hypocritical for Valor to demand Kadyn change his views and stance, while not honoring that Kadyn do the same.

I may be in the minority on this but I did NOT think Kadyn was the one in the wrong here.  The story sort of heads that way and that was irritating me.  I was really interested in how they were going to work this out, how to come to some sort of compromise that would make this possible and it seems they were slowly trying to.  Then a plot device was thrown in that made things too simplistic for me.  I wanted them to work things out intellectually between them, not because of some outside happening forcing a change.  The conversations surrounding this, however, were powerful and necessary.

I really wanted to know the story of Chet and Leo, who are an established couple here, because they are lovely together.  I’m not sure if their story has been told but I am very happy that the next in the series is Shine because he is such an interesting character and his “Southernisms” were actually some of the ones my own grandfather used to say!

This was another solid addition to the Uncorked series.  My wish right now is to know – what in the world is going on with Andrew and Brogan?

Cover art instantly grabs your attention with the striking models and informs with the blush wine. Great job.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 184 pages
Published November 29th 2017 (first published August 2017)
Original Title Blush
ASINB077PVX6MD
Edition Language English
Series Uncorked #3

A Lucy Review: Full Bodied (Uncorked #2) by Shea Balik

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

For Nolan Woods, life had been a miserable existence that had left him lonely and depressed. Nothing had ever seemed to go his way. It was his own fault for being such a loser, but it would still be nice if just once he had something end up in his favor. Unfortunately, for that to happen he’d have to put down the food he loved so much. 

West Baxter led a charmed life. In college, he and his friends had decided to open a winery, allowing him to travel and meet new people. It had been a playboy lifestyle but when he met Nolan Woods, he found himself longing to settle down instead. Too bad their new winery needed him out on the road to sell their wines it they ever hoped of being the success they had dreamed about. 

Nolan’s misery had him taking drastic action to change himself. He never thought in a million years anyone would like him as he was. But before he could go under the knife, West had finally had enough of life on the road and seduced Nolan. 

Suddenly Nolan no longer knew what to do. He didn’t believe West would ever be able to love him as he was, but if he told West his plans West just might realize what a loser Nolan was and leave him even sooner. Either way, Nolan had to pray that West would understand that Nolan could no longer be Full Bodied. 

I was so excited to read Nolan’s story after getting to meet him in Mac and David’s story.   He is an imperfect character – not because of his heavy body, but because of his emotional state.  He’s an insecure mess.  With a crush on the Twisted Vines salesman, he struggles at times with his job there as an accountant.  He turns tongue tied and stressed when West is around to the point that people were afraid he was having a stroke when he was around West.

West is described as a playboy but we don’t get to see that.  The book starts with West being ready to settle down from traveling all over in order to be with Nolan.  Nolan, who doesn’t even know West wants him yet.  I would have liked to see West fall in love with Nolan because West is a man who sees the person, the one inside.  “Oh, sweet Nolan.  When it involves you, I notice everything.”  To be seen?  That is priceless for someone like Nolan, who has literally no self esteem and is always waiting for the “when I lose weight” for his life to start.  He wasn’t even aware his friends were his friends (except for Kayden) because he was so sure they just tolerated him. 

My heart was breaking for this shy, gentle man. His issues with food were so real, so relatable.  That negative self talk.  The mentality of having one last binge because tomorrow  we diet.  The feeling of being invisible or trying to make yourself invisible because of your weight.  “Nolan, on the other hand, had been called nerd, geek, chubby, dweeb and fatty.  There had been other names…”  Even gentle teasing by a friend, Tucker, brings up feelings of inadequacy and doubt.  The numbing of your feelings with food and turning to food anytime an emotion threatens to break free.  It was all so well done and you can’t help but feel for Nolan.

West is fit, gorgeous and a kind man.  He loves Nolan, loves him as is but will support anything Nolan needs to do.  While he doesn’t know about Nolan’s upcoming surgery, he knows Nolan is dieting and makes it so easy for him.  Nolan having a shake for lunch? West will bring it to him.  Nolan needs plain chicken and salad?  That’s what West will have.  And West is determined that Nolan understand he is it for West.   He is so considerate and I found thinking of him as a playboy wasn’t even possible for me.

This is insta-love in a way, because they haven’t been together for even a week.  But it really isn’t because they’ve known each other at work for a few years.  West is honest enough to admit he didn’t approach Nolan before now because he wasn’t ready.  Now he is and it’s lovely.   Nolan has some very staunch friends on his side and that helps.  His best friend, Kayden, is an absolute joy.  Everyone needs a Kayden.

I had a squicky moment when West sees someone at work with Nolan and “stakes a claim” right there, which I felt was very unprofessional but it was quick and I got past it.

So what kept this from being 5 stars?  I have relatives and friends who have had gastric bypass surgery and I know that Nolan’s attitude about himself, his body and food would have required meeting with a psychologist and dietician at best, being denied surgery at worst.   They want to make sure your relationship with food is healthy in your head before it is addressed with your body.  That being said, I loved this book and the MCs.  We get a quick glimpse of the next book, which will be Kayden and Valor, in a scene.

This was a great addition to the series and I hope that we get to see West and Nolan in future books.

Cover art shows West and Nolan.  It didn’t fit what I thought about Nolan, looking too thin and not “shy” enough.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 124 pages
Published November 14th 2017 (first published August 2017)
ASINB077GPNVQY
Edition Language English
Series Uncorked #2

A Lucy Review: Bubbly (Uncorked #1) by Shea Balik

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

There was no doubt about it, Macalister Whitmore was as straight-laced as they came. He worked all the time, never did anything that would be considered fun, and almost always wore a suit and tie, even in the laid back southern town of Dahlonia, where the dress code tended to be jeans and t-shirts. It was how his parents raised him and Macalister was sure even a tanning salon couldn’t change that. 

David Wilson wanted to throttle his best friend for sending Mac to his tanning salon to try and loosen up the uptight lawyer. He had never met anyone that had actually worn a suit to a tanning salon before. What Mac needed was a doctor to remove that stick from his ass. Then again, if Mac continued to look down his nose at David, he would remove it himself. 

Still, it seemed that opposites do attract, so they decide to give each other a chance. 

Happily ever after may sound like a dream come true, but no one ever said it didn’t come with pain and heartache. Will they walk away from each other, or walk through hell for the chance to pop some Bubbly and celebrate finding their happy ending?

This is the first book in a new series by Shea Balik, all set around the town of Dahlonia and the winery, Twisted Vine.  This is where the very uptight, BMW-driving Macalister, a man who’s bosses wonder “if he has any emotions at all”.  Actually, “…he’s worked for us for a year and has never cracked a smile?”  Yet Andrew, part owner of Twisted Vine, Mac’s boss and David’s best friend, assures David that Mac is a good person, helpful and kind and that’s why he offers wine to David for helping.   David, owner of the Tropical Beach tanning salon where the bosses send Mac as a birthday gift (much to Mac’s dismay), doesn’t see that when Mac shows up.  Mac is not just uptight, he is snobby, rude and really condescending.  He looks down his nose at David, full of disdain. “Having sex and whoring yourself out like a dime store prostitute aren’t exactly the same.”  When David responds, Mac’s “Or are you deaf along with being a slut?”  There’s no wonder David spills the beans about Andrew bribing David to deal with Mac.

I was a little confused that Andrew would send Mac to a tanning bed as “fun”, but of course, David is there.  Of course, these two opposites really are a better fit than they think.  As Mac puts his prejudice aside, he starts to realize David, purple hair, make up and flamboyant clothes, might be just what he needs.  Of course, he messes it up a few times.  There were times I wanted to shake him but you have to remember, he has had a rigid upbringing and all the feelz are new to him. 

Mac may have helped save David at one point, but David is there for Mac when he needed him.  Unfortunately, Mac doesn’t react well to his family (wow, the family from hell, let’s put that out there), “…Mac would either grab hold of David’s hand or put his arm around David’s waist, silently forcing him to stay, but David wasn’t sure if that was because Mac wanted him there, or he was just going against his mother’s wishes” and I was ticked at him.   Except then I thought David was overreacting at a bad time, so it was a toss up on who was being the bigger pain.  Luckily, David’s friends are there to knock some sense into him.

One thing I struggled with was there was a lot of serious plot issues that were resolved much too quickly and easily.  David regularly fends off unwanted passes while airbrush tanning but an attempted oral rape?  A lawsuit?  A heart attack?  All these things happen but they are easily resolved.  And Mac turned into a seemingly different person pretty quickly, with some insta-love helping.

My slight niggles aside, I liked both MC here, as well as really liking the supporting characters-  Andrew, Shine, Brogan and West.  I am crossing my fingers that Nolan, Twisted Vine’s accountant, is the next up because that shy, sweet man really needs an HEA.  I thought this was a good start to a new series and I’m looking forward to continuing.

Cover art shows two men but I know one is not David, since it is well noted David has bright purple hair and the other, with his shirt wide open, doesn’t seem uptight enough to be Macalister.  

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 136 pages
Published October 19th 2017
Original Title Bubbly
ASIN B076CGLHHV
Edition Language English
Series Uncorked #1
setting Georgia (United States)