A MelanieM Review: Rend (Riven #2) by Roan Parrish

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Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5

After a whirlwind romance, a man with a painful past learns to trust the musician who makes him believe in happy endings.

Matt Argento knows what it feels like to be alone. After a childhood of abandonment, he never imagined someone might love him—much less someone like Rhys Nyland, who has the voice of an angel, the looks of a god, and the worship of his fans.

Matt and Rhys come from different worlds, but when they meet, their chemistry is incendiary. Their romance is unexpected, intense, and forever—at least, that’s what their vows promise. Suddenly, Matt finds himself living a life he never thought possible: safe and secure in the arms of a man who feels like home. But when Rhys leaves to go on tour for his new album, Matt finds himself haunted by the ghosts of his past.

When Rhys returns, he finds Matt twisted by doubt. But Rhys loves Matt fiercely, and he’ll go to hell and back to triumph over Matt’s fears. After secrets are revealed and desires are confessed, Rhys and Matt must learn to trust each other if they’re going to make it. That means they have to fall in love all over again—and this time, it really will be forever.

I truly had to think about the formatting of this story and the author’s expectations for it’s promise when writing this review because I think it was a huge factor in how I ended up feeling about the characters and this novel.  You see, in  Rend (Riven #2) by Roan Parrish the story opens right as the two men meet, jump immediately into a  relationship and then the first chapter proceeds when they are already married.  Boom.  It’s a done deal.  The reader has no time to relate to the men, establish a connection to each one, let alone be  able to evaluate any chemistry or depth of relationship.

I believe that was intentional.  Because the marriage and relationship as we slowly find out isn’t based on reality.  Matt hasn’t been truthful about his background and deep emotional issues with Rhys.  Nor has Rhys dug deep beneath the surface with  Matty. It’s a marriage based on wishes, dreams, and smoke. And lots of sex and love.  But that’s oddly insubstantial here because it has no honest foundation.

There is no honest communication between the lovers and, really the reader and Matty too.  We know he is truly a troubled and haunted individual who needs professional help.  Which, horrifyingly no one suggests he gets until 84 percent into the story.  Abandonment issues and the foster care system have done a number on him mentally, emotionally, and that carries over to physically.  We see those results…oh him, his marriage, and his partner who he doesn’t talk to until 80 percent into the story.   Which is when we learn enough about them to start connecting with them all as Rhys and Matty haul together the pieces of their lives, marriage and uncover who they are together….honestly.

Up until then?  Matty remains something of an enigma to all around him and us.  Not a good thing.  He has a close friend, Grim, in Florida.  We don’t see or really hear him to gain any insight into Matty himself until the end of the story, another element lost.

So I understood that the format was to slowly reveal who Matty truly was to Rhys and even himself as he came to grips with his past.  But it came at the loss, at least for this reader, of any connection to their relationship, a sense of questioning why no one got this man the help he so obviously needed earlier on, and just a sense that had we been able to see more of the real Rhys and Matty we see at the end at other parts in the story, this   wouldn’t have felt like such cold read than the romance it ended up being.

I did love Theo and Caleb from Riven, the first story.  Plus Max.  As I said, I think the format kept me from getting to know the characters until too late in the story.  I did learn to love them then and their very HEA.  That’s a terrific ending

There’s another story  in this series on the horizon   and  I know I will have to see who that’s about.  If you are a fan of this series, you no  doubt have already picked up and read this story.  It works as a standalone too.

Cover art is ok but doesn’t really speak to me considering the bleak storyline and its complexity.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 1st edition, 303 pages
Expected publication: November 27th 2018 by Loveswept
Original Title Rend
ISBN13 9781524799335
Edition Language English
Series Riven #2

A MelanieM Review: Accepting The Fall by Meg Harding

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Confronting the past is never easy.

Cole Whitaker is happy. He has the job and boyfriend he always wanted. His heart’s in no danger of being broken, and he can’t ask for more from life. As a kindergarten teacher, he sees it all; however, one troublesome student has him reaching out to the parent, wanting to help. There’s something about Savanah that tugs at his heartstrings.

He never expected her father.

Zander Brooks hasn’t had an easy life, and he’s made some mistakes. Freshly retired from the military and working as a firefighter, Zander thought he’d left Cole in the rearview mirror. He’s not expecting him to appear in St. Petersburg, Florida, of all places, teaching his daughter’s kindergarten class. Suddenly, his biggest mistake is being shoved in his face.

This is Zander’s chance to close a door he’d never fully shut, but time with his former flame might change his mind.

Meg Harding has done a great job with Accepting the Fall.  Its enjoyable so many levels.  You have the lovers reunited storyline and the second chance at love, which are always favorites of mine.  Plus Zander Brooks, one of the main characters, has been handed the unexpected role of father in the fiery, troubled form of five year old Savanah Emerson, dropped of by her mother with her birth certificate and a wave goodbye.  So we have a father/daughter new dynamic in play as well.  So many layers here in this story and the author does a beautiful job of weaving them in and out, juggling the new/returning romance with the demands of new fatherhood.

The other mc?  Cole?  He just so happens to be Savanah’s kindergarten teacher, dealing with an angry child with abandonment issues and just maybe her father as well.  Here Cole and Zander must pry apart their past issues before they can move  forward, both as lovers and for Zander, as a parent.  Harding brings in a terrific counselor, one I would wish for in many a school or child in this situation.  Through the counselor, Harding gets to work through all the emotional issues of child abandonment/abuse and its repercussions on children now and into adulthood (with Zander). Its handled with sensitivity and impact.

I loved the romance here as well.  Cole and Zander have issues to work out, so while the attraction is as strong as it was in the past, they work into it, also mindful of the child in the middle.  Plus they are hot, hot, together.

Ah, Cole, he’s a wonder of a character.  The teacher everyone would have wanted in kindergarten,  with a house and yard full of rescued animals, Cole also has a past beyond Zander, one that bugged that heck out of me. Why?  Because with the hints, mentions of it, and an actual “I’ll tell you later” which never happens”, we don’t find out what happened to him.  It’s the main reason this book didn’t get a 5 star rating.  There’s this HUGE mystery about Cole, it’s mentioned repeatedly throughout the story and I kept waiting for the bomb to drop and it never did.  Then I thought, ok, there’s  going to be another story after this.  Nope, we got an Epilogue which sort of eliminated that.  So why bring it up at all?  You have a great story, leave unanswered things like this out if you aren’t going to resolve them.  Or don’t make them such a big deal.  Either way irritated the heck out of me and still does.

So minus that narrative kerfuffle I mentioned above, I loved this story.  It’s sweet, heart-warming, romantic and layered.  It’s one I definitely recommend.  Pick up Accepting the Fall by Meg Harding and get started today.

Cover art by Black Jazz Design doesn’t really speak to the story, the age of the characters or anything.  Meh.

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 286 pages
Published June 8th 2017 by Oceanside Press
ASINB0725DR2FM
Edition LanguageEnglish

Review of Bear, Otter And The Kid by TJ Klune

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With the sequel to BOATK out  from Dreamspinner Press, I thought we would take a look back to our first introduction to Bear, Otter and the Kid and some added thoughts from me on these beloved characters.

5 stars

Three years ago, Bear McKenna’s mother took off for parts unknown with her new boyfriend, leaving Bear to raise his six-year-old brother Tyson, aka the Kid. Somehow they’ve muddled through, but since he’s totally devoted to the Kid, Bear isn’t actually doing much living—with a few exceptions, he’s retreated from the world, and he’s mostly okay with that. Until Otter comes home.

Otter is Bear’s best friend’s older brother, and as they’ve done for their whole lives, Bear and Otter crash and collide in ways neither expect. This time, though, there’s nowhere to run from the depth of emotion between them. Bear still believes his place is as the Kid’s guardian, but he can’t help thinking there could be something more for him in the world… something or someone.

That was the publisher’s blurb for BOATK as it is affectionately called now.  But that description doesn’t start to describe the heartwarming, and at times heartrending story that is Bear, The Otter and The Kid.

It is a remarkable story of family and love told through the POV and unique voice of Derrick “Bear” McKinna made even more remarkable for BOATK being the first book written by TJ Klune.  The story is so well done that I found it difficult to separate myself from it and its characters at the end, so real does it feel.  Bear is a beautifully constructed, multilayered character whose voice and thought patterns are so unique that I can tell it is his character at a glance at the phrasing.  Bear has all the conflicted feelings, traumatized emotions and inner denial monster you would expect from a young boy whose mother has stolen the few funds he had saved, written him a crappy note and fled, leaving him the sole responsibility of a young brother with a brilliant mind inside the body of a five year old.  In other words, Bear is still dealing with his hormones, letting go his dream of college, and the constant turmoil and fear that their mother abandoning them has left behind. All through Bear’s actions and sometimes inability to cope, you may get frustrated with this character and want to throttle him, but  it is because everything about Bear seems authentic, including his control issues and need for stability.

The other star of this story is The Kid, also known as Tyson McKenna.  When this story first appeared, there were several reviews that remarked on the Kid’s high level of dialog and shear “smarts”, saying no 8 year old (as he was later in the story) sounded like that.  But I have worked with children for over 20 years and come across others with Tyson’s intellect and outlook.  It is to the author’s credit that I felt I knew the Kid intimately, laughing at his “bad” poetry and crying with him in the bathtub when the emotional hurricanes hit.  I love the Kid, vegetarian and eco terrorist in the making.  And his poetry?  Oh my…… Here’s a sample:

“Otter! Otter! Otter!

Don’t lead cows to slaughter!

I love you, and I know I should’ve told you soon-a

But you didn’t buy the dolphin-safe tuna!”

Half the time I am reading, I am also wheezing with laughter and wiping my eyes.  No really, you have to read this!  And there are other great characters orbiting the two McKenna boys, Creed Thompson, Bear’s best friend forever, Anna, Bear’s girlfriend, Mrs. Paquinn (next door neighbor and Tyson’s sitter), and finally Otter Thompson who is Creed’s older brother and the love of Bear’s life if only Bear can admit he is gay.

The author handles with skill the whole issue of Bear finally admitting he is gay and the pain and anguish that is his companion throughout the process. As Bear admits his sexuality, climbs out and away from the safety of the closet, your tears will flow and your nose is going to run. Just saying. And then you are going to think of every young gay boy out there dealing with his sexuality, the guts it takes to admit you are gay while facing the taunts and jeers of homophobes who may just be your family and neighbors,  and the tears will  start anew.  Keep that box of tissues handy.  You will need all of them. What TJ Klune has done with Bear is give other GLBT youths/young men someone they can identify with, a character  we desperately need to see more often in YA fiction and media.

The closer it gets to Bear’s high school graduation, the more problems seem to accumulate until  Bear is panic stricken and feeling out of control. As the story builds to its climax, you find yourself teetering on the edge of the precipice with Bear and the Kid.  Your heart is in your throat along with theirs, hoping their next step doesn’t see them toppling over the cliff. And you realize what an outstanding job TJ Klune has done to bring you there with the two boys.

I did have a few quibbles as to unanswered questions left at the end of the story and am happy to say they are all answered in Who We Are to be reviewed here tomorrow.  I am also happy to say that Bear, Otter and the Kid will live on.  That’s the word from Klune who has had quite the year, full of ups and downs.  I will let him tell you all about it in this post he wrote for his blog. I am sorry he had that year but quite honestly I think it has made him that much stronger as an author.  Bear, Otter, and The Kid as well as Who We Are have become comfort rereads for me and I think they will do the same for you.  Please give them a chance.  You won’t be sorry.

Cover:  Paul Richmond is the cover artist and I really like this cover with the Kid so prominently featured. The author has said he asked that Tyson be put in that position on the cover as that is his position in the story.  I like it, it makes me smile.  So does the Kid.

TJ Klune can be found here at A Fistful of Awesome.  http://www.tjklunebooks.blogspot.com

Both BOATK books can be bought at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, and ARe.