A MelanieM Review: Why I Need You by Colette Davison

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Following the death of their parents, Fin put his life on hold to raise his little sister. He’s convinced her well-being is all that matters, even if it’s at the expense of his own. A chance meeting with Noah opens his eyes to the possibility of happiness. A happiness that could shatter the moment Noah discovers Fin has an eight-year-old in tow.

Noah has been living a lie for years. When he gets publicly outed, he gets kicked out of his parents’ home and business. Although he’s angry at being disowned, Noah knows it means he’s finally free to love whomever he wants. But in order to have a fulfilling and lasting relationship, Noah has to get past his repressed upbringing and inhibitions, before Fin walks out of his life.

In order to stay together, Fin and Noah have to be brave enough to be honest with themselves and each other.

Colette Davison continues her wonderful Why I Left You series with Why I Need You.  In the first story, we were there as we learned that Fin’s parents were killed by a drunk driver.  Why I Need You picks up that story after that fact. Fin has assumed sole guardianship of his  8 year old sister and is working as a waiter, having left the college after the tragedy.  He’s still buried in his grief, while trying to manage the household and support his sister.  What a tough job for someone still young himself.

About to crash into Fin’s world is Noah, a deeply closeted, unhappy man.  Noah’s entire life has been trying to hide who he really is from his conservative parents who run one of the big local funeral companies, one he’s expected to take over, whether he wants to or not.  He’s been taught to  live up to his parents expectations and rules, never let them down or venture outside their imposed boundaries.  The consequences?  A  damaged Noah that even he  doesn’t understand or recognize the extent of what living such a life  has done to him.

Davison brings these two souls together on one night that changes everything, especially for Noah.

I loved the  emotional, intimate quality of the writing.  Davison has a way of making us feel of part of these men’s lives and daily decision making.  She alternates chapters from character to character so we can see the impact of the events and occurrences happening on each man and their lives.  For Fin, that includes his sister, his job, and his inability to move past his parents death.  For Noah, it’s the damage done to him by his upbringing making him unable to physically reach out to others, even so much as publicly hugging or even shaking hands.  How these two work together to form a relationship is a journey you will want to take with them through this story.

Why I Need You by Colette Davison is a beautifully written, heartwarming romance.   I absolutely recommend it and the one before it.

Cover art: Charlotte LR Kane.  I love the cover.  Beautifully done.

Buy Links – Available on KU

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Goodreads Link

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 249 pages
Published January 23rd 2018 by Smudged Ink Press
ASINB078LJLHG2
Edition Language English

A MelanieM Review: My Cowboy Promises (The Cowboys #4) by Z.A. Maxfield

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

A real man needs a real love…

My Cowboy Promises coverTo become the man he’s meant to be, one cowboy will have to be the man he never wanted anyone to know he was…

Ryder Dent is a true-blue cowboy. A devoted son, husband and father, but one who is living a costly lie. When they were both young, Ryder and his closest female friend Andy thought they’d found the perfect solution to both their problems—she was single and pregnant, and he was secretly gay—so they got married and raised Jonas together.

When Ryder gets hurt at a party, his son’s new pediatrician comes to the rescue. The connection between Ryder and Dr. Declan Winters is sudden, powerful, and undeniable. Ryder loves Andy and the family they’ve created together—but they both need more. Can they pursue their hearts’ desire without destroying the life they’ve built and losing the son they love?

I have come to love Z. A.. Maxfield’s Cowboy series, each story provides such an interesting group of characters and couples all loosely intwined.   And most are having to deal with issues of acceptance…of their themselves, sexuality, and their ability to love.  My Cowboy Promises, the 4th in the Cowboy series,  connection’s to the previous story is that the ranch that Tripp Triplehorn and Lucho Reyes went to work on is owned by a powerful, controlling rancher Sterling Chandler, father to Andrea, wife of Ryder Dent and mother to their son.  But as usual in a ZAM story, what you see on the surface is illusion, the reality and truth lies somewhere underneath for them all.

What an awful, stressful situation the readers get dumped into.  Ryder Dent saw his life’s (and father’s expectations) explode when, as a teenager getting ready to go to college, instead marries his best friend in high school, a girl pregnant with a rodeo star’s baby.  That the rodeo star wants nothing to do with either Andrea or the baby goes without question as she’s underage.  Instead Andrea turns to her best friend to save her and they marry to the dismay/disgust/condemnation of their parents and community. But these kids are hiding an even bigger secret…Ryder is gay and Andrea knew the truth before they got married.

Now its five years later, and while both love Jonas, their son, neither Ryder or Andrea is particularly happy.  Maxfield is able to let us intimately into Ryder and Andrea’s lives, see the stress and exhaustion both young people are going through as well as the continuing condemnation of parents and community they continue to live with.  All that while still trying to lead lives of courage and stability for their growing son.  It’s just feels all so real.  Ryder at 23 is just realizing the extent of his sacrifice. He’s lonely, he’s working at his father’s store shouldering all the responsibilities and duties but none of the recognition and gratitude one would hope for from his disapproving parent.  He shares a bed (platonically) with Andrea in the small house bought for them by her wealthy father who never lets them forget that fact or how much he despises his daughter’s choices.  Andrea too is beginning to hate their lifestyle. She’s always been a bit wild and talented and wants to sing as a career, something her father would never allow.  The only bright spot in their lives?  Jonas a boy everyone loves deeply.  But as Ryder is not his real father, that too becomes an intense source of pain and stress, especially now that the difference in their eye colors is being remarked on in town.

I think reading this story, delving into the lives of Ryder and Andrea, most of us will recognize the gritty authenticity of lives lived with the “quiet desperation” that Z. A. Maxfield presents us with here.  Dead-end jobs, disapproving parents, pressure to conform to small town values and expectations, along with any potential way out of their situation feeling almost impossible.  That theme has been a reliable source for books, songs and movies for ages and it always works because that scenario resonates with those listening, reading or watching it unfold.  And mostly because there is a part of us, all of us, somewhere inside those characters at one point in our lives.   How I understood these people and cared about them from page 1.

The status quo of their lives, already shaky, shatters completely when the town doctor retires and a new GP moves into his practice and house.  That would be Dr. Declan Winters, who has his own demons to exercise and naivete when it comes to small town pressure and disapproval.  Declan was a little more of a stretch for me.  I found it a little unrealistic, at first, that given he had met with the older town doctor, been filled in on the town’s prejudices and still thought the doctor was overstating the situation.  But maybe that’s because I am so familiar with small town life, something that “big city” folk  might find charming on the exterior until reality intrudes.  Perhaps Declan is not such a stretch after all.

Through dialog and scenes Maxfield brings this increasingly rocky situation to life.  We have a gay new doctor in town, one who is quick to recognize the attraction that Ryder feels towards him, an attraction that confounds him when he has to treat Ryder and find out the cause of the wound is an accident by Ryder’s son.  We understand it when he believes Ryder is straight, why not?  Everyone else does.  Then there is poor Ryder,dealing with his “gayness” for real for the first time in his life when he can’t get the good doctor out of his mind or nightly dreams.  It’s a situation where hurt feelings, expectation, and miscommunication abound.  Then throw in an unhappy wife, a son with questions and it gets downright explosive.  What a manner in which to examine your sexuality, come of age and come out as the person you truly are.  That’s the fight in front of Ryder for most of the story.

I think some readers will get a little frustrated with Ryder’s inability to “grow some spine” as his and Andrea’s father exclaim. But remember his age, the time and place of his youth.  He’s respectful and one accustomed to shouldering responsibilities for everything that comes his way. And he’s  young.  I found him to be the most real character here.  I understood him and his background supports beautifully his actions throughout the story.  Great job, ZAM.

There will be places you will need to bring out the tissues and other scemes as hot as the Texas sun.  Did I love this story?  You betcha!  In fact, I love the entire series and highly recommend them all.  But My Cowboy Promises?  This might be my favorite story yet of the series.  Grab it up today and decide for yourself.

Cover art by ?.  I* like the cover, in fact I like all the covers for this series, from the design to the color scheme.

Sales Links:    Penguin Publishing  –  All Romance (ARe)  –  Amazon     Buy It Here

Book Details:

ebook
Expected publication: June 16th 2015 by InterMix
ISBN139780698175037
edition languageEnglish
url http://zamaxfield.com/the-cowboys/
seriesThe Cowboys #4

The Cowboy Series Include:

A Stella Review: Wrong Number, Right Guy (Celebrity #1) by Mia Watts

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Rating 2 stars out of 5

Wrong Number, Right Guy coverA wrong number with a sexy voice on the other end… What are the chances a regular guy has just hooked the hottest actor on the silver screen?

 Ryan Pierce is in town shooting the latest romantic action movie and attending all the right publicity parties. He wasn’t expecting to pick up the phone to an easy laugh and real conversation. So, when he discovers that his caller has misdialed, it surprises him even more that he doesn’t want the man to hang up.

Dar Phillips is the last man to get star-struck, yet his best friend drags him out to be an extra on a movie set. It’s a chance to meet the guy on the set who he accidently called, but he has to admit the lead actor is hot stuff. Could the loping mega-star be his phone-a-friend? And, when they kiss, is Dar ready for the paparazzi and accusations of betrayal by the man who now stars in Dar’s every dream?

 Who did Dar fall for?  The elusive Ryan Pierce, who can’t be seen with him, or the quiet, gentle man who’s just a phone call away?

This book is one of my few two stars. This review will be really short because I admit I’m a little uncomfortable writing it. I’m sorry to say I don’t even know where to start, there isn’t a thing I liked.

Reading the blurb I thought the story looked interesting, too bad it wasn’t delivered in the writing. Instead, I found the book boring for most of the story and the other times it was just surreal. Some dialogues between the main characters seemed childish. And everything in the relationship went so fast, they talked on the phone, they fell in love, then they meet, Ryan comes out of the closet, they split up, they’re back together. Wow.

I enjoy a lot insta-love/lust stories but this one was so unlikely, I couldn’t even understand why they were attracted or in love with each other. It makes no sense at all.

As I already said a thousand times I love my books to be sweet, in this case it was too much. I was waiting for something to change all the way to the end, but it continued to be disappointing and flat.

Cover Artist by Posh Gosh. I like everything about this cover, even the font. Really well done. Finally something in this book fits the blurb.

Sales Links:   Totally Bound       All Romance      Amazon      Buy It here

Book Details:

ebook, Second Edition, 83 pages
Published January 30th 2015 by Totally Bound
(first published March 25th 2011 by Amber Allure)
original title Wrong Number, Right Guy
ISBN139781784303907
edition languageEnglish
Series:  Celebrity

 

Review: Isle of Waves (Isle of Wight, #3) by Sue Brown

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Isle of Waves coverThrough the many years that they have been together, Wig Tobias and Nibs Tyler’s relationship has been tested and strained but it has always endured.  But then they had never had a year like the past year.  Since new owners took over the restaurant next to theirs, they have made Wig and Nibs life a living hell.  The reason?  Wig and Nibs wouldn’t sell them their beloved restaurant, The Blue Lagoon, which they have  had for as long as they have been together.  Now Nibs and Wig are harassed daily, anonymous flyers are posted everywhere with homophobic taunts and innuendos, and they feel helpless as they watch their customers dwindle and their restaurant fail.

Then the worst happens.  Upon returning from Sam and Liam’s wedding, Wig and Nibs find their restaurant has been vandalized, and the local police seem as reluctant to investigate this as they did all the other problems.  Demoralized, Wig and Nibs are about to give up their dream until all their friends,  Paul and Olaf, Liam and Sam, and the whole Owens family come to help Wig and Nibs in their time of need.  But will that be enough?  Paul and Olaf have their own problems and Nibs is hiding something from Wig too.

As a gale force storm bears down on the island and The Blue Lagoon Restaurant, that just might be the end of it all unless everyone pulls together to find the culprits behind the destruction as well as the strength to go on together in friendship and love.

 

I found this wonderful series and its author, Sue Brown, by the first book in the series, The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight #1).  There the author brought us to the indescribably lovely location of the Isle of Wight and the big hearted, gregarious Owens family and those that they love.  First up as a couple on their way to romance, is Sam Owens, a genial, large hearted man who loves his island and his family.  In desperate need of Sam and the Owens is Liam Marshall, who arrives at the island with an urn carrying his best friend’s ashes and a final wish to have those ashes thrown off the pier near town.  Liam is depressed and grief has immobilized him to the point that he can not act on his friend’s wishes.  Sam comes to Liam’s rescue, and then Liam comes to Sam’s.  It was a remarkable journey for both men as well as for the reader.  Between Sam and Liam and the entire Owen’s clan, they managed to engage the reader’s emotions while allowing us enough distance that we could still appreciate the location and the other characters Brown created for the story and series. My only issue was that the story ended a little unresolved, with questions about Liam’s visa up in the air.

With the second story, I learned that each new book will pick up exactly where the previous one will leave off, with the answers to the questions left hanging in the preceding tale. Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight, #2) is both a mystery and a tale of two romances.  How I loved that book.  Liam is missing and Sam needs to find him and bring him home to the Isle of Wight.  That’s both a romance and  the first mystery here.  Helping Sam is his police inspector brother, Paul.  Paul is bisexual and never met a person he didn’t want to bed.  So who does Brown create for Paul?  Wisconsin Detective Olaf Skandik, a closeted mountain of a man who helps Paul and Sam find out what happened to Liam. Olaf works for a bigoted sheriff in a conservative small town, not exactly a conducive atmosphere for an out and proud English inspector to be attracted to the quiet Olaf. So, of course, while helping Sam  Olaf and Paul fall in lust and maybe love with each other.  More, many more problems ensue to our frustration and delight.

What problems?  The same problems Liam and Sam had or that any couple from two different nationalities would have when trying to live on the same continent.  There are realistic visa issues and citizenship hurdles and most of them are bogged down in the type of bureaucratic paperwork and regulations that can make this an impossibility.  That works out to be as much of a roadblock as any regular mystery found here.  This is a thread that works itself through all the stories and rightly so.  It makes the path to love and HEA messy, authentic, and always in doubt.  While the couples may fall for each other quickly, that they can remain together is never certain.

Sue Brown gets that love and romance is an iffy, questionable affair.  It doesn’t matter if the relationship is recent or well established.  If pressed hard enough, stressed to the maximum by outside pressures and lack of communication, not even the deepest of loves might survive under those conditions.  That’s where the Isle of Waves starts, at a relationship breaking point and an established couple, Nibs and Wig, who have been a constant, loving presence throughout the first two stories.  An older, long established gay couple, they have been the support for Liam and Sam and many others throughout the years.  Now it’s their relationship and their livelihood in danger.  And now Wig and Nibs are the ones in need of love and support and maybe even policework from Paul and Olaf when the local constabulary ignores their problems because of their homosexuality.

That’s kind of a stunning element here and probably a very realistic one as well.  Up until now, the Isle of Wight has seemed relatively accepting of homosexuality with the exception of a certain confectionary making couple.  But Wig and Nibs and Sam handled them easily.  Now with the revelations from Wig and Nibs about the harassment and hate crimes committed against them during the past year out in the open, we start to see the community and the Isle in a different and less idealized light.  It’s heartbreaking and painful and authentic in every way.

Brown never lets her couples and their relationships get off easy.  With all their years together, Wig and Nibs are quietly breaking down under the pressure of losing everything they have worked so hard to build, and that just might include each other if they can’t start talking about the issues facing them.  Both want to protect the other but at what cost?  Those types of questions and situations feel as real as the people that make up this couple.  Earthy, preening, stolid, sexy, stubborn…Wig and Nibs are totally human and wonderfully so.  They engage our emotions and our hearts as they struggle to stay together and keep their restaurant afloat.

And they aren’t the only couple facing overwhelming obstacles here.  Paul and Olaf arrived on the island for Sam and Liam’s wedding but Olaf can’t stay and Paul can’t leave to return to the U.S. with him.  Both have jobs and lives in different countries.  Do they have a future together and how will it even be possible?  Even as they work to help Wig and Nibs, Brown throws up barriers to a future together even as she breaks down others to show us how much these men love each other and deserve to stay together.  Do we have a resolution where Olaf and Paul are concerned?  No, we don’t.  Nor should we.  It took Sam and Liam several stories to pull it together.  I expect no less for Paul and Olaf.

When last I corresponded with Sue Brown, she indicated that there will be a new series for Paul and Olaf.  I can’t wait to see what she has in store for them.  Brown has a  way of creating characters and situations that burrow under your skin and into your heart.  It becomes almost impossible to keep your emotional distance from these men and their complex romances.  Your affections become engaged from the start and stay that way through every hurdle, all the bureaucratic tape, and relationship barriers thrown up against them.  And each new story feeds your need to have more, know more…about what’s coming and how they will handle it together. Or not.

I highly recommend this story and the entire series.  Start at the beginning of course, if you are new to the Isle of Wight series and the men and families at its heart.  I believe you will come to love them as I do.  Get cracking!  We have a lot more to come and I couldn’t be happier about it!

Cover artist is L.C. Chase. Chase are does a wonderful  job of conveying the men, story, and setting in one beautiful cover.

Buy links:     Dreamspinner Press       ARe          Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Published May 16th 2014 by Dreamspinner Press (first published May 15th 2014)
ISBN 1627989528 (ISBN13: 9781627989527)
edition languageEnglish
urlhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store
seriesIsle of Wight #3

 Series: Books in the Isle of Wight series in the order they were written and should be read are:

The Isle of… Where? (Isle of Wight, #1)
Isle of Wishes (Isle of Wight, #2)
Isle of Waves (Isle of Wight, #3)

 

Review: Son of a Gun by A.M. Riley

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Son of a GunStefan Sanchez’s has returned home to Boerne, Texas after twelve years in Los Angeles as a successful childrens book author.  He has come home for the funeral of his best friend, Tommy O’Connor, scion of one of Texas’ wealthiest and influential families.  He left over a decade ago under the stigma of his deceased father, a corrupt agent and fleeing his secret relationship with closeted deputy Chet Blain.

Now that he is back, all those secrets and more rise up, threatening to pull Stefan down with them.  His alcoholic mother wants to see him, Tommy’s death is suspicious, Tommy’s wife is missing and then someone leaves drugs in Stefan’s rental car, framing him and bringing him to the notice of the FBI.  Chet Blain wants to restart their old affair while the sexy Secret Service agent hovering around him seems interested in Stefan in more ways than just business. The O’Connor family is full of hidden agendas that Stefan must unravel for his safety and sanity.  Everything, including Stefan’s life, hinges on him piecing together clues from his childhood, and coming to terms with a past that has haunted him through the years.

I really liked Son of a Gun enough to give it 4 stars even while feeling ambivalent about aspects of the story. I found the character of Stefan Sanchez to be especially intriguing, in particular his profession as an author of a highly successful childrens series, The Adventures of the Backtree Boys.  Think an updated version of the Hardy Boys based upon Stefan’s childhood up to his father’s treason and death.  Interspliced with Stefan’s thoughts on his current status and events are parts of episodes he is mentally writing to go along with what is actually happening.  It works something like this:

In San Antonio, Stefan emerged from the airport hangar, crisp air-conditioning giving way immediately to deep, humid Texas heat. His sparse luggage and light clothing all seemed to gain twenty pounds of wet, his hair sticking to his nape, and he remembered one of the dozens of reasons he’d had to leave Texas. (then Stefan starts thinking Backtree Boys dialog)

“The weather is reason enough.”

                   “Nope. Reason number one: snakes.”

                   “When was the last time you saw a snake, Tommy?”

                   “It’s the fact that they could show up ANYWHERE. Did you see that blurb in the paper about the assemblyman who              found one in his mailbox?”

                    “I think someone put that there.”

                   “And your point is?”

Dialog from the Backtree Boys is used effectively to accentuate Stefan’s thoughts as well as introduce a snapshot of his childhood growing up.  In fact, much of Stefan’s personality traits came be traced back to the fact that Stefan is still tethered to his past, unable to move forward because he ran rather than bringing any type of closure to the problems he left behind.  He is a complicated character and Riley brings him to life vividly and compassionately.  And the use of the idealized Backtree Boys adventures against the twisted, complex true life events happening to Stefan further serves to demonstrate just how wide the divide is between the two.  A wonderful technique that Riley uses very effectively in the narrative, especially as the Backtree Boys start to get more realistic in Stefan’s head as the events around him turn convoluted and more dangerous.

Riley has laid out a plot with multiple complications and layers to it.  We have a difficult homecoming to a small, bigoted Texas town by a man whose reputation has been soiled by his parents (mother is an alcoholic, dad a traitor).  Stefan is out about his homosexuality, not something the town finds acceptable either.  The funeral brings out the worst in the family, there are many mysteries that start to pop up and the author has Stefan following clues and codes from his childhood, just like in his Adventures of the Backtree Boys but on a much more complicated level and with more profound consequences than being grounded for a week. There are many twists and turns to the plot that serve to frustrate Stefan and the reader along the way, although I have to say I saw the identity of the villain almost from the start.  That fact didn’t stop me from enjoying the  trail to the finish for Stefan, it just upped the anticipation and anxiety for Stefan’s safety.

I enjoyed the character of the Secret Service agent, Evans, who hounds Stefan every step of the way, including a very hot and sexy rough tumble into bed.  His pursuit of Stefan (in more ways than one) was the highlight of the book for me.  I enjoyed the tension between them, just delicious. There are also many secondary characters to draw in the readers interest, from Colin the stoner brother with a skateboard empire to Patrick O’Connor, the patriarch of the family with political aspirations.  But my biggest issue with this story hinges solely upon one character and his interaction with Stefan and that would be the character of Chet Blain, the closeted deputy.

Chet Blain almost ruined the book for me.  I will admit that part of my reaction to him is that he is well constructed and believable in his actions as a closeted man in a small town in the South who wants to have it all his way.  There really is nothing likable about this character, from start to finish and I am not sure the author wants us to feel that way. My ambivalence starts with the fact that Stefan has been holding a misguided love for this man all these years and gives in to a sexual act almost immediately upon seeing him again.  True Stefan sees the trap in heading back into the closet with Chet, the only way they can be together.  And we want to see Stefan hold out against his ex but Chet’s character is all pervasive in scene after scene, until the mere mention of his name on the page had me wanting to flip past just to get rid of him.  I think we are supposed to feel some compassion towards Chet but Chet’s actions in the last couple of chapters as well as Stefan’s reactions almost found me tossing the book down in disgust.  At that point I had a major headache and was ready to bill Riley for a bottle of Excedrin.

I was happy I hung in there because the resolution to all the tangled events in the plot and the ending are worth it.  It was so very satisfying to see how it all plays out (with one teensy bit with Chet, really I just wanted to smack him).  The ending gives Stefan a strong promise of a HFN or even a HEA.  It’s funny and it’s absolutely realistic.  I loved it, and this is from someone who loves her HEAs!

There was a previous version of Son of a Gun published by MLR Press that was shorter in length with a different ending. This version, which is the only one I read, is supposedly longer and was rewritten and reedited for Loose id LLC.  I cannot speak for the earlier version but I can recommend this one.  I enjoyed it even through the moments of frustration, and loved the ending.  If you buy this book, make sure you have the right edition.

Cover art by April Martinez works well for the story within and the characters involved.

Book Details:

ebook, Second Edition
Published May 21st 2013 by Loose ID (first published April 9th 2010)